The Couch


I’ve spent a couple nights recently on the couch. Doesn’t that seem old timey? Can you imagine ever being mad at someone and making them sleep on the couch, like in a sitcom or whatever? Does that really happen? My couch time has been due to a cold, first that I had, then that Frank had (has, actually.)

Neither of us are big snorers normally, but if you have a stuffy nose, it’s pretty impossible not to snore really badly. Earplugs make my ears hurt, so when I’m snoring or when Frank snores, I sleep on the couch. It would be more fair if Frank slept on the couch when he’s the one with the snoring issue, but we have a really crappy small couch and I am the only member of the household that fits (sort of) comfortably on it.

Which is something that I’ve learned about feminism since I’ve been in a relationship where I live with a guy. I used to think that fair meant absolutely split down the middle, half and half, no arguments. I guess that’s probably left over from living with my siblings—no amount of argument would have ever convinced the three us that things shouldn’t be exactly the same between us, down to the number of jellybeans in our Easter baskets. Fun, I know. My poor parents.

But I’ve come to realize that relationships are more like socialism, each according to his or her needs and each according to his or her ability. Otherwise it’s just stupid. I’m a good cook and I like it, so I cook. Frank’s got a good eye for decorating and likes it, so he makes our house look good. I’m 5’3”, so I sleep on the couch when it’s necessary.

Anyway, though, it always sort of cracks me up when the couch becomes a necessity, because it makes me feel like Fred Flintstone or Homer Simpson or somebody. I’m in the doghouse! Better go get a box of chocolates shaped like a heart or a new dinosaur-based appliance!

It’s weird how those stereotypes persist on TV, the inconsiderate oaf husband and the harpy wife who is easily bought off by crappy material goods. I seriously don’t know anyone like that, including my parents and their friends and like, anyone. Everything else on TV is exactly like real life, right? But so here’s the funny thing, at least funny to me. Maybe you guys are sick of cat stories already.

One of my cats is weirdly smart. He can open doors and cabinets and has a sixth sense about where you don’t want him to go and immediately goes there. He also seems to partake in some kind of collective unconscious, which is really strange. For example, cans. Open any can in the kitchen with a can opener, and he is right up in your business, hoping that what is in the can will be for him.

Not that unusual, except that we’ve never fed him cat food from a can. The woman we got him from, who was his first and only other owner, only fed him dry food. Unless she lied to us for some reason, which, strange, this cat has never been in a situation where can opener=food. And yet he seems to understand that many cats do get their food from a can, and tries to access all cans just in case.

So the funny thing is that when I go sleep on the couch, he gets all upset. Normally this cat could give two shits what we’re doing, unless it directly pertains to him, and spends the majority of the night prowling around awake or sleeping at the foot of the bed. When Frank or me is out of town, he happily takes over the missing person’s spot on the bed. In fact, getting up to use the bathroom usually means kicking him out on your return.

But when I spend the night on the couch, he gets all agitated. He’ll nip at me to wake me up, and do the same to Frank. He’ll howl and pace around. It’s like he knows from TV what one of us sleeping on the couch means, and he’s worried. I swear, I know it sounds like something a crazy cat person anthropomorphizing would say, but it’s striking. When I went back to bed this morning, he immediately calmed down. If it were any other cat I wouldn’t think much about it, but this cat is strange.

The point I guess is that however much sleeping on the couch occasionally during rhinovirus season makes sense, there’s some kind of greater, external resonance of sadness about it that even my nutty cat can sense. Do the stereotypical actions of relationship problems have some power, even when they are empty of the feelings of relationship problems? And if they do, does that mean that that’s true for everything—actions removed from their usual sources still carry some of the weight of the emotion usually associated with them? Because if so, holy crap. We should all be more careful.

In the mean time, I should really just buy some good decongestant. I don’t want to awaken whatever weird voodoo the couch is stirring up. And also, I have a crick in my neck.