I like to think I’m the sort of person who’s never needed anybody’s help in any way. And that may be so, given that I’ve managed to keep my house intact, my kids alive, and my lawn at least 50% grass for nine years now.
In reality, though, I want some help. I realize that everyone thinks they have ADHD, but whether or not I do, I am chronically disorganized when it comes to taking care of the mundane details of life. (Oddly enough, I am quite efficient at taking care of the interesting things. Go figure.)
When I’m in a relationship, some girly instinct kicks in whereby I want the guy to save me from the sea of responsibilities in which I’m drowning. The knight in shining armor notion is a hard one to eradicate, old-fashioned as that is, and perhaps it should be updated to a guy in a wetsuit with a life raft anyhow.
When I was seeing Gary (aka Mr. Perfect), I had hoped he would offer to help me with something. Whatever I might have needed from him—perhaps some assistance shoveling the walkway in the winter or spreading the mulch in the spring— it wasn’t coming. There was a reason for that: he didn’t want to do the things people do for each other in a real relationship because he knew he wasn’t in it for the long haul. Offering to help would send me the wrong message (but really, not any worse than saying he loved me did).
With Dale, too, I would have liked an offer to help, perhaps because he was a police officer and that profession was so close to shining knight. But that help wasn’t coming either, and, in thinking about some other relationships, I’ve come to understand why.
When I was seeing Michael, who I’m not even sure I ever really liked, he did help on a regular basis. He cooked. He walked the dog. He even cleaned, vacuuming the house when I was trying to finish some work. You’d think I would have appreciated this. I did, but on some level I found it annoying. (One reason may be that he served me a plate full of buckwheat and called it dinner, but that’s another story.)
On the other hand, when I was dating my ex-husband, he did two things for me that were endearing. Laundry is a serious point of procrastination for me, and at the time I had to bring my clothes to the laundromat, which meant I had to get change, have laundry supplies, gather my things, and get to the laundromat just to get started. For a practiced procrastinator, that was too many steps, and I got in the habit of buying new underwear in favor of washing the stuff I had.
Another problematic task was car care. I was working 10–12 hours a day then, and I couldn’t see how I could take the time for car maintenance unless a part was actually dangling from my car (which explains why I did have my muffler repaired).
For anyone who can’t understand how I ended up with my husband, know that he both did my laundry and changed my oil, which had gone so long he had to shake the car to get it to drop out in gelatinous blobs. (He didn’t fold the laundry though, which portended a future of clean laundry scattered on my freshly vacuumed floor. If only I’d read the signs!)
Let’s get back to Dale. He’s in a new relationship, one I approve of heartily. He told me the other day that he was helping his girlfriend to stain her deck. I felt the teeniest pang of wistfulness that what I had wanted from him that I never got came so naturally in this new relationship.
And that’s when it occurred to me that an offer to help and a gracious acceptance of that offer can happen only when the relationship is right, when giving and receiving feel natural. With Michael, it never felt right because he was obsequious, my shuffling servant way too eager to please to win my affection. With my ex, it did feel right because that relationship, in its time, was a good one. And it’s clear that Dale is helping his new girlfriend because that relationship is about as right as a relationship can be.
Keeping my cars clean (or not, as the case may be) and fertilizing the lawn will continue to stay in my domain for the foreseeable future, then. And that’s just fine: I need somebody, but not just anybody.