“Could you please not leave your slippers there? I always trip over them when I’m going to the bathroom in the middle of the night,” my wife Kara said, pointing at the floor as if I was a dog who’d done a bad thing and needed to reminded again about what is acceptable behavior inside the house. In fairness to her, it must be difficult to mentally separate me from our dog Memphis, since the pooch and I both devote what some might describe as a disproportionate level of zeal to the pastime of scratching our respective selves.
The dog and I also both hide upstairs when we get caught trying to steal the kids’ Easter candy, the bulk of which is STILL sitting on the kitchen table, taunting us. If the apocalypse came tomorrow, our family could probably subsist through the summer on our stash of stale Peeps alone.
As I paused, considering a response, I realized that this was the beginning of the most geriatric argument Kara and I had ever taken part in. It had everything: Nagging, slippers, nocturnal lavatory breaks. Just thinking about that conversation, even now, makes my mouth taste of Metamucil, and I can hear a few more hairs from the periphery of my bald spot gently landing on my shoulder.
Of course, it’s unfair to characterize what Kara was doing as “nagging.”
As she explains: “It starts out as asking. It only becomes nagging when you don’t do it.”
She’d asked many times for me to stop setting Burmese wife traps in the bathroom, but I’d had more important things to do, like Googling “how to avoid repetitive motion injuries from staring at your iPhone too much” on my iPhone.
With Kara waiting for me to respond, I peered in at our bathroom, the site of the infraction, to see just how bad it really was. She’d actually been kind to me. I hadn’t just left my slippers there. It was much worse. There, at the base of the toilet, were my slippers, facing out, with my crumpled underwear and pajama pants resting on top, an undershirt tossed nearby. That morning, I’d jumped straight from the toilet to the shower, leaving all my worldly trappings behind.
If an archaeologist from the future had wandered into our bathroom, preserved at that moment, the only logical conclusion he could possibly have drawn is that some sort of flannel-based creature had molted right there.
“Looks like this specimen was in too much of a hurry to clean up after himself. Probably fleeing a flannel-eating predator, like a giant moth,” he would guess.
Nine years ago, on our honeymoon, Kara and I went bungy jumping in New Zealand. We weren’t the coolest people in the world, but we had some decent cool-person credentials. We even used to be able to watch MTV reality shows and say, “I can understand why people would act like that.”
Since then, it’s been a long, downward spiral into complete uncoolness. Looking at that pile of clothes in front of the toilet, I realized that I’d reached a new nadir of not being cool, and that I was likely to keep reaching new nadirs until my mid-life sports-car purchase.
I felt a deep shame, similar to the shame I felt that time I looked at my reflection in the microwave as I gnawed the melted cheese off a Mama Celeste pizza box. If you prefer to think of yourself as more-evolved than a baboon, don’t look at your reflection when you’re licking food off of something that most people would agree is garbage.
“Sorry, babe. I’ll try not to do that anymore,” I said. She patted me on the head, and I knew that I’d been a good boy.
You can ask Mike Todd, then nag him when he ignores you, at firstname.lastname@example.org.