Cold feet and compromise

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Husband-and-wife journalists Bob Miller and Callie Clark Miller share the same small house (still), work in the same office (again) and somehow manage to cling to their sanity (barely). Older and wiser (she's wiser, he's just older), the Southeast Missourian sweethearts offer their views on everyday issues, told from two different perspectives.

SHE SAID: Some people learn martial arts.

Others carry a gun or knife.

I have my feet.

It's not about my kicking strength (nothing remarkable there). Or my stealthy light-footedness (nonexistent). My very best personal weapon is the temperature of my feet.

In the heat of a Southeast Missouri August, in front of a roaring fire in December, wrapped up in three pairs of socks with those toe-warmers I buy for deer season, my feet are Antarctica.

It doesn't help that our house is all hardwood floors and tile. We've tried rugs, but gave it up after the cats unwaveringly demonstrated their fondness for vomiting on anything soft and fuzzy.

During the five years I've known him, there have been few times I've heard my husband shriek. But let me tell you, if one of my toes happens to touch his bare skin, he yelps like a cat having his nose rubbed in his own vomit. Two years ago, Bob purchased a pair of warm, thick house slippers for me. They worked OK, until a wiseacre kitty vomited on one of the slippers (soft and fuzzy, remember).

So the battle continues. And not just with my feet. I am always cold. I've got a stack of newspapers sitting on my desk filled with stories detailing the recent heat wave. Heat that has killed people, and I am huddled in a jacket writing this column. The black coating is wearing off the heat/air controls on my car dashboard from Bob constantly turning the knobs on and me constantly turning them off during road trips. I keep a sweater in my car, a sweater in Bob's car and two jackets draped across the back of my chair at work. And there's a heating pad in my desk drawer just in case.

This week, on the way to work at 6:45 a.m., I actually turned the heat on in my car (the thermometer on my mirror read 64 degrees. ... I was looking at the clouds for falling snow). Meanwhile, Bob has cranked the thermostat at the house down until icicles hang from the faucets. Then he turns on all the ceiling fans (which he can reach flat-footed) while I clamber up in a chair behind him to turn them off again.

I've no doubt that eventually hot and cold in our house are going to meet and form some sort of tornado.

HE SAID: Regular readers of this column have often commented on how they can relate to me and my cute and talented wife. They say our columns represent their relationships. He likes baseball. She wants to watch HGTV. She likes shopping. He likes saving. He sleeps with a roll of toilet paper. She puts up with it.

Married couples who read our column laugh (with us, I hope), because they know of the thousands of give-and-takes that transpire between husband and wife. But I often wonder what singles think. I imagine they wonder how this couple -- she of brilliance and strong will, and he of uncommon common sense and irritating forgetfulness -- hold a relationship together.

Here we have another example. We're driving down the highway -- usually going to her parents' -- and she's freezing. Here I am driving (because she doesn't like to) and burning up. I flip the fan on four. Two minutes later, she flips it to one. The whole trip, she's flipping me off. I flip up. She flips off. Hot, cold, hot, cold, like Callie's mood swings.

But you know what? It's not such a bad thing. I endure the heat for half the trip, as long as I can stand, because I know poor Callie's toes are frozen. When I turn the air back up, Callie endures the coldness for a few minutes, because she knows my increasing body mass index holds in more heat than it used to. And she finds a blanket.

And so that's how our relationship works. She bends a little. I bend a lot. We complain. We compromise. I apologize. (Sorry, babe, for the moods joke. I don't know what I was thinking. It was a very stupid thing to say and I will try my best to avoid such childish metaphors in the future. Now let's go shopping.)

And later, when we tally up each other's flaws, which we too often do, we usually come to the conclusion that our differences aren't as bad as they could be. Maybe my uncommon common sense, my really warped sense of humor and my occasional soft side outweigh my irritating forgetfulness, my consistent complacency and other unnamed behavioral blemishes. Callie's faults, the biggest of which is that she doesn't like baseball but also includes her vomit-producing cats, is outweighed by the way she respects me in a deep and unspoken sort of way. In the end, when I do the math, I conclude that I got the better end of the deal in this marriage.

Sometimes I can't believe she didn't have cold feet on our wedding day.

Bob Miller is the Southeast Missourian's managing editor. He just scored major brownie points with online/special publications managing editor Callie Clark Miller for his part in this week's column. Contact them at bmiller@semissourian.com or cmiller@semissourian.com

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