My mom and dad divorced, acrimoniously, when I was six years old.
I certainly wasn't one of those classic "kids of divorce" who went around thinking it was their fault. I didn't believe that for a minute! But thinking ahead even then, I desperately want to figure out what had gone wrong with their marriage. That way, when I became an adult and entered a relationship, I could avoid the pitfalls that ultimately drove my parents apart.
Unfortunately for me, there wasn't a lot of information about their troubles to help me out. My dad and mom were rarely together under the same roof (yes, I see as an adult how that in itself was a huge issue), and I don't remember seeing them fight when they were, so I completely lacked observational data.
"Why not ask your mom?", you might say. Well, my mom ain't one to be talking about that. She rarely brings up anything about my father or their relationship. Even now, 37 years after the divorce, it still hits a nerve for her. Since we live 400 miles apart and see each other rarely, our time together is precious, and I certainly don't bring up my dad or the divorce unless absolutely compelled to do so. And when I was a kid, under the same roof? No way was I going to cause her pain or antagonize her. So I didn't ask, and and she didn't tell.
But one day, out of the blue, she volunteered something. It was the first thing she had ever confided in me about their troubles. And it was this:
She and my father had fought about which way to put the toilet paper roll on the holder.
I held onto this piece of information like it was gold during a recession. I vowed to myself that when I got married, I would find out which way my spouse preferred the toilet paper to go, and that's how it would go, forever and ever, amen. To my little kid mind, this small bit of spousal consideration would ensure that my marriage would succeed where my parents' had failed.
As it turned out, my first wife did not have a preference. Perhaps our willy-nilliness when it came to putting toilet paper on the roller symbolized larger inconsistencies in how we conducted our lives, or violated some basic feng shui tenet, since she and I ended up splitting.
Mandy and I have had no toilet paper incidents thus far, but it occurred to me the other day that we really haven't faced this crucial relationship hurdle yet. "How can that be?" you ask. "Haven't you guys been together for nearly three years? Surely you use toilet paper and not corncobs or the Sears-Roebuck catalog, unless you carry on your West Virginia outhouse customs?"
Why yes, Dear Reader, Mandy and I have been together for nearly three revolutions around Old Sol. Nevertheless, we have not had to broach this issue, because our tiny bathroom in our tiny house does not have a toilet paper holder. Instead, we have one of those free-standing roll-holder dealies, where you can stack three rolls on top of each other.
So the number one most important pressing concern for any cohabitating couple, as determined by me from the evidence I gathered as a child, has never come up. If Mandy and I move to a new place next year and get divorced not long after, you'll know that it was an Under-Over marriage, and ne'er the twain shall tolerate each other for long.