For those of us blessed with a relatively stable family environment through childhood, we still faced plenty of days very lacking in sunshine and lollipops. Moments of frustration come naturally when humans must share space, especially in a house where the walls pass sound as if they were imaginary. With nowhere to hide, I sat through plenty of moments of frustration between my parents. I even learned from that experience, and now I carry on the tradition by sharing frustration with my wife. Cohabitation almost requires we sift through confusion, deflect misunderstandings, and hurl mismatched needs at one another at least once a month. Luckily for me, my wife and I quickly recognize our foibles, and that’s when your sense of humor comes in handy.
My parents carry a special brand of frustration, often stemming from some deep, inexplicable source of subtext, and amplified by a flustered confusion as they try to catch up with their own thoughts. Many times, it seems like they don’t even know what started the frustration in the first place. I can only imagine what history of aggravation led to this tweet that inspired episode 12 of Co-Habits:
My mom had many cookie platters ready for Christmas. They like to give them to neighbors, families, and friends. She bakes many, many delicious cookies. If you have received one of these platters, you know. I could not figure out what got my dad so frustrated about the cookies that year, but that didn’t stop me from including it in the web series. Was it so bad if they had leftovers? Or could he possibly worry those cookies might come alive at night with plans to overtake him? I finally asked him today about it. What possibly could have frustrated him? He admitted that just bothers him every year. “It’s too much!” I guess that issue will remain never-ending.
Both my mother and father express unique, particular frustrations over the oddest subject matters. Is it really specific to the target of their frustration, or is something else going on? I’ll let you decide in these gems:
Mom continues her tradition of expressing her opinions about strangers, and the fact that the person is playing a game for money raises the stakes to a delicious level of frustration. I can’t remember what ignited my mother’s scorn, but I’m fairly sure it had something to do with their letter choice. Either that, or what they chose to wear.
Mom does not like electronic photos. Every holiday ends with our CVS routine, in which I hook up their digital camera to the computer to order prints from CVS. They print just about every photo, even if they have duplicates, or in some cases, serious flaws like blurry or bad lighting. Then they PAY for those flawed photos. Now I’m getting frustrated. I tried teaching my dad how to order online, but the website design includes too many different places to click, and understanding website flow doesn’t seem to be a skill my father ever learned. I even started creating an elaborate tutorial book with step by step process, but then I realized that I would spend less time just doing it myself every time.
I studied this tweet for a while like an anthropologist, and eventually, as an apologist. Essentially, this tweet must refer to the call waiting feature. Call waiting bugs her. On some level, I can respect that perspective. I admire her ability to keep her focus on one person at a time. On the other hand, if I call when she’s on another call, it will ring and ring. And ring. And ring. She never answers it. Not even after a few minutes. When I’m on the phone with her, and she gets another call, she will tell me who it is, since she knows certain people call at certain times (thus no need for caller ID), and then I will offer to let her take the call, but she will refuse. So, getting back to the tweet, I suppose her idea of abuse is using the phone one too many times?
My dad considers that spot in front of his house as a very sacred extension of his house. It’s his personal space. So, if someone else parks there, he loses his mind. And it’s that sort of complete blind rage that came back to bite him on the bumper in this case.
I’m fairly sure my dad does not know Oprah, nor does he own any property near the studio, nor does he know of any negative impact on the city outside of the production jobs, which I’m very sure do not impact my dad or anyone he knows. So, why does he take it so personally? He never visited Oprah when she was in Chicago. He shouldn’t have squandered his opportunities, and now that she’s gone, he’s realizing he will never have another chance to scream with pure joy when she tells him to look under his seat.
I loved this moment. 1) She’s watching it. She’s holding the remote. Her fingers work. 2) The show is on the Food Network. It’s about food. She knows the show. She watches it often. So, she knows they will be eating. That’s all I’m going to say about that one.
These tweets speak for themselves:
When one person is frustrated, it’s unfortunate. But, when that person insists on pulling the other person into the frustration, you get the magic of an argument, super-charged with confusion. You don’t know who’s where, or when’s why! For anyone nearby with enough detachment, the moment can be magical.
A bonus of knowing someone for over fifty years includes a kind of shorthand that can develop for much more interesting conversations like these:
Apparently, another bonus includes the skill of having an argument even when you’re not!
A long, strong marriage also means knowing and trusting that the other person will always stay with you through thick and thin, and remain available daily to act as the main focus of your frustrations, as in these tweets:
(Of course she means her man, but also possibly her sons.)
And finally, a high-interest area of the house that tends to draw more frustration than any other household item is the refrigerator. Outside of these tweets, I remember so many frustrating comments and arguments spurned by the fridge that I think any interaction with that appliance must incite frustration without fail.
Here are a few examples: