by Colleen Hammond
Some of our favorite times together have been in the kitchen. Even when we were dating, Dennis and I would work side by side concocting tasty meals, and then enjoy what we had created together. That tradition has continued for the past 14 years of our marriage. That’s why I was so baffled by what we no affectionately call, “the War of the Onion.”
We were making stir-fry. A few years earlier, I had learned from a Japanese Chef how to wildly “slice and dice’ and not lose a digit. Innocently, I thought I’d share the technique with my beloved.
“You know, if you hold your fingers this way,” I demonstrated, “you won’t cut your fingers.”
The tips of his ears turned red. Oops! Dead giveaway. He’s upset.
“You can do it any way you want, thought,” I proposed nonchalantly, wisely backing away.
The crimson spots grew. What’s up with him, I wondered.
“Hey, I’m sorry. Did I say anything to upset you?” I was genuinely concerned. After all, he was holding a knife.
“No,” he responded. That little area just below his Adam’s apple turned red. He was lying! I better keep my mouth shut.
“I was just trying to help, you know,” I offered again.
By now the red spots were growing so large, they were starting to meet.
He se the knife down on the counter delicately and glared in my direction. “Why are you always trying to change me?” he challenged.
Geez. Where did that come from? I was just trying to show him a clever way to cut an onion!
Later that evening, we were able to sit down and chat about it. As is now our habit, we said a brief prayer asking God to send us the grace of the Sacrament of Marriage to communicate. Our discussion commenced. Being a woman, I our course led the way.
“Women,” I explained, “are interested in supporting helping, and nurturing.” He looked bored already. I better cut to the chase. “I was just trying to show you a better way,” I sighed.
“A ‘better way’?” he snapped. “What’s wrong with the way I was doing it?” Seeing the look on my face, he continued in a gentler manner. “Ya know, I’m really offended when you treat me as if I’m incompetent.”
“Incompetent?” I started to giggle. “Dennis, it was just a blasted onion! You can cut it any way you’d like.”
“Exactly my point! So why did you have to correct me? I didn’t ask for your advice.”
After he had clamed down a bit, Dennis explained to me that men like to conquer all situations independently. Men prove their competence and feel good about themselves by “autonomous achievement.” That is why men would rather drive around lost for half an hour than stoop and ask for directions.
“After all,” Dennis quipped, “Columbus didn’t ask for directions.”
I muffled a snort. I suppose this is why men don’t bother to read the owner’s manual and don’t ask for help finding things in a store, either. In the back of their minds, men consider themselves experts when it comes to fixing mechanical things, getting places, or solving problems.
“So, what you’re telling me is that men just don’t like being told what to do, is that it?”
“You don’t ever want me to help you?” I asked skeptically.
“For the most part, yes. That’s right.” He looked relieved. “Just accept me. And trust me,” he added.
Then I asked for examples of what I had said in the past that offended him. I was amazed! When I would offer what I thought was loving support, he sometimes considered it criticism. Even my innocent comments were misinterpreted as critical and even controlling at times. No wonder he resented my ‘help’!
I’ve learned to take a deep breath, offer it up, and restrain myself from offering any unsolicited advice or criticism. I try to lovingly accept him as the man God created him to be, and to remember that there is more than one way to get things done.
But now, when we work together in the kitchen, Dennis has me cut the onions.
Copyright Colleen M. Hammond 1999