He thinks I like to fight. He thinks I get off on it. He thinks I can't just be happy with things going smoothly, that, after a good run, I need a good fight to cap it off. He thinks I take everything wrong, that any comment he makes is bound to get turned and mangled in my mind, and wind up making me angry. He thinks I'm trying to make him into a bad guy, that I can't just be happy. And though I vehemently denied it, though I argued with a raised voice and incredulous attitude, part of me thinks he may be right.
Whatever he says to me, whatever he does, I'm looking for the seedy underbelly he doesn't want me to find. Benign statements are twisted into criticisms, meek words home to latent anger and evidence of discord.
"I would do that for you," I said to Billy Wednesday night, pointing to a commercial for Ugly Betty.
"Let you take credit for an idea of mine. And I would never let anyone take credit for something I did. The list of those who would be allowed is very short. Four people." I held up four fingers, should he need a visual aide. "And three of those people are related to me by blood."
"That's sweet, babe. Thanks," he said, kissing the top of my head. "But I wouldn't make you do that. I have some pretty good ideas myself. I'm an artiste." He said the last word with an obnoxious accent, meant to be funny.
Know what I heard? I don't need to take credit for your ideas because you don't have any. I'm obviously much smarter than you, so if anyone's coming up with any ideas, it's going to be me.
I moved away from him and crossed my arms over my chest, stared hard at the TV. "That was a mean thing to say," I said, more to the TV than to him.
"All you had to do was say thanks."
"But you should've ended it there. You didn't have to make a point of saying you'd never want or have to take credit for something I did."
In relaying it now, I don't even know what the hell we were talking about. But I do know that it still irritates me, just as it did all of yesterday. So when he got home last night, I waited for the prime opportunity to reference the exchange.
I don't recall now the moment I chose, or what he said that set the stage for my comment. I do recall, however, my words: "It's okay that you think you're smarter than me."
And that's when he asked me about my need to fight. "Why do you always think I'm belittling you? You know I know you're smart. That's one of my favorite things about you. I tell you that all the time. I talk about how smart my girlfriend is. You know that. Why are you turning me into this guy who goes out of his way to make you feel like shit?"
And I didn't have an answer for him. Because what he said is right. He does tell me I'm smart; Around him, I usually feel like the smartest, most beautiful, most incredible woman in the universe. Watching Dancing with the Stars, referring to one of the dancers' amazing bodies, I said "Yeah, that's what my body usually looks like," clearly being facetious.
"Babe, your body is better than that." His tone was serious.
He never makes me feel like second best, he gives me nothing but compliments...
So why did I get so upset over a comment that I took to mean he thinks I'm intellectually inferior?
The answer is, I'm not quite sure. It could be because, a long time ago, I was told (by someone else) that I have nothing to offer because I didn't go to college, because I, at that time, worked at a bank. It could be because I'm afraid I'm not doing enough with myself. It could be because, in truth, I think he is smarter than I am, and that intimidates me. I could be because I feel like my brain is rotting away in my head because I'm just not doing anything with it - sure, I read and I write, and I watch Jeopardy. But, beyond that, I don't do anything. I balance a checkbook and pay bills for a living. Occasionally, I put together a spreadsheet or something. So maybe I feel like crap about myself and I'm taking it out on him. Maybe it's because he doesn't read my blog, and that makes me feel like he thinks I'm no good.
Or maybe I am looking for a fight. Because strife in a relationship is all I know. But it's been a year with Billy, and how much longer can I use my last relationship as an excuse?
I do know this, though. It has to stop. I can't use the rain and my surgery and my cat and bad days as excuses for it. Because if it were him doing this to me, I would go crazy.