What happened because of the steaks...

If you follow me on Twitter, then you know that I had a bit of a heartbreak this weekend. Biff and I had a huge fight over something ridiculous and he grabbed all his stuff and stormed out of the house. He didn’t even say goodbye.

And it started with steak. Stupid steak.

We went to the grocery store with the kids and I asked what we should do for dinner. Biff said “Steaks!” I said that sounded good and turned to the kids and asked if they’d like Crabby Patties (what we call hamburgers, a nod to Spongebob Squarepants). So we picked up stuff.

It was a nice day. Biff helped me with yardwork, cleaned out my garage and while he prepped the grill and pushed Simone on the swing, I prepped the food. He grilled mushrooms and green peppers and then I gave him four hamburgers and the two steaks to grill.

When the food was done, I prepped the burgers for the kids. He asked me for a plate. He put the two steaks on the plate and asked for a knife. I gave it to him. Then he took the plate with the two steaks to the table and sat down with it, prepared to eat. And here’s the part where it gets ridiculous. “Are you going to eat those two steaks?” I asked, shocked, my face red with heat.

“Yeah,” he said.

“Well, what am I supposed to eat? I mean those are two steaks, I assumed you’d cooked one for me. You didn’t? You cooked them both for yourself?”

“I thought you were going to have a hamburger,” He said. He offered one of the steaks to me. “Here. Take one. You want one?” But by that time, I was so mad at the selfishness of the act that the idea of eating steak turned my stomach.

Why did I get so mad? Because the steak seemed to be a symbol of something greater. I assumed at the grocery store that he was cooking us steaks. I thought it was sweet. Then he sat down to eat both of them and it struck me as so insensitive and self-focused. And in a rush I thought of all the little things I did to try to please him. Cooking food he’d like and avoiding the food I love, knowing it would turn his stomach. How I tried to ask him questions about his day, told him he’s cute, told him I liked the way he kissed me. He told me once that I didn’t need to tell him those things. He didn’t need to hear it. I said, “Well, I do.” Meaning, it would be nice to hear that he appreciated me, cared about me. I needed to feel tended to.

Which was why on my birthday when there was no card or tweet or message on Face Book, no flowers, no cake, that I also felt deflated. I’d told him how my husband for 5 years never remembered my birthday or scheduled a trip out of the country during that time. How my ex had told me once that I shouldn’t have cake on my birthday because it was too fattening. Biff said that was horrible, but on my birthday, he did nothing to show me that I somehow mattered to him.

Maybe I’m high maintenance. I don’t know. But I honestly believe that a relationship and another person, a person you are close with physically and emotionally, needs to be tended to. You treat them kindly, like a rare orchid.

You make sure they have the food they need, the affection, you tell them they’re special. (Not that I do this with my orchid. Mostly I just water it once a week…but still. You get what I’m saying.)

I tried to talk to Biff, to clarify if he’d ever considered if I wanted steak. He said of course he had, but when he saw the four burgers he assumed I was eating those. (I made extras. The kids like leftovers) And yes, it was ridiculous. But then he got so mad that anger just poured off him. “I can’t talk about this,” he said. And he stormed outside.

I waited. I waited for a half hour. I went outside where he was sitting smoking. “If you can’t talk about the little things,” I asked, “How will you talk about the big?”

“This is ridiculous,” he said. “I’ll be out of here tomorrow.”

I thought about his anger and his inability to talk to me. I thought about how our relationship wasn’t the partnership I’d hoped, that I was suddenly paying for almost everything and driving him everywhere and letting him stay with me while he looked for a job and an apartment. I thought of my two kids sleeping upstairs and what would happen if he got angry at them? If he couldn’t talk about steak, how could he talk about disappointments or frustration or miscommunication. “I’ll give you cab money,” I said. “You can leave tonight.”

In the end, he didn’t take the money. He packed his rollaway suitcase and his bag of clothes. He left his yogurt and tequila. I heard the wheels of the suitcase going up my sidewalk. I didn’t know where he would go, but I also knew there wasn’t anything I could do about that. He didn’t say goodbye.

Biff has apologized and I appreciate that. He said he’d like to try again and that he wants to work on talking this through. He sent me a note saying I shouldn’t change how I write because of him, essentially giving me freedom to write this. But I can’t go back to him right now. I want a partner. An equal. I want someone who treats me tenderly. Someone who would offer me a steak in the grocery store and then say, “If you don’t want steak, what can I make for you that you will love?”

I want someone who’ll make me a birthday cake.

It would be easy to give up on this, to lower my wants, to settle for someone who seems to like me well enough. But I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t, especially after how my ex treated me during our marriage. So I won’t settle. And if being strong means loneliness, I can deal with that. I’ve dealt with much worse.