In a fantastic twist of fate, I’m on an impromptu trip to Fort Campbell, currently trying to prevent Jonathan from eating a second entire box of chocolate-covered cherries. But since that’s not very exciting, here’s a really important lesson about relationships for you.
Arguments are the building blocks of a relationship. They teach a couple how to communicate, how to compromise, and how to resolve. And, because Jonathan and I are playing the long-distance game right now (he’s in Fort Campbell and I’m still in DC), we’re really committed to building our relationship over the phone. We’ve been building our relationship up to four times a day, and sometimes so passionately that my roommates can’t tell if I’m watching “Dateline” with the volume up again, or if I’m in immediate physical danger.
Recently, Jonathan decided we could also build our relationship through text messages (because he’s a thinker like that), and started by sending me this:
“You should look at how bad skim milk is for you. We are only buying whole milk.”
Neither of us has admitted it, but I think we’re terrified of being married. Not because we don’t love each other, or because we’re afraid of an excruciating commitment; Jonathan is in the army, after all, and I still wear jeans I bought when I was 16, so we’re covered. We grew up in families that raised us well in their own ways, but suggested opposite views on everything from politics and religion to the optimal ice cream toppings (luckily we use the same brand of toothpaste, though, because that would have been a deal-breaker). Marriage means meshing our lifestyles, beliefs, and daily habits in a way that will avoid severely fucking up our future children. What makes this difficult isn’t necessarily the meshing—all people who get married do this—it’s that Jonathan is stubborn bordering on obstinate, and I’m set in my routines bordering on OCD. I keep two shopping lists to monitor my level of each essential grocery item in my iPhone at all times; Jonathan has been known to wander through the grocery store and leave with nothing but an entire pie. When he’s wrong, he’d rather argue his way out of it than admit defeat. When I’m wrong, I’m never wrong.
So before I explain how we were able to resolve a day-long argument entirely about milk, I should make a disclaimer: I’m dangerously obsessed with dairy. And although I don’t always have milk in my fridge anymore, I’ve been known to eat a meal consisting entirely of grapes and three kinds of cheese, with yogurt for dessert. So keep in mind that I’m a hypocrite whenever I preach moderation as the key to a healthy diet in the future.
When I was three, I was chubby. I mean, it’s okay to be chubby when you’re three, because you’re cute as shit anyway, and it’s not like I was morbidly obese or in constant danger of toppling over. But my pediatrician seemed concerned that my twin sister (who was fed the exact same diet of things our parents could force down our throats) was a little stick of a child, but my toddler tummy was bulging from the waistband of my neon stirrup leggings. (Stop judging my mom; it was practically still the 80s.) The pediatrician’s first suggestion: Make the switch to a lower-fat milk.
And that’s how it was. No whole milk in the house. 2% for my sister. 1% for me. And on and on until I grew up as a slightly-overweight teenager with slightly larger-than-average boobs, and discovered that string bikinis and skim milk both existed. And it’s been skim ever since.
So, for the sake of continuing to build and strengthen my relationship with my soon-to-be husband, I responded to Jonathan’s milk text with an extremely rational:
“No no no no!”
Along with knowing that I’m never wrong, Jonathan also knows that being healthy is somewhat of a priority to me (despite the dairy addiction). He knows that every morning I eat Greek yogurt and a piece of fruit. He knows that I seldom indulge in fast food. And he knows that, if I’m eating cereal, that shit’s going to be covered in calcium-rich, vitamin-D-supplemented, 0% fat skim milk. And, more importantly, he knows that making a blanket statement about what we will or will not do without bothering to discuss it with me like an adult is going to piss me off.
For the sake of being slightly more rational and entirely more adult, I then texted him:
“I understand that the way skim milk is processed isn’t as natural as whole milk, but if you care about that then you should also care about buying ONLY organic beef or poultry, because the way that’s usually processed is MUCH worse than the milk thing.”
“I will not buy skim milk again.”
Jonathan grew up on and around farms. I grew up in the San Fernando Valley. If we had a which-one-of-us-would-make-a-better-dairy-farmer competition, he’d certainly win. But I don’t think either of us can claim to have above-average knowledge of pasteurization, or homogenization, or any other -ization that brought milk from a cow’s udder to my glass when I was a child. His glass, however, was filled directly from that udder. His milk was better. He and his fatty milk grew up to be army strong, while my low-fat milk and I grew up to have osteoporosis.
Which makes it sort of difficult to argue, but you can bet I did anyway. For the sake of building our relationship.
The argumentative texts continued until he got too busy blowing things up and covering his face in war paint, or whatever it is they do in the army. So I took the opportunity to spend some time between whatever I do at work (which, unlike Jonathan’s job, almost never requires a tomahawk) reading anything I could find online about milk. Warning: There is a lot of information online about milk. And now whoever in my IT department monitors my internet history thinks I have a weird obsession with breast feeding.
So, naturally, I read. I synthesized. I found arguments supporting Jonathan’s side, and arguments supporting mine—for the sake of my sanity, I kept the debate focused on whole milk versus skim; it’s too early in our relationship to introduce raw milk into the argument. And after a few hours, I sent an annoyingly long email to Jonathan that I’ll spare you here, but, to give you an idea, it began with: “If you don’t read all of this I will punch you in the balls.” And it ended with: “Anyway, the moral is that you’re eating poop.”
Later that night, on the phone, I asked Jonathan if he’d considered the points in my milk email.
“Yes, I read it,” he said. “Parts of it.”
“Jonathan,” I said. “I clearly told you that if you don’t read every word of that milk email I will punch you in the balls.”
So he dared me to try to punch him in the balls, and then mumbled something about cat-like reflexes, but I’d already taken a sleeping pill so I didn’t really hear the rest. I think we then got into a night-cap argument about how realistic or unrealistic Rambo is, but the details are fuzzy.
Communicate. Compromise. Resolve. Remember that all our children could be lactose intolerant.
T-minus 408 days until the wedding.