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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Off the Grid: When your husband decides to move in

By Ammi Midstokke For The Spokesman-Review

My husband got a job in town. The same town where I live. For the entirety of our friendship, courtship and marriage, our relationship has been based on 48-hour intervals and social media engagements. Needless to say, I’m panicking.

When he was home last weekend, I meticulously gathered a pile of exotic ingredients to make a traditional Israeli dish. I plucked the leaves of herbs, thawed wild caught halibut, minced fresh garlic. The kitchen was a cloud of complex scents from mint to turmeric to sumac to cilantro.

In the pantry, there was a fresh pot of elk and sweet potato stew I had made on the wood stove. On Sunday, we had fajitas with roasted peppers, cabbage salsa and rich conversation. My husband stared at me with that blue-eyed gaze of an adoring, satisfied belly. Home-cooked meals are his love language.

I may have given my husband the impression that I cook like that all week, which in turn may have led him to seek out local employment to begin with. Those gas station chimichangas of northeastern Oregon (where he has worked for years) aren’t exactly sophisticated cuisine, no matter how much hot sauce you soak them in.

From Sunday to Thursday, I don’t have a husband to impress. I basically live on tacos and variations of tuna salad or an entire bag of popcorn. I recognize the mild moral dilemma, considering that I am a nutritionist and all. I escape the guilt of hypocrisy by buying overpriced organic sprouted corn tortillas and touting the health benefits of guacamole.

For years now, I have only had to appear to be an attractive mate a few hours a week through emotional availability via text message, casseroles, water-proof mascara and a carefully curated athleisure wear wardrobe. As far as my husband knows, the laundry never piles up, I did not eat a sleeve of gluten-free cookies for breakfast, and I perpetually smell like lavender lotion.

There are a host of conversations we never have because I don’t have to share my popcorn in bed most nights. I am considering setting up a secret minibar behind my hanging clothes where I have pull-out drawers of Toblerone and little jars of peanuts.

Also, and he doesn’t know this either, my brown dog literally sleeps on his side of the bed most nights. Under the covers. On his pillow. We’ve been blaming the hair on the cats for a while now.

Weekend me is a different me. I’m not harried from wrestling a teenager out the door every morning, or from planning snacks and lunches and gym clothes and running clothes and pickups and drop-offs and board meetings and clinic hours and a visit to the DMV and 8,000 phone calls, plus personal hygiene and trips to the hot bar.

Weekend me wears an apron and listens to NPR while baking apple cobbler. That woman even sits on the sofa sometimes or reads a book. For entertainment. She’s well-slept and well-run and well-fed and even showered.

The maniacal Monday-to-Friday version has been thus far a well-kept secret that is soon to be irrevocably exposed.

For a while now, there has been a sort of common discourse about the wonderful impacts of having my husband home all week and the sort of marital bliss we can expect. And while it is true that I won’t have to plow again on a Tuesday or get out of bed to rid the room of stink bugs (this was in our wedding vows), when he asked me how I felt about his homecoming, I burst out in a blathering mess of overwhelm.

“I don’t want to have to cook for you every day! And I can’t wear makeup every day and sometimes I smell like yesterday’s workout, not lavender!” I cried, as if these revelations would suffice for an annulment.

“Oh, good. I don’t want to have to cook for you either,” he said, because he knows feeding me canned chili would for sure work. “Also, I watch YouTube videos.”

It was a true test of our marriage.

Thankfully, the conversation ended in a mutual acceptance of the other’s weekday person, with a few caveats about needs for space in our newly shared environment.

While we may have to play rock, paper, scissors to see who opens the tortilla chips sometimes, at least we won’t be texting each other goodnight.

Ammi Midstokke can be reached at ammimarie@gmail.com

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