To Love, Honor, and Share Fridge Space
Okay, we all know the traditional marriage vows: better and worse, sickness and health, having and holding. When I got married four years ago, standing on the deck of the crumbling farmhouse I had already filled with half my earthly belongings, I was fully prepared to love and cherish my rich or poor wife until death parted us and all the other fine print blinding love forces you to submit yourself to when deciding to legally bind yourself to another person until you both die, clutching the deed to a house you couldn’t pay off, suffocated under a pile of overdue credit card bills and scratch-off lottery tickets.
We didn’t do premarital counseling because, honestly, I prefer to be emotionally reckless and irresponsible but also? We’re fine! We are a combined 175 years old! We’re both women! What could truly go wrong? Besides, what do they talk to you about in therapy? Managing joint finances? Setting goals? Whether or not to acquire a human child if the urge to procreate ever arises? Those things, I can navigate. No one ever sits you down to soberly talk to you about sharing your grownup kitchen with another person.
I lived in blissful solitude for a long time, from 18 to 35, and you learn a lot about yourself and the things you require for life when it’s just you that you have to think about. You don’t have to pretend to love soaking nuts and beans or dragging butternut squashes up three flights of stairs at the end of a long workday then trying to figure out how to make it into something resembling a delicious dinner. You can buy fish sticks and eat them directly from the cookie sheet that you never really scrub all the way clean, while sitting six inches from the television. It doesn’t matter if the tartar sauce makes it back to its shelf, because no one else is gonna see it.
When she and I met, my kitchen was that of a feral teen, stocked equally with things you’re not supposed to buy as a responsible, bill-paying adult and with ingredients I’d purchased to make one specific dish at some point in history but then never found another way to use again. Packs of ramen noodles and half-flattened tubes of herb paste that I’d used in some long-forgotten recipe one time and never again. My refrigerator was a gleaming beacon of order: one carton of broth, a few bottles of good beer, maybe a jar of fancy mustard, and possibly a lone slice of leftover pizza. I bought things as I needed them, I used the precise amount the recipe called for, then I left the refrigerator mostly empty so that there would always be room for the next thing. I was a busy single person who did most of my food shopping at a place where the cigarettes were next to the ice cream. There was no need for me to crowd my precious shelf space with brown apples no one was around to eat.
Related: The Secret Life of Your Refrigerator
One morning last summer (a normal summer day, not the day we were having a party or the day out of town guests were coming for a weekend or the day an entire group of missionaries decided to set up camp in our house) I opened my current refrigerator, my first ever major appliance purchase, delivered three months before by two friendly gentlemen from Lowe’s, in search of a Diet Coke.
This is what I encountered:
four? five? kinds of mustard
catsup (not to be confused with ketchup, which is actually good)
dark soy sauce
black and green olives
homemade strawberry jam
homemade pear butter
grape and strawberry jams, from the store, WHICH IS HOW I LIKE THEM
A.1. steak sauce
many squeeze tubes: garlic, ginger, chili, lemongrass, tomato paste, anchovy paste
two dozen eggs
half and half
so much produce
bin of many cheeses
bin of lunch meat
definitely expired hummus
water with charcoal stick
many sparkling waters
four assorted homemade pickles
assorted dressings, store-bought and homemade
homemade peanut sauce that was all wrong but my wife is reluctant to toss
assorted Blue Apron ingredients we never used but she is, again, loath to throw out
leftovers in various stages of decomposition
How could I, a regular person who is not an archaeologist, be expected to locate the single can of Diet Coke I like to have first thing in the morning, amidst all this ridiculous nonsense? Why didn’t the person at the county clerk’s office warn me that my bride-to-be and I needed to have similar views on condiment storage before we signed our names on the certificate? Why didn’t our minister—who is also our neighbor and lawyer—ask if we’d ever discussed how many types of milk two people need to keep on hand at all times? I’m lactose intolerant, I can’t even process all the milks we have just crowding out all the things I might actually be able to eat huddling in a corner behind all of these kombuchas and shit?
We bought a car together—which is another point of contention because I don’t believe that the most expensive thing I’ve ever owned should also double as a rolling reusable tote bag and spilled granola dispensary—but we do not even have time to start getting into that. The refrigerator is the only thing we’re forced to share that we have drastically different views on how to use. And I’m not sure how you turn a person who insists on pickling her own carrots into a person who doesn’t also feel entitled to stack jars of them eight deep on the highest shelf, but that is the person I ended up married to! Has anyone ever gotten divorced citing “too many assorted milks?” Is this the “for worse” I am resigned to?