Our argument wasn’t about much – whether I’d pruned a thorny bush with careful forethought or massacred it in a passive-aggressive pique. Hanging in the balance was the bush’s twin, also needing a trim.
“You weren’t thinking,” she accused, sounding like a school marm.
“Fine,” I said, and, like a brat, tossed the clipper onto the grass. “You do the other one.”
Which she did.
Each of us, suddenly, had stepped into roles that fit our ages. Sheri’s accusation that I had thoughtlessly pruned sounded to me like a do-it-right-next-time lecture from a boss or teacher or parent. And I reacted as would a sullen teen accused unjustly. Thus, our strange circle stayed unbroken: she confessed later that when I tossed the clippers she felt like a scold. “And I hate hate hate that,” she said.
Do couples close in age play out similar roles in their arguments? We worried in the aftermath that our age difference changed – and perhaps changes – the dynamics of our spats and fights. I imagine we’re both troubled by what the unguarded moment suggests – that our age difference matters in ways that are fundamental to how we relate, that our adult relationship is somehow a careful construction. I never want to feel or act like a child before my wife. Nor does she want to treat me like a child and have to feel so old.
But that’s what happened. And for a moment we wondered – and perhaps still do -- whether that’s who we really are.