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some thoughts on nagging

Aside from my sad yet undeniable weakness for the songs of Nickelback, nothing interferes more with my self-image than being accused of nagging. Once Tom figured that out, he started categorizing a lot of what I have to say as nagging, just to avoid having to hear it. It worked for a while. I got nervous that I was turning into a harpy shrew and started going through verbal contortions to counteract my natural propensity to nag. Here’s my best tip: try turning all your naggy questions into observations. Like, “Hey, I noticed that the laundry never made it to the dryer,” or “Hmm, I guess this garbage isn’t going to empty itself.” You can even act like you are talking to yourself: “Boy, looks like Tate peed in his underpants about an hour ago, because he left urine footprints all the way up to his room! Ha ha.” Indeed, I find that nagging works best if you can play off your nagging as the external manifestation of an internal monologue.

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your staircase: the perfect spot for a glass jar of water

But hold up. What, exactly, is so wrong with nagging in the first place? I mean, things have to get done. And in my house, a lot of those things don’t get done correctly unless I am advising. I’m not saying that Tom doesn’t do his share of the housework, because Tom does about 75% of the non-cooking chores in our house (which, as an aside, only works out to like 7% of the total chores). But big freaking deal. Before you start feeling sorry for Tom, I ask you this: who cares if he does chores, if he does them wrong and I have to redo them? Once, in the crucial last moments before a dinner party, I asked Tom to run to the store for exactly two items: 1) parsley, and 2) parmesan. He returned with 1) cilantro and 2) mozzarella. For you baseball fans, that’s batting .000. Help like that can kill a person.

Last week, as I was pulling a muscle trying to figure out how to say “you bought expired milk” in a less accusatory tone, it hit me that Tom has put one over on me. Because a lot of what Tom calls “nagging” is not really nagging. Like, it’s not nagging when your partner tells you that your pants don’t go with your top. It’s not nagging when she observes that you’ll get kidney stones (again) if you don’t drink any water, especially if that’s what the doctor in the ER (twice) also told you. It’s not nagging when your wife suggests that your five-year old might not be ready for a 10-mile backpacking trip, or that you might stay within cell phone range and pack in some emergency flares. Nor is it nagging when your partner wonders aloud if the shrubs out front may have died because you pruned them with a chainsaw. Most of these things are bare facts, and the recitation of facts does not constitute nagging.

So the next time you think you might be nagging, stop and ask yourself: is this really nagging, or just a necessary suggestion on how the other person might improve themselves or their situation? If it’s the latter, it would really be a disservice not to say something, wouldn’t it?

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31 Comments Post a comment
  1. Frank #

    Nagging, in rank order from most desirable to least desirable:

    1. Don’t nag. Do it yourself.
    2. Ask the person to do it.
    3. Passive aggressive nagging (nagging by observation). WORSE THAN NAGGING.

    August 2, 2012
    • whatever, frank! i suspect you need to spend some time on the other side. also, the issue is that even when i try to do your number 2, tom thinks i’m doing number 3

      August 3, 2012
  2. Thu #

    yes! i totally agree! luckily, my roommates (okay, alllll of my friends) have realized that when i “suggest” something should perhaps maybe be done, they know it means, “do it now, please” but without the please.

    July 5, 2012
  3. AAh I am so WITH YOU! It’s like, if a man does a chore wrong, and then you have to do it over again, that is NOT HELPING. That is actually a completely selfish activity if you think about it, allowing said man to clear his conscience while actually doing nothing to assist you.
    This is why, when I was living with a male companion a year or so ago, I would only let him do certain tasks. And then I would get super mad when he wouldn’t do them, because I’d be like “YOU ONLY HAVE LIKE 4 THINGS TO DO!” and he’d be all: “You won’t LET me do anything else!?” And I’d go:
    “Because you don’t do it THOROUGHLY. If you ‘clean’ the bathroom and I see dust behind the toilet bowl, then you didn’t effing clean the effing bathroom, m’kay?! You just entertained yourself with a sponge for 20 minutes.”
    Ugh. Man ness. Can’t live with em, can’t force yourself to be a lesbian.

    July 3, 2012
  4. All I’ve got after that is…Amen Sista!

    July 3, 2012
  5. Rachel #

    My sister made a book with household chore instructions and other pertinent information – like where they keep scissors – for her husband. (new heights of nagging in response to truly Olympic-quality ineptitude)
    Last time I heard her ask him “what does it say in ‘the book’?” he responded with “can you find the book for me?”
    Sigh.

    June 19, 2012
  6. Giggled throughout and loved the comments conversation, too. We resolve our issues by just never being home at the same time. hehe

    Actually, since Prince Charming really does do ALL of our household chores — my only responsibility in the house is the kitchen, but even there he does the mopping and deep cleaning — I don’t quibble too much if dishes are left in the sink. ;>

    June 12, 2012
    • you have done something right and i’m highly envious

      June 19, 2012
      • Thank you… it is an art. It all started when we were “dating” (living together) and had to truck our laundry to the laundromat… he had the truck. Several thousand baby steps later, and all I have to do is run the dishwasher every other night. :>

        June 23, 2012
  7. inkandgardenia #

    Ineptitude at chores is totally planned by most men. Daniel is one of three boys who all learned very early that doing something badly means you won’t get asked again (even better, if you volunteer to do it and do it badly, you get accolades for your thoughtful behaviour).

    But he accuses me of nagging, too. Like when I tell him he needs new t-shirts because I can see skin through the one he’s wearing. Or that perhaps the sparks coming out of the back of the drill mean that we shouldn’t be using it on masonry blocks.

    June 12, 2012
  8. You put into words exactly how I feel sometimes when I’m accused of “nagging.” I’m glad I’m not the only one! I’ll take your advice into account next time I’m debating on whether or not to just keep my mouth shut. 🙂

    June 11, 2012
    • i hope thinking of me means you’ll say your piece. never good to hold it in. ill humor and such

      June 11, 2012
  9. Michelle Kane #

    Love this post and I can’t help but absolutely adore Tom. Hedges with a chainsaw and captured in a photo is ideal blog material. Tom is ideal blog material as he truly represents most husbands that I know, including mine.

    June 11, 2012
    • tom is perfect blog fodder. you are absolutely correct my dear. the blog should really be called “tomnanimous” but it lacks a certain je-ne-sais-quoi. miss seeing your face!

      June 11, 2012
  10. samantha jillian #

    where’s the “love” button? thank you for this post. i couldn’t agree with you more. it is not my fault that i know how virtually everything around the house should be done and my husband, while very helpful and well-intentioned, usually does not. also not my fault that he “doesn’t remember” or “didn’t realize” how i showed/told him to do said chore/task. and, i am all in favor of passive aggressive nagging. i use the “we” tactic. like “WE should really fix that toilet paper holder that’s been broken for 3 weeks” or “WE need to make sure we turn the light on in the kitchen when doing dishes – there’s crusted gunk on all of these plates.”

    June 11, 2012
    • hi samantha…why the “virtually?” you know how to do everything in your house, full stop. admit it. we should stop feeling sheepish about our perfectionism because it encourages–nay, empowers–our partners to act as clueless as possible

      June 11, 2012
      • samantha jillian #

        okay…you’re right and you raise a good point. henceforth i will own my perfectionism. always. my husband will love that.

        June 13, 2012
  11. Well, I LOVED this post. 😀 I thought it was really funny (cilantro and mozarrella? Eep!) and it was a great read! I used to worry about nagging, but now I just a) let the little things go, because he lets my little things go b) make up an imaginary punishment, for instance if he leaves socks on the floor I will use them to mop up spilled water. In front of him. It’s just water so we laugh or c) actually talk about it, “wet clothes will get pungent and mold, did you want me to remind you when it’s time to put them in the dryer?”
    I’ve found with a good sense of humour that the two of us get along magically. 😀 Seriously though, great post!

    June 11, 2012
    • a sense of humor will get you far in a relationship! i don’t find clothes-related household mishaps funny though

      June 11, 2012
      • I am also guilty of leaving the occassional sock laying about (a habit I picked up from him no doubt, hahaha) so I can’t be too serious about things that I am also guilty of!

        June 11, 2012
  12. John G #

    (1) A chainsaw is never a poor choice, but by god go get him a man’s chainsaw with gas and noise and real danger. That thing in the picture, however, is a hedge trimmer, not a chainsaw. Point Tom.

    (2) It is a proven fact that men do not see the same wavelengths of light as women do when said wavelengths are bouncing off of ordinary objects in our home environment. This would explain an inability to see urine footprints–they are effectively invisible. It would be like you trying to navigate using the earth’s magnetic field: it simply isn’t a sense available to you (although Tom, like me, may have this sense). Totally true. Look it up.

    (3) If you want someone else to achieve the result, you don’t get to prescribe the method. Just sayin’.

    (4) Passive aggressive nagging is worse than regular nagging. Instead, go for the direct blow. Believe it or not, “Hey dumbass, get off the ‘Buckeyes Suck’ Facebook page and put the clothes in the dryer” is the surest way to get it done with the least amount of hurt feelings. Just don’t expect him to see on his own that there are wet clothes in the washer because that would require ESP (see point 2).

    June 11, 2012
    • look, passive aggressive nagging, when done well, can get you far. and i defy anyone to point out the differences between a chainsaw and hedge trimmer: one is just more respectable in a household setting but they are otherwise pretty similar. i think.

      June 11, 2012
    • While I find your response well-written, John G., I’m going to have to disagree with you on 3). When you share a home with other people, then those people get a say in the standard of how things are done because it affects them too. Whatever the highest standard is, is what everyone’s gotta do. Most bosses do not appreciate their employees doing assigned tasks their own way. I’m the boss of the kitchen, therefore the cooking utensils WILL be returned to the correct drawer instead of scattered among all the drawers and cabinets (we’re still working on that).

      What’s more, I’m in the camp that believes when you love the people you live with, it would follow that you’d want to be nice to them, and do things the way they like because you love them. Example: the totally ridiculous way my husband likes his socks folded in his sock drawer (I go for the match-and-cuff-each-pair method, which until marriage I thought was the only method). I’ll do his socks his way when we fold laundry because he asks, because it makes him happy to see his socks lined up that way. So when I tell him that food stuck on the plate after “washing” doesn’t count as “clean,” then he does it the way I like it. (This was apparently too difficult and resulted in our new apartment having a dishwasher.)

      June 11, 2012
  13. Cilantro and mozzarella? I hate to break it to you but it looks like things are going just as planned and Tom has you right where he wants you, that move sounds like a beautifully executed stroke of genius. Once the maintenance plan for lowered expectations is firmly in place and the nagging guilt has a foothold, it is smooth sailing. You should feel at liberty to state those facts and more but realize your acknowledgement of said shortcomings is merely playing right into his hand. Nice form on the shrubs, by the way.

    June 11, 2012
    • your response is kind of changing my reality. it would be totally in keeping with tom’s deviousness if his ineptitude at chores was planned.

      June 11, 2012
  14. Kaula #

    My boyfriend tends to ask “helpful” questions when he thinks I’m doing something wrong. “Maybe that table would look better over here?” “Should we start the laundry before we go to the store?” Instead of just saying what he actually thinks. It drives me crazy.

    June 11, 2012
    • i think he’s very thoughtful to couch his nagging in this way. it’s a gentler, more loving kind of nagging

      June 11, 2012
  15. Mrs BC is also very good at pointing out facts and redoing chores that I have not done to her exacting standards.

    June 11, 2012

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