Posted by: alegra22 | May 23, 2011

rules of engagement

Dan walks over to me and offers me his shoulder. “Go on,” he says, smiling, “give it a good punch.”

I stand at the sink, scrubbing a pot. My hands are sore from pulling at yucca leaves and doing battle with cactus. I love yard work but there is something in the constant bending over and standing up that screws with my blood pressure and leaves me exhausted. When I get exhausted, I get, well, irrational.

I ignore the shoulder and get noisier in my cleaning. This is to  show how Very Important it is that I not be distracted by this Very Difficult Task I am doing. He grabs the scrub brush and pot handle and eases them out of my hands. Once again, he angles his body and bends toward me slightly, just to make things easier on me. “Let’s get this over with, just give me a good punch.”

I’m trying to remain serious but Dan knows my temper. It burns hot and bright – a flash, an explosion, but is almost instantly extinguished with humor or sincere apology. I raise my fists and aim, one solid punch to the shoulder. “Come on,” he says. “Another one.” I can see in his cheeky smile the boy that grew up with five brothers in a small house and the hours they spent tormenting one another. I punch again, harder, my knuckles hitting his muscle with a satisfying thump. He acts unimpressed. “Get it all out of your system,” he says. I drop my fists and say, “I’m a lover, not a fighter.” And then I turn my back on him, walking away like I’m bored. I’m annoyed because none of my hits won me a look of admiration. He didn’t acknowledge the superior punching technique my dad taught me when I was fourteen years old. I remember the night – my father and I stood in the living room of our house on Florence Ave in Sebastopol and he held a couch cushion. He told me to punch from the center of my body, to turn my fist for full impact. It’s the sort of skill that deserves proper recognition.

I wanted Dan to raise his eyebrows and say, “Dang, woman. You can punch.” But he didn’t, so I make him work a little harder for my affection. The thing is, Dan’s not real big on working hard. I take two steps and his arms are around me in a bear hug and he’s lifting me off my feet. I’m laughing and doing the hard work for him, declaring how he has no right to deprive me of my martyrdom. I mean, he made me do the dishes when that is his job to do! And everyone knows that when a man doesn’t do the dishes when he’s supposed to, it is an impending sign of doom. It’s been scientifically proven.

He lets me thrash for a few minutes and then the children are around us – just like the Maori creation myth of Ranginui and Papatuanuku – our children consider it essential to their well being to make sure there is always enough room between Daddy Sky and Mommy Earth for them to move freely. Zaviera is telling Dan to “let my Mommy down!” Sol is in his ninja pose, delivering kicks to Dan’s kauri-sized thighs. Joaquin has a box shoved on his head and is walking around waiting for someone to notice and laugh.

After eight years and three children, Dan and I are well-versed in our rules of engagement. Love is our priority and we take the path of least resistance to one another’s heart.



  1. I don’t think you have anything to worry about, Zaviera sounds pretty tough. I love the video, I may have to post this later on fb. Make sure to like it…lol.

  2. this is so so so so so familiar. made me smile.

  3. A good punching technique definitely needs to be appreciated. Perhaps he was trying to go for an MMA approach with the bear hug?

  4. Now this one made me laugh and laugh, and smile so big at the end. I love it–this little glimpse into your family life and relationships. And that last line–pure beauty. ❤

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