Ever see a dog with a raw hide chew treat? My dog used to gnaw on them with his back molars for up to an hour at a time. He’d slurp, slobber, and grind on a spot until it was slimy. Then he’d hide it under the sofa to be retrieved for future enjoyment — the hardened pulpy surface encrusted with hair and dust. Yum.
We’re no different with grudges: We keep them tucked away to pull out and gnaw to soothe ourselves. I carry enough to know: if grudges were literal raw hide bones, every dog in Hudson County would be trailing me.
As perfect as we are, my husband B and I can agitate each other. And though sometimes I can’t remember where my glasses are (even when I’m wearing them) I can recall the most minute detail of every irritation he has caused me. Especially when B pushes that special “grudge recall” button.
It happened recently after Sunday brunch at the diner. He missed coffee refills and ate cold eggs because he’d texted throughout most of the meal. He sat hunched, sharing gossipy messages with a pal instead of communicating with me during the limited free time together we had. Every time he worked that tiny keyboard, he pushed my buttons.
“Do I need to take that away from you at meals? You’re an adult and I’m not your parent,” I said as we walked to the parking lot. There was no response. I looked behind me and he was standing at the diner entrance, still texting.
“Hello? B, brunch is over, honey. Maybe you want to join me for the ride home?”
“Just one sec…” he said before he hit send, then looked up and smiled at me like I’d just arrived from a month in Paris.
“Yeah, how you doing, I’m your wife, we just had a meal, remember?”
“It was just a quick text…” he began.
“Plural honey, it was textsss,” and I hissed the final ‘s’. “This is just like the time…”
“Oh boy, here we go,” B said, “are we really going back that many years ago?”
That’s what B doesn’t understand about pushing the grudge recall button: past irritations pop back fresh and toasty.
“It wasn’t that many years ago,” I reminded him, ” you just don’t want to remember how you texted throughout my whole birthday meal at Artisinal. Right there, at the table, you didn’t even notice the cheese plate!”
“I remember…” he groaned.
“If I text while you’re brushing your teeth, you act like the world stops spinning! You’d never let me forget it.”
“Like you’ll never let me forget that one time.”
“Oh, it isn’t one time, baby. You still don’t see how it pushes my goddamn f***ing buttons!”
We stood there in the parking lot, facing off: me gnawing on that dusty old grudge; B ignoring the buzz of an incoming text. He didn’t answer it. We also didn’t talk on the car ride home.
My dog used to know when a raw hide chew had become too gross and nasty. He’d leave it somewhere other than the special spot under the sofa, untouched for weeks, until I put it in the trash. If it no longer provided enjoyment or satisfaction, he knew to give it up. As B and I took the silent drive home from the diner, my trusty old grudge was lacking in flavor, and I wondered if it was time to give it up.