by Sunny Schlenger
Do you ever have them? (Do bears poop in the woods?)
Dumb arguments are about little things that in the grand scheme of things should never matter. That’s why they’re dumb. But they do matter when at least one person is tired or annoyed and doesn’t feel like taking the high road and ignoring the dumb issue.
Take my husband Roy’s cheese for example – the cheese he sprinkles on his western omelets. I don’t care for western omelets, but I do like cheese (even though it’s mostly off-limits in my new dietary lifestyle). The other morning he asked me if I had opened up his cheese. I automatically said no because I didn’t remember doing that. So he takes the cheese out of the refrigerator and shows me the plastic clip on it. “You must have opened this because I wouldn’t have put a clip on it.”
“Why wouldn’t you have put a clip on it?” I demanded. “If it’s open, it needs a clip to stay fresh.” “That’s not the point,” he shot back. “The point is whether you opened my cheese.” I don’t remember opening it,” I countered. “But there’s a clip on it!”
You get the picture. Unfortunately I have way too many examples of this.
Every day I watch him eat his meals and leave just a bit on his plate. Always. It’s not like he leaves enough to show that he’s full. He just automatically leaves a little bit and it makes me crazy. I try to ignore it because after all, it’s his plate. But inside I’m screaming, “Don’t you know that there are children starving in Africa?!” Why can’t you just clean the freakin’ plate if you’re that close to finishing?” Obviously he had the less damaged childhood.
But I do realize that these are dumb arguments. They’re minor, and for that I’m grateful, because I remember my first marriage when they weren’t. My ex and I spent years arguing the basics – money, sex, family. We had fundamentally different ways of looking at things and unfortunately punished each other for that. I’d do it differently now if I was able to go back, but I also realize that the outcome would have been the same.
(Dumb arguments are dumb, except when they’re not. Sometimes dumb arguments mask a much deeper frustration that gets played out at a surface level. But those aren’t the kind of dumb arguments that I’m talking about.)
Dumb arguments are funny in retrospect. I remember the day when my father and I debated the best way to open a coconut. I watched in disbelief as he put it on a plate and hit it with a hammer; of course the plate cracked in half. Then he went after it with a hand-drill and the drill bit broke off in the shell. Finally we agreed to just bounce it down the concrete steps outside, and watched it smash open and the milk dribble down the sidewalk… And the afternoon my mother and I raged at each other across the stove over how many cans of water should go into the spaghetti sauce. I miss those times.
Dumb arguments can tell you how comfortable you are with someone. My husband and I started cooking together last year and at first we were both paranoid about chicken – I was afraid that he would overcook it, and he was terrified that it would be under-done. So we agreed where to set the oven timer and watched each other closely to make sure that neither one of us cheated by bumping the timer up or down. Fortunately we’re past that stage and now just argue about how thick to cut the eggplant.
The silliest dumb argument we ever had started out to be major.
It was back in our earlier days when we both “read into” each other’s positions. The argument was about an iguana, and whether my son, AJ, could buy one. For some reason I assumed that an iguana was a smallish-size lizard and would therefore fit nicely into AJ’s room. Roy wisely decided to check out iguanas and went to PetSmart to talk with someone knowledgeable. There he was warned that iguanas grow to be large and can be very dangerous if you get in the way of a whipping tail.
He came home and told me in no uncertain terms that we would not be getting an iguana. Picturing in my mind just a little pet for AJ, I concluded that Roy really didn’t love my son. And when I continued to argue, he threw up his hands and told me that I was being totally unreasonable and walked out of the room. I’m not sure what would have happened next if Roy hadn’t called me to come downstairs to the computer. There, on the screen, was a photo of a full-size iguana. “Oh my God!” I screamed. “We can’t get that!”
So tell me, what dumb arguments are you having these days?