David Knopf: Routine maintains the domestic bliss

01/14/2014 2:31 PM

01/14/2014 2:31 PM

If there’s one thing that keeps a marriage going, it’s routine.

Just this morning, after I accidentally shot a splotch of hair conditioner on the shower wall, I noticed that it and the shampoo were almost empty. I monitor this situation, but I know better than to go to the closet and replace them.

I’d probably choose whichever shampoo was in front or maybe one whose color caught my eye or had that seductive pomegranate-plum-avocado fragrance that makes women swoon.

Mind you, I’m perfectly capable of replacing my own shampoo. But our marriage rolls on because I know my wife has a very specific shampoo-succession plan for both showers.

With her able assistance, I’ve learned shampoo and conditioner not only come in matched sets, but are hair-type specific, color-coordinated and scent-matched. I could carry out the succession plan myself, but no one should overstep his marital role.

That doesn’t mean new routines are off limits. My wife recently put outdated or nearly outdated food on the counter several days in a row. I may worry about outdated dairy and meat, but I figure most other food is edible for at least a decade.

That’s especially true for products sealed at the factory. If harmful external air can’t penetrate something like a bottle of vacuum-packed dry-roasted peanuts, they remain edible until 2024, possibly longer if you’re really hungry.

The things my wife left weren’t hermetically sealed, but were two- to three-day-old leftovers or fruit and vegetables ready to compost.

On Day 1, I ate whatever she placed there, either heating it up immediately or packing it for lunch. Same went for Days 2, 3 and 4. If the Tupperware was still cool from the refrigerator, I figured I wouldn’t need my stomach pumped.

If it were a bagged salad mix, I’d pick through whatever lettuce had started to turn taupe or harvest gold and eat the rest. Carrots and red cabbage have a lifespan of 17 years, so there’s no worry there.

My wife hates wasting food as much as I do, but she is a strict outdate fundamentalist. So if there are two bags of lettuce or mozzarella cheese in the refrigerator, I know to check for the earliest outdate before ripping the bag open and spilling it on the counter and myself.

Outdate awareness is a cornerstone of good marriages. But for spousal unions to remain vibrant, living organisms, the partners must foster healthy growth by adopting new rules and procedures.

That’s why I was so pleased that I ate the leftovers she’d put on the counter. We’d become a conservation-friendly, one-two punch kind of a domestic double-play combination.

Even with sparkling teamwork, there’s always room to go it on your own. Take my refrigerated bread, bagels and tortillas at work, the ones that have stayed fresh since the first Obama administration.

I know from first-hand experience that bread will almost never mold if kept tightly wrapped and refrigerated. You leave the same bread out five days and it starts to look like The Petri Dish from the Black Lagoon.

Refrigerated bread may lose some nutritional value, but who eats bread for nutrition?

I realize it would take mind-altering drugs or a frontal lobe reduction surgery for my wife to embrace my philosophy. It’s why I compartmentalize and only engage in bread preservation at the office.

A good marriage should be elastic enough to accommodate much more than partners doing everything the same way. Those in it for the long haul know to bring the bacon home, but leave the forever bread behind.

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