To My Wife

I suppose you’ll call this a confession when you read it. I don’t like the word confession, but something’s been weighing heavy on my conscience and I just want to set you right about one thing.

Do you want to know who turns off the dishwasher every time you do the dishes? I do. Me, your husband of almost 15 years, no visible scars—until a little while ago, that is.

I did it for all those dirty dishes in the sink that otherwise would’ve had to wait their turn for a second run. And I did it so when you unloaded them you’d see how to make everything fit the next time.

Pretty, isn’t it?

It all began that first week of marriage. I had to run out to Vons down the street from our first apartment for a box of Cascade. While I was gone, you loaded the dishwasher. When I got back, you announced that it was ready, even though there were still dirty dishes in the sink.

It was late that night, and it’s funny, I can still remember the smell of Cascade as I added it to the dishwasher and observed plenty of room to fit the remaining dishes if only they were reorganized. There was no way I could have known that betrayal can sometimes smell like Cascade.

“There isn’t enough room for all the dishes,” you said to me.

“Well, you got a lot of dishes in there,” I replied.

I wanted to tell you I could make the rest fit, but the ink on our marriage license was still wet and you could still turn me in for another husband.

“You did a great job,” I said.

Later, when you’d gone upstairs for something, I stopped the dishwasher and reloaded it. You called down and asked why the machinery had stopped. I lied to you, told you it was just switching cycles.

Things kind of went that way until our son came along three years later. I finally let poorly loaded dishwashers go poorly loaded. You and I were busy building a family together. We taught our boy how to crawl, how to say “Mommy” and “Daddy,” how to eat.

It wasn’t long before I realized we were doing even more loads of dishes in the dishwasher than ever before. All the baby bottles and little baby bowls and little baby spoons were adding up, and when I was gone, you were loading the dishwasher and not loading it to its full capacity. We wasted a lot of water, a lot of Cascade and a lot of time.

By that time, the ink had dried on our marriage license, and I couldn’t hold back any longer.

“Sit down, relax, I’ll do the dishes,” I said.

There was no use kidding myself. That betrayal I wrote about earlier in this confession was no longer in question. I’d thrown the switch. The gears had started to turn and nothing could stop them. I’d held something back from you to avoid hurting your feelings, and we said we’d never do that to each other.

I devised a plan to make everything right. When our son was old enough—maybe you remember this—I taught him how to load the dishwasher properly. You were watching TV and I was practically shouting the instructions to him. You kept shushing me, but I talked louder, hoping you’d pick up on the correct methods of dishwasher loadology.

It eventually occurred to me that, just maybe, fitting every dish in the dishwasher wasn’t as big of a deal to you as it was to me. I was fighting a battle I couldn’t win. I left the plan dead in the dishwater.

Fast-forward to last week, when our son started junior high. We planned how we’d handle our teen-to-be. We talked about how we’d have “The Talk” with him and tell him about peer pressure. All that problem-solving we did together was so great, and it led me to the reopening of the dishwasher case.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe I said, “I have a new idea called No Dishes Left Behind.”

I think you handled it well. You told me I could do the dishes if I didn’t like how you did them.

As you’ve likely noticed, we’ve run the dishwasher a lot less since I’ve been the sole dish jockey. Truth be told, I haven’t had a chance to do the dishes since then, which explains why we’ve run the machine a lot less. Trust me, it hurts me to leave out dirty dishes more than it hurts you. I wasn’t lying when I mentioned “visible scars” earlier. You’ve no doubt noticed my twitching eyes.

So there the dishes sit. You’ll eventually go into the kitchen to do them. That’s when you’ll see my diagram to load the dishwasher. You’ll identify the brilliance of the stacking order, you’ll try it, you’ll succeed with it, you’ll learn from it, and my plan will ultimately triumph and my conscience will be free.

Or you’ll ignore the diagram and slide it under the door into the office where I sit writing this confession. Yeah, that’s the diagram. Looks like it’s ripped up. My conscience is free, anyway.

This story originally appeared in The Acorn Newspapers of Los Angeles and Ventura counties, CA, in August of 2015. You can find other stories like it in Michael Picarella’s book, “Everything Ever After (Confessions of a Family Man),” and at

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