There is nothing like a little yard work to reveal the true contours of a marriage.
A marriage, as I see it, is kind of like a toddler with its needs and demands, requiring thought and direction if it's to stay on course. And like a toddler, marriage has its moments, albeit not usually in the grocery store aisle.
But the front yard is as good as place as any.
I am not a perfectionist by any means, but a good percentage of the time I believe that if you're going to do something, then you should do your very best.
My husband's philosophy is to do as much as you can before the Yankees' game comes on.
When we bought our house, we inherited some lovely sculptured gardens in the front yard. I often imagine all the people who lived here before us bending over with their rose clippers, lovingly tending to the perennials with water cans and gardening books, having thoughtful discussions about beetles and fertilizer. I see these gardens as a heritage that we must pay forward, as if it is our duty.
So on the unique occasion last weekend when there wasn't any snow, we set out to do a spring clean-up.
He picked up sticks; I picked up leaves (because I have inherited that duty for reasons that are not entirely clear to me).
When my husband finished his task, he had that look on his face that I've come to read as "The Yankees are on."
He sort of saunters around, looking bored and mopey, and that's when I usually ask, "What? Are the Yankees on?"
To which he usually mumbles, "I think they might be," as if he doesn't know already who's first up at bat.
"Well, could you just help me pick out the leaves from the gardens first?" I asked, because guilt can beat out sports in rock, paper, scissors.
"You're really going to stand here and pick out leaves, one by one?" he asked, because he was incredulous. He doesn't subscribe to raking as a necessary task because that's what wind is for.
"Yes," I said, "Because if this were an English garden there would not be one leaf. Not one."
And he said, "But we're not English."
"I knew you were going to say that," I said. "I actually mouthed the words in my head as you said it."
As I finished picking up the leaves, I got to thinking about the way men and women look at the world. Men are not from Mars, and women are not from Venus. In my world, men are from Yankee Stadium, and women are from the showroom at Lakewood Furniture Gallery.
My husband cannot grasp the concept that if you have a pretty garden you can't have dead leaves blowing around inside of them. It's like candy wrappers littering the carpeted floors of your favorite furniture store.
And to him, I suppose, picking out one leaf at a time from a garden bed is a futile task. He manages large construction projects, and he cannot imagine being bothered by a single leaf when he's building an airport. He's a big picture kind of guy.
I'm wise enough to know that there are some battles not worth fighting. I will never catch him carefully frosting a cake, spending an hour on his hair, or picking out leaves from a garden bed. He doesn't roll that way and wisdom has taught me that it really doesn't matter. He takes care of the big sticks in our life together, and I handle the leaves and the cake frosting.
Modern science has allowed us to peer into the brains of men and women, and it turns out (not surprisingly) that our brains are structured in vastly different ways.
Men have about 6.5 times more grey matter than women, but women have 10 times more white matter. What this means is that men tend to think about things more while women tend to react, since grey matter allows for more "thinking space," and white matter allows for more neural connections-which makes us all nerves and emotion.
Men, who are more left-brain dominant, are more task-oriented. Women, on the other hand, tend to be more balanced between left and right-brain processing, so they're more intuitive and language oriented.
Rather than blame our differences on the planets, I can now just call it a grey matter thing.
So, science saves the day.
And the Yankees' game.