This week’s post by staff writer, Dallas Fitzgerald, uses a personal story to discuss when relationships move to the cohabitation step. Enjoy!
When my fiancé and I moved in together, we each carried with us boxes of our own possessions, gathered over the courses of each of our separate lives, and unpacked them, for the first time, in the same apartment.
In the process, items were discarded. We decided to throw away my coffee table, which, over the years, had collected the signatures of many of my best friends since I had been in high school. It was sentimental but superfluous, and it was in pretty rough shape, so we made the decision to get rid of it in favor of a black IKEA coffee table that looked slick and modern but had no emotional significance. For me, this was the hardest possession with which I had to part, but I recognized that it represented my past, and in moving in together I had made a commitment to our future, so I let it go.
After we had been living together for a few months, our possessions became homogeneous. What had once been mine and hers became ours, and we had started to adjust to our communal life.
One day, I finished taking a shower and decided I was going to clip my toenails. As is usually the case, they had become grotesquely long—think of the scene in Dumb and Dumber when Lloyd needs an electric sander to file down his toenails—and they were in desperate need of a good clipping. I went into the medicine cabinet where I kept my toenail clipper, and it was gone!
Now, before I go on, I have to explain my nail clipper situation. For as long as I can remember, I have always had two nail clippers. They were both big nail clippers—my fat, stubby fingers have always had trouble handling the little ones—but the one that I used for my toenails had a straight edge whereas the one that I used for my fingernails had a curved edge. This difference was of vital importance because the size of my big toe made it nearly impossible to get a clean cut with the curved edge clipper. Therefore, I needed the straight edge clipper if I wanted my big toenail clipped properly.
No, no, no, no this can’t be right, I thought. They were just here last month when I needed them. Where could they have gone?
I emptied the medicine cabinet looking for my straight edge nail clipper, and all the while, I could feel my toenails growing longer and longer. There was no straight edge nail clipper in the medicine cabinet, so I checked the top drawer of the vanity. It wasn’t there, and my toenails were still growing longer and longer. I checked the second drawer of the vanity. It wasn’t there either. Now, I could feel my toenails digging into the front of my slippers. The third drawer of the vanity was my last hope. If it wasn’t there, then it was gone. I flung open the drawer and just then, I heard my fiancé come into the bathroom.
“What are you doing sweetheart?” she asked. She was smiling, and her face was innocent and lovable on the surface, but it concealed something sinister underneath.
“I’m looking for my straight edge toenail clipper. Do you know where it went?”
Her smile grew wider, and it was then that I knew the fate that befell my beloved clipper.
“You didn’t throw it away, did you?” I asked.
“I don’t know. I might have,” she replied.
“Sweetheart that was my straight edge nail clipper,” I said.
“Well, you had two of them, and I figured you didn’t need both, so I threw one of them away.”
“But sweetheart, you don’t understand. I need both of them. I can’t cut my toenails properly with the curved edge clipper,” I pleaded.
By this time, I was noticeably upset, and the smile that had spread across her face only moments earlier was replaced by a look of uncertainty. She was beginning to understand that she had done something that was not okay with me, but she wasn’t sure why it was a big deal.
“Just use the one that’s in the medicine cabinet,” she said, attempting to make the problem go away with a seemingly simple solution.
“That’s not the point, sweetheart. The point is that you just threw away my toenail clipper without asking me first,” I replied.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t think it was such a big deal. We can go get you a new one tomorrow,” she said.
“I forgive you,” I replied. “But next time ask me first before you throw something away.”
The next day, we went to the store and bought a new straight edge nail clipper. While we were at the store, I explained to her that living in the same apartment and sharing the same possessions does not automatically give one partner or the other the right to throw something away. I reminded her of my coffee table and how we had made the decision to get rid of it together.
“Because it is our apartment, please ask me before you throw things away. Then, in the future, we won’t have to have these sorts of arguments because we will both make these decisions together.”
She smiled and nodded. Because of the curious case of the missing toenail clipper, we had each learned a little more about what it means to live together.