the smell of my desperation has become a stench

Featured community question with yet another reason for couple’s therapy

Today’s featured question comes from user KA (yes, I know one of this member’s questions has been featured before, but I happened to read this one right after a certain encounter, and hell, this member asks great questions):

We’ll get to that certain encounter, but first, no matter what my mood, no matter if the chaos in our lives has reached levels that would deafen Coco, I always say, “I’m great! How are you?” Because no one really wants to hear about all my crap, and there is always the tiniest possibility that the mere act of articulating the word “great” can turn my mood around. Look at how gross I’ve become! Where is the woman who would have slugged a nun over the last bagel at a soup kitchen?

That woman is still here, but Marlo beat her up, threw her body into a closet and said she could come back out in about three years. Because that woman will be needed to deal with the tantrums that throw tiny bodies down the aisle with all the fruit roll-ups.

So. Encounter.

I got back from a workout today, grabbed my laptop and headed into the office. I thought Jon would be listening to his headphones or busily reading a response from a conservative friend on Facebook that would require every molecule of his body to process without taking a bat to his monitor. Instead, he looked up and happily asked, “How you doin’?” Without the Jersey accent. That would merit divorce.

I think I made a noise, something like, “EmmmMMM.” Something definitely with a lilt at the end, to indicate a state of lilt. And then I immediately asked him, “How YOU doin’?”

Apparently, this was an entirely inappropriate response. Because suddenly I am being accused of performing the one act in the world that he despises most. What I did was way worse than grabbing that pen, you guys. Which means it was even worse than wrecking both of our cars AT THE SAME TIME.

That noise I made, that DELIBERATE UNANSWERING OF HIS QUESTION… why do I always have to ask him how he’s doing so quickly? Huh? HUH? HE ASKED ME FIRST. He HATES it when I do that, that… that caring about him and returning the courtesy!

I calmly sat down at my desk, opened my laptop and said, “Since you are allowed to ask me the following question without getting punched in the face, then I am going to assume that the same rule applies to me asking you: Have you taken your Prozac today?”

Winters are unusually hard on the Armstrongs.

  • jon

    2010/02/10 at 4:50 pm

    I’m calling the therapist. RIGHT NOW.

  • cooterbug

    2010/02/10 at 4:56 pm

    sounds like things are getting a bit skwinchy around the ol Armstrong household! You know what would help? A stressful trip to the mountains so you can bundle into uncomfortable gear and freeze your toenails off while falling on your butt. YEAH!
    hahhhaha . . . you guys . . . your marriage is made of super glue. I do not doubt for a minute.

  • MJBUtah

    2010/02/10 at 4:57 pm

    ROFL…been there!

    You guys are too funny.

    I had a client that when I would reply, “I am fine, Mr. X” he would say “Well, you sure are lookin’ fine kitten.” Yes, he WAS an old creepy dude, why do you ask?

  • Jacquie

    2010/02/10 at 5:01 pm

    I once had a friend who was going through something terrible, and one day when I showed and said: “Hi, how are you?” She went through the roof. I understood, I really did – it was an awful situation and there was no way she could easily respond to my greeting/question without providing a heavy, convoluted backstory and emotional explanation. Now I almost never say those words, unless I’m trying to flirt with my husband. I’m sorry it doesn’t have the same effect on your husband. Maybe he’s just cold from driving around with no doors on the cars.

    good luck!


  • josephine

    2010/02/10 at 5:18 pm

    No sun & cold weather = a crazy, cranky household, at least here in Colorado!

    You need to escape to the Bahamas… or something like that. 🙂

  • Leiah

    2010/02/10 at 5:05 pm

    I’m cracking up over here. A noise, albeit possibly construed by most as a grunt, is a response isn’t it?

  • rparton

    2010/02/10 at 5:14 pm

    hmm, my winter blues were considerably lifted today by a snow day from school (teachers need those more than students!) – – maybe you should impose a snow day on the home office. 🙂

  • PlaidChick

    2010/02/10 at 5:21 pm

    Jon is totally PMSing.

  • kellic78

    2010/02/10 at 5:22 pm

    I love how you said you thought you would find Jon “busily reading a response from a conservative friend on Facebook that would require every molecule of his body to process without taking a bat to his monitor.” My husband is equally worried about finding me in that frame of mind every time he walks in to my office.

    …and if he finds me that way, dare he mutter, “How YOU doin’?” without getting a complete re-education of the history of the United States, a rehash of the current US economic situation, another unsolicited explanation of why the President is mad at the Supreme Court, a moral scorning of our redneck acquaintances who dislike the President solely based on the color of his skin (even though they refuse to admit it), and in my closing breaths, a lecture regarding the hypocrisy of the conservatives.

    Followed by darling husband saying, “Sorry I asked.”

  • Schnauzie_Mom

    2010/02/10 at 5:23 pm

    I’m convinced that men really do PMS. My husband seems to have unexplainable mood swings that correspond with my PMS. I told him our cycles were syncing up. He didn’t think that was funny.

  • radkitch

    2010/02/10 at 5:43 pm

    This is an exact replay of a scene from my Monday….winter in Wisconsin is evidently as bad as winter in Utah.

  • Agent Scully

    2010/02/10 at 5:45 pm

    I want to tell you how AMAZINGLY CUTE Marlo is in the last picture. I have never, EVER seen a prettier baby. Do you tell her everyday: “Marlo, the Internets think you’re so cute”? Because you totally should.

  • kristanhoffman

    2010/02/10 at 5:45 pm

    Aww… Perhaps dessert calls for increased dosage dipped in chocolate? Or maybe just shared cuddle time with Marlo.

    Not related: love the February banner! 😀

  • Katie D

    2010/02/10 at 5:47 pm

    Heather, you need a vacation. Maybe just a weekend away from the house. I have a great idea – a booksigning in Boston!!! The weather here is soooo nice too. I’m brilliant, I know. 🙂

  • ivergani

    2010/02/10 at 6:02 pm

    guys you are a great couple so let this one go, it is not a big deal, the pen is another story.

    I am with Katie, a vacation will help! Heather go get a nice massage and get awy from home a bit.

  • SaltySpoon

    2010/02/10 at 6:05 pm

    Florida. Destin, Florida. That’s what you guys need in the worst way.

  • Kim

    2010/02/10 at 6:08 pm

    Winter = tetchiness. Makes sense to me! Though the pen/garage door story was classic – it reminded me of the time my mom and I left my dad with a whole chicken and step by step instructions of how to cook it. We came home, it tasted like plastic, because he didn’t TAKE THE BAG OF INNARDS OUT and then we had a 2 hour argument about where the hell did he think all the stuff in the gravy came from/him saying why the hell didn’t we tell him there was a plastic bag of inards in there? That was probably 20 years ago, and a family war breaks out if it’s mentioned even now.

  • chicgeek75

    2010/02/10 at 6:09 pm

    I find this quite interesting particularly since I had been watching your Momversation at the same time, wherein you say how wonderful your husband is… I think it’s cute. But, after these two “encounters” – in such quick succession – I have to wonder.

    How ARE you doin? 🙂

  • cablearms

    2010/02/10 at 6:18 pm

    jon, i hear st. john’s wort helps – and you don’t even need a prescription for it. that or those light therapy contraptions apparently work wonders! tee-hee 😉

  • cedar crest

    2010/02/10 at 6:21 pm

    When I am asked the “How are you doing?” question, my response is “Great! Thanks for asking.” RARELY do I re-ask the questioner’s question because most of the time I DON”T CARE.

    If I do ask that question, I REALLY WANT TO KNOW HOW THAT PERSON IS and will ask the Q in another way and when we are in a time and place conducive to talking.

    The problem with the “How are you doing?” question is that, so often, it is asked on the fly, without thought, and asked rather than offering a simple, “Hi.”

  • cedar crest

    2010/02/10 at 6:21 pm

    When I am asked the “How are you doing?” question, my response is “Great! Thanks for asking.” RARELY do I re-ask the questioner’s question because most of the time I DON”T CARE.

    If I do ask that question, I REALLY WANT TO KNOW HOW THAT PERSON IS and will ask the Q in another way and when we are in a time and place conducive to talking.

    The problem with the “How are you doing?” question is that, so often, it is asked on the fly, without thought, and asked rather than offering a simple, “Hi.”

  • Bethany B

    2010/02/10 at 6:34 pm

    Heather, it would appear that Jon is suffering from what we in our home refer to as MPS. (male penile syndrome) It’s similar to PMS in that the man becomes wildly irrational for a short time. My suggestion to you is to stock up on donuts and pretend you are wrong. Good luck.

  • gail37

    2010/02/10 at 6:34 pm

    Ah…there are days…and there will be more of them, hopefully not frequently.

  • commspro

    2010/02/10 at 6:45 pm

    My neighbor — a guy in his late 60s — has tried to turn the answer to this question into an art form: “Perfect, only not quite.” “Well, the itching has stopped.” Etcetera. We now make it a point not to ask our neighbor how he’s doing.

    My husband, on the other hand, will always answer positively, even though he’s an insomniac who seldom gets more than four hours of sleep on any given night. It used to be annoying, but now I find it pleasant, and even rather infectious. If he can be cheery despite no sleep, I can be less grumpy about my headache.

  • dewwshane

    2010/02/10 at 7:18 pm

    Seriously, how YOU doin’???

    And thank you for publishing these little (and big) gripes. I wanted to comment on the car crashing/pen debate, but don’t see the leave a comment option…does it close after 400?

    Anyways, I thought my SO was bad about placing blame on me when he clearly is 100% at fault. Arguments tend to go in the direction of, “Well, if I’d never met you in the first place, I would never have ____.” Uh huh. Now I see how you letting the dog escape because you left the garage door open while I innocently read in the living room is entirely my bad.

    Nothing frustrates me more than taking an already unpleasant situation and compounding the suck by laying blame where it doesn’t belong.

    Clearly, I’m on team Heather!

  • strawberrygoldie

    2010/02/10 at 7:20 pm

    My friend, Autumn, was interviewed by a Charlotte, NC TV station today.

    See, we are in the throes of a blizzard here in Banner Elk, NC.

    We have seen THE GROUND, as in the earth that lies below us, for a total of five days since Christmas.

    So, when Autumn was chirpily asked about her feelings towards this “snow event,” she eloquently replied:

    “All this snow can suck it.”

    God, I wish they would have put that on the air.

    Anywho, that pretty much sums up how we feel about winter. It can suck it.

    And this quote?

    “I thought Jon would be listening to his headphones or busily reading a response from a conservative friend on Facebook that would require every molecule of his body to process without taking a bat to his monitor.”

    YAH. Jon, I feel this way EVERY DAMN DAY.

    I will now skitter off and drink copious amounts of red wine. Because work looks like a big, fat NO GO in the morning.




  • Lilian - Mama in Translation

    2010/02/10 at 7:24 pm

    Go call the therapist, Jon, but don’t ever forget your Prozac again… 😉

  • kodi_jo

    2010/02/10 at 7:52 pm

    I think winters are hard on everyone.

  • apostate

    2010/02/10 at 8:43 pm

    Don’t worry, Heather. It’s February so we only have about 3 to 4 more months of winter.
    Then a week later, it will be so blazing miserably hot that all I will be able to do is keep telling myself that at least my underwear has less coverage than some people I know. At least I have THAT going for me.

    Ah, Utard. Where we turn on our heaters in the morning and the A/C 3 hours later.

  • shereen

    2010/02/10 at 8:51 pm

    Polly Pockets are awesome!
    The end.

  • spaceranger

    2010/02/10 at 9:15 pm

    Here’s what I have to say about *the encounter*. In my marriage there have been a few times where my husband asks me how I am at a time when I’ve been not-great and it sort of pisses me off a little bit that he asked (even though his intentions are good [though his delivery seems not-eloquent and annoying–and maybe on the verge of patronizing, but maybe not–it’s hard to tell]), anyway, in response I’ve not-exactly answered him and then without long enough of a pause after his question asked how he was with a tiny bit of annoyance/impatience/aggression, but there’s such a tiny bit of those not-nice things in my question that his man-brain that doesn’t read emotions well can’t quite be sure it’s there (even though he’s pretty sure he felt it), so he’s not sure how to respond without looking like he’s crazy because he knows I can say “sheesh, I just asked how you were, just like you did”. And then, for us, things got sort of not-nice after those kind of encounters. All that to say, I’m totally convinced that in a marriage asking “How are you?” can’t automatically be assumed to be a totally innocent question, from either the husband or the wife.

    Navigating marriage is hard.

    But totally worth it.

    For us anyway.

  • Figtron

    2010/02/10 at 9:30 pm

    Dude…we are ALL having a hard winter. Even those of us who don’t have winter are having a hard winter.

    Jon just needs to be smacked around a little bit…get the ole juices flowing.

    While you are giving him your best pimp slap backhand, remind him not to ask you a question if he doesn’t want the answer.

    Jon, nothing but love…promise.

  • Trish

    2010/02/10 at 9:49 pm

    You guys are awesome. How YOU doin?

  • WanderingOne

    2010/02/10 at 11:35 pm

    St. John’s Wort is about the only thing getting me through this winter, so I definitely hear you on that front.

  • southerngirl

    2010/02/11 at 12:11 am

    This snowbound winter is slowly driving us all mad.

    Don’t get really worried until you go into the office and sneak a peek at Jon’s laptop and the only thing on the screen is line after line of “All work and no play makes Jon a dull boy.”

  • Ellen Crimi-Trent

    2010/02/11 at 12:49 am

    I got the “why are you such a bitch today” from my husband as we were driving to see Avatar on Sat night. I replied…”humm lets see, could it be that my business is tanking in this economy and I am working my ass off daily only to find out that yet another deal fell through, or could it be that I am sick of you and the boys making the house a mess, and thinking its no big deal to pick up all those thousand of Legos that make me crazy? Or could it be that I am miserable because we are running out of money and I am worried that we have to hit our retirement and then the next thing to go is our house while all you worry about is freakin’ playdates for the damn kids!!”

    yes folks thats right I married “mr. mom” which most of my family and friends think is great but for me..its pure torture.. what ever happened to the man that I married?? he is now like the mom and I am now like the man! I joke all the time to friends that we will not get divorced over money or sex it will be playdates! I can’t stand them because they encroach on my work day since I work at home and there is nothing worse than trying to create designs with screaming kids around!

    Okay so sorry for the rant but i get it like me just want to be left alone and when you work at home w/ the husband there like I have also you just don’t want him to talk to you… you just want to be!!

    I stay up late at night to work just so I can be ALONE for once during the day!

  • Badger

    2010/02/11 at 1:41 am

    My boy does that. It drives me INSANE.

  • val0552

    2010/02/11 at 2:31 am

    I love this topic because hubby and I are polar opposites on the subject. I try to avoid asking anyone but DH this question because I feel uncomfortable when asked (yet always seem to reply “well. How are you?”. But DH has an entirely different outlook on life (courtesy the recovery from stage 4 cancer in his early 20’s and the freaking fact that he has never been depressed a day in his life – I didn’t even realize that was possible until we met) my hubby always responds to that question, honestly, with “living the dream.”. People are often taken aback or think he is being sarcastic but no, he really feels as if every breath is a gift. God I wish I could feel that way too!

    Totally off topic we both love Dooce, in fact, we are addicted!

  • kellyfaboo

    2010/02/11 at 6:16 am

    Now, Jon has had a bad week and is obviously cranky because of the car door incident and the fact the Internet thinks he needs to work on his driving skills.

    When he gets all cranky you need to get your baby voice on, ruffle his hair and say, “Oh, is Snookems having a bad day?”

  • minxlj

    2010/02/11 at 6:33 am

    Thank you for posting this and the ‘taking sides’ post – it doesn’t make me feel so bad that my partner and I have been arguing over THE stupidest things! We all get that way sometimes and you need to know that actually, you’re not going mad and you’re not unreasonable 😉 It’s been a long hard winter here too.

    You guys are both fantastic though, so I can imagine you laughing over all this already. And I totally want to see the repair guy’s face when you tell him why Jon took out the car and the door 😉


  • KristywithaK

    2010/02/11 at 7:00 am

    Marriage…more fun than a game of Parcheesi.


    2010/02/11 at 7:03 am

    Hmmmm. Perhaps, instead of answering with the offending grunt/non-answer, you should have written out the words “fine” on a piece of paper. Using THE PEN from the car.

    Or perhaps he wouldn’t have seen the humor in that either?


    Break open the wine and Prozac, Heather, winter’s still here for a while. 🙂

  • JustLinda

    2010/02/11 at 7:12 am

    I’m pretty sure that when a husband says “How you doin’?” the only acceptable response is “I’m feeling a little twitchy – I haven’t given oral to you in – how long’s it been? Let’s right that wrong right here, right now.”

    If you go with that response next time, you’ll be fine.

    But fair warning – he might expect some follow-through.

    Perhaps, then, you could revert back to the “I’m GREAT!” response. That seems easiest.

  • ErikaMSN

    2010/02/11 at 7:54 am

    And Penelope Trunk says you never write about your fights..

  • Sister Slick

    2010/02/11 at 8:06 am

    Yep, Jon is upset about the car/pen fiasco and is now dumping his unused emotions on his nearest and dearest. Typical testosterone response when they screw up this big (sorry Jon)!

  • LuckyMama

    2010/02/11 at 8:23 am

    So should I be filing for divorce if my husband’s Facebook status yesterday was “How YOU doin’???”

    And I know he was writing it in his best Joey accent in mind.


    2010/02/11 at 8:26 am

    Punching someone in the face may BE the only appropriate answer to the question How are you. That should become a new custom, actually. It can be attributed to you and everything, like the word Dooced.

  • jon

    2010/02/11 at 8:54 am

    My lawyer is going to have a field day.

  • Amy G

    2010/02/11 at 9:42 am

    Oh my God, I think ANY time my husband and I survive the loooooonnnnnnngggggg Wisconsin winters alive and intact it’s a miracle. By this point, it’s like “The Shining.” Sheesh.

    Hang in there – we feel your pain!!

  • Caro

    2010/02/11 at 9:44 am

    In July, after almost 18 years of marriage, 3 children and a lifetime’s battle with anxiety and depression I did the undoable : I left. That would make a great question : Are women judged more harshly when they decide to leave their marriage? Anyways, after 7 months (and a couple thousand bucks of rent,) we have decided to give it another shot.

    Life à deux : what a trip.

    Thanks for being so honest and funny.

    Oh and yes Marlo is the cutest baby in the world. A thousand years of wisdom and benevolence in those awesome blues eyes…

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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