A very special love language

By Mir
January 30, 2019

Obviously my husband is a very special person TO ME, but in 2018 he became a lot more important to a bunch of other people as well, people like his boss and several boards of various Important Things, and so it seemed like he was busy or just plain not here for large segments of the year. Well, 2019 would be different, of course, because he’s really going to pull back on the travel this year. He said. And he meant it, I’m sure. That was the intention. Otto has very good intentions. (Also, he’s cute. And recently our dishwasher drain clogged up somehow and he fixed it like some sort of home repair wizard, so there are many reasons I keep him around, you see.)

You know where this is going, right? And so we made it, oh, I don’t know… I think FIFTEEN WHOLE DAYS into the year before he had to fly across the country for the better part of a week. He assured me it would be a quick and painless trip. Of course, no sooner had he left than another emergency trip to someplace else was needed directly upon his return, so he came home for a day and then left again. And then came home again.

I mean, at least he comes back, right? And I would never try to make him feel bad about ABANDONING ME, because I’m a grown-ass adult and I don’t need a man. But I do miss him when he’s gone. Kind of a lot.

I miss him because he’s my favorite person and my soulmate and all of that, but also I miss him because he gets up with the dogs at the crack of dawn AND he makes coffee when he does. So let’s review:

When Otto is here…
… I get to sleep in, and when I get up, there is coffee.

When Otto is NOT here…
… I have to feed Duncan before the sun is up or he barks a lot and/or tries to bite me awake, and there is no coffee until I make it for myself like some sort of functional human being, which I definitely am NOT before I’ve had my coffee.

On this particular bit of travel, I also missed Otto because right around Christmas… or maybe New Year’s, I can’t remember… our vacuum cleaner broke. Now, the vacuum that broke was a Kirby my ex and I purchased while I was pregnant with Chickadee, so in its defense, 21-ish years is a pretty good run for a vacuum, no? And Otto—being Otto—took it into the garage, took it apart, and determined that he could not fix it himself, but he figured it would probably be an easy/inexpensive fix at the place in town that fixes Kirby vacuums. And in the meantime, we have both a small stick-vac that lives in the kitchen and the vacuum Otto owned before we got married (which sucks, and not in the good way). But no matter, because Otto said he would take the broken vacuum to be fixed! And then he left on his trip and it was still in pieces on his workbench. While I would’ve happily dropped it by the repair place, I didn’t feel comfortable trying to put it back together, nor did I want to drop it off in pieces (what if I missed one?). He kept telling me he’d get to it. I believe he would’ve. Eventually. And yet, he was gone again, I was spending a lot of quality time with the dogs, and… the house was looking pretty gross.

So while Otto was gone, I happened to find a ridiculously good deal on this vacuum cleaner (this is not an ad!) so I bought it. (Listen, FIRST OF ALL, the brand is “SharkNinja” so obviously it’s going to be amazing. Second, it averages 4.4/5 stars with 4,700 customer reviews. And finally, it costs $290 at Amazon right now but I paid less than half that, so I was feeling pretty proud of myself.) So, like all couples in love, we had some variation of the following conversation over the phone while he was gone:

Me: I bought a new vacuum.
Him: I told you the Kirby is fixable.
Me: Yes, you did.
Him: I was going to get it fixed.
Me: Yes, that’s what you said.
Him: …
Me: …
Him: I’ve been busy.
Me: I know. It’s okay.
Him: I’m sorry.
Me: It’s fine. I know you don’t really love me.
Me: I’m joking! I joke! It’s funny! I’M HILARIOUS! Also I got a really good deal and I paid with Discover Cashback so it’s a free vacuum, really.
Him: Well that’s good, but—
Me: Okay, gotta go watch for the UPS truck. Love you! Bye!

And then the vacuum arrived and I put it together and started vacuuming and—hang on, let me clarify one more thing. The Kirby vacuum uses bags. And because it’s 20 years old and they change models every year, I was forever trying to find the right bags for my model on eBay, and I never really knew if it was still working well, you know, except that periodically the bag would appear to be full and I would change it. ANYWAY. I started out with the new vacuum—which has a bunch of filters but a clear Dirt Collection Chamber rather than a bag—and I SWEAR TO GOD I had vacuumed the rug in the living room for under 10 seconds and the dirt thingie was swirling with eight pounds of carpet lint, dust, and hair. It was DISGUSTING. And THRILLING.

Naturally, I dumped it all into the trash and then took a picture and texted it to Otto. Because I didn’t want to hog all of the vacuum excitement to myself. (And maybe I also prefaced it with a long preamble about how I loved him very much but I was leaving him for another, because our love could not be denied. And then BAM, picture of a pile of dust and hair, along with a declaration of love for my new vacuum. Otto is a lucky man.)

Otto is back home with us now, and the Kirby is still in pieces on his workbench. In the meantime, I’ve vacuumed eeeeeeeverything (every floor surface in every room! the wall vents! the furniture—that was beyond horrifying, by the way! the stairs! the dogs! VACUUM ALL THE THINGS!) and feel like the SharkNinja was well worth the money.

This past weekend, we engaged in another form of our romantic communication, which is when Otto turns to me late-afternoon and says, “Did you have any thoughts about dinner?” I don’t know how or when he started doing this, but Otto tends to… how shall I put this? He’s reluctant to be direct, sometimes, which never ceases to amaze me because he doesn’t do this with anyone else, just me. I cannot imagine what would make him think he can’t be direct with me; it’s almost like he’s afraid I’ll go off and buy a vacuum while he’s out of town, or something.

Regardless: “Did you have any thoughts about dinner?” actually means “I am starting to get hungry and you do 99% of the cooking so I am going to see if there is something you had already planned or if I need to feed myself, and also maybe there’s something in particular I want that I’m not going to bring up yet.” [Sidebar: I do most of the cooking both because I enjoy cooking and because Otto is out of the house a LOT more than I am, and I am not complaining about the cooking. I am complaining about the sideways approach to stating what he wants. And yes, I have told Otto this (multiple times), so I don’t think he’ll find it surprising.] Because I am a mature grownup and I like to be direct in handling communication issues, I responded (as usual) with something like, “Why do we have to eat EVERY SINGLE DAY, MULTIPLE TIMES??”

Otto is a bright fellow, so he wandered off to poke around in the freezer and pantry, and came back to report that he was going to make chili. I said that sounded great. And there were only two or three times I had to field questions/complaints as he rooted around for ingredients, too. Otto has a distinct disappointed tone he reserves to inform me of deep betrayals, like that he’s just found a can of tomatoes dated “Best By 2015” or that we only have ONE green pepper. (I mean, honestly. HOW COULD I LET THESE THINGS HAPPEN? It’s almost as if I don’t care about him AT ALL.)

Because it was Sunday and I had been lying around reading a book for most of the day (as one does), I realized as the house filled with delicious smells that I hadn’t eaten anything all day. And once the chili was declared finished I ate a big bowlful and told Otto what a good job he’d done and how delicious it was, and I even had seconds. Otto really is a fantastic cook.

A couple of hours after dinner, I started feeling Not So Great. The chili was spicy—Otto does love spicy food—and I figured my stomach was just being a little finicky about that. But after an hour of Not So Great I made it to full-on Oh Dear God I Hope I Die, and Otto, dear Otto, fussed over me and asked if he could get me anything, and finally said, “Do you think I poisoned you with the chili?”

This, at least, made me laugh. Otto wasn’t sick (although, to be fair, he has an iron stomach), so that seemed unlikely. I called Monkey downstairs to ask him how he was feeling. (Like most young adults still living at home, Monkey appears out of nowhere every so often to eat food or demand I appreciate how very cute the dogs are being rightthatsecond, and the rest of the time when he’s not at work he is upstairs in his lair gaming online with his friends.) He appeared, confirmed that he felt fine, and I went back to trying to die. It really did feel like food poisoning, though.

I got a few hours of sleep before Otto left for work on Monday morning, and then I spent the day sleeping and sipping tea and ginger ale and yelling at the dogs when they jumped up to join me on the couch and stepped on my stomach.

Mid-afternoon, I thought to take my temperature. Otto texted me about something else and I finally had some good news to share with him!

It turned out to just be some freak virus. No one else got sick, and my husband has never before been so adorably thrilled to hear that I was germ-stricken. By yesterday my stomach hurt less and I just had to deal with an awful migraine all day (dehydration, I bet), and today I am very nearly human again.

I guess I should probably go make something for dinner now that I’m going to live. I’m pretty sure Otto is in town. I won’t even use any expired ingredients, because I love him.


  1. Sheila

    I can’t believe you still had a Kirby! My aunt had one many years ago, and she swore it made its own dirt because the bag was always full but the carpet was still dirty. Perhaps yours was the same model?

    And I totally get where Otto is coming from with the sideways question about dinner because I’m the same way. My hubs does a lot around the house, including 99.9% of the cooking. So I hate asking directly about when he’s going to make us or what we might be having for dinner. I feel like it’s One More Thing when he already does so much.

  2. Jeanie

    Reading between the lines here, I would say Otto is just as lucky as you are. I’m so glad no poison was involved.

  3. Otto

    Did you want to think about having a conversation about something, dear?


  4. Thumper

    Oh, man, the Spouse Thingy says the *exact* same thing every evening when he’s pondering dinner. And it drives me nuts. Often I answer, “Yes, I thought you’d take me out,” or, “I thought about it.” And both of those drive him nuts. So I suppose we’re meant for each other.

    One of those ends in me not cooking and going to Denny’s, so I’m not sure I really won…

  5. Calista

    It has been such a long while since I’ve stopped by to catch up on the lives of Mir, Otto, Chicadee and Monkey. Wow, I’ve missed so much.

  6. MaryFran

    I could have written the “Thoughts on dinner…” except I either get a “What are you thinking about for dinner?” when we are sitting NEXT TO EACH OTHER on the train home after we have both worked a full day (I generally respond to that with “Whatever you’re buying” because now I’m ticked off and don’t feel like cooking what I had planned, OR I get a text at around 3 asking “What are you thinking about for dinner?” because he skipped lunch and wants to know if it’s something he doesn’t particularly like so he’ll go grab a late lunch. Sigh. Can’t win. Kids help me with meal planning, so it’s always stuff they like and they are VERY appreciative and many times will start/make dinner for me if they are home in time.

  7. Brigitte

    Mr. Husband asks about dinner the same way! Though, to be fair, I’ll be indirect about other things, trying to avoid sounding like the classic “nag.”

  8. suburbancorrespondent

    I cannot even count how many vacuums we have owned in the past 27 years. And I’m pretty sure that whatever you paid for that new vacuum, it wasn’t more expensive than paying for a repair and for all the subsequent bags you would need! Tell Otto that.

    Oh, and I’m glad you’re feeling better. Stomach viruses are THE WORST.

  9. Amy

    My husband had a Kirby when I first moved in with him 15 years ago. He swore up and down that it used to be the best vacuum ever back when his grandmother owned it (seriously, sentimentality is sweet but an inherited vacuum from the 70’s? But I love him, so…). We gave up on the Kirby soon after and bought something mildly crappy but cheapish and bigger that was eminently forgettable. We then put in central vac because we got a fantastic deal on the unit, and which I loved to pieces, but is only feasible if you have a one-story with open ceilings in the basement in which to easily install it. We then moved several times. I got a Miele upright a few years ago that does a great job but is so heavy and awkward that it’s impossible to do stairs, so when we moved into a house with stairs a couple years ago we bought a Dyson mini stick vac that is THE BOMB. I now clean everything with it except the rug that the almost-crawling baby tends to lick (the Miele does cat-hair-in-rug better). But Dyson’s are definitely pricey. Plus SharkNinja sounds cooler. More vacuum companies need to invest in better naming technology.

  10. Karen

    I get the same question now and again. My answer?…. Why no, I wasn’t thinking about dinner, were you? I’m all for whatever you were thinking. Have at it. I suspect that tiptoeing around the actual “ask” is the menfolk’s way of not inflamming the situation as in not to imply that you really should be thinking about cooking dinner because they’re hungry, woman!

    But.. I am amazed when I hear people say – I hadn’t eaten anything all day, or I forgot to eat all day and was starting to get hungry. That’s why you’re not overweight and I have 25 pounds to lose. I am always looking for an excuse to at least graze. And my husband doesn’t have to ask that tiptoeing question often because I love food and look forward to making those meals – every damned one. Hence – the 25 lbs. *sigh.

  11. jwg

    My answer to the dinner question is something I know he is not crazy about which frequently leads to delivery or eating out that he pays for- a win/win all around. On the other hand I have been married for 52 years and at some point it shouldn’t be my problem any more.

  12. Susie

    My husband finally settled on a compromise question:”is there a plan for dinner?” There were many conversations to get to that destination, let me tell you…

  13. Chris

    We started doing a schedule for dinner again at beginning of week (had stopped when the kids left) because we would both look at ourselves at the end of the day with the same sideways question. It has helped since it is crazy how quickly 6pm comes even if you are the one working at home that day!

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