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11:52 a.m. - 2013-02-03
Things that get on my nerves
In the 7-plus months we've been dating, A has never done anything that gets on my nerves. Until now.

She started taking two college classes a couple of weeks ago, a math one and the requisite freshman English Comp.

And ever since she started -- actually, ever since she registered a couple of months ago -- she has been reading other students' essays and going on and on about how bad they are. First it was the "best of" essays book from last year's classes that she got when she registered. Now it's her current classmates' essays, which are posted online. It's a daily theme, and it is getting pretty old.

On top of that, she also wants ME to read the essays and agree with her about how bad they are. I have zero -- negative zero -- interest in reading other people's writing and putting it down. I quite frankly don't understand the attraction. I'd rather go to the dentist or watch paint dry.

So I try various polite ways of getting out of it, but she's very perisistent. I've told her, for example, that I think I've read my quota of lousy writing for this lifetime -- and I don't plan on reading any more unless someone is paying me.

"I'll pay you," she says.

"How about you don't pay me and I don't read it?"

She says I should consider it a labor of love.

OK, then, I say to myself. This is like how my grandfather used to wait for hours in the car, uncomplaining, while my grandmother window-shopped. I'll read the damn essays.

But if she wants a rousing condemnation of their suckiness, she's not getting it.

The truth is, the essays she had me read weren't really that bad, at least from an editor's standpoint. For example, one woman basically needed to flush her thesaurus down the toilet -- that was the overriding problem with her essay and one that is incredibly easy to fix.

Because people pay me to write -- and edit -- I think A expects me to be even more horrified than she is by other people's abuse of the English language.

I'm not. I've seen much worse and anyway, what makes a writer hopeless is inability to take criticism, not incompetence.

I told her that, and she seemed disappointed. Then she told me that I'm always welcome to criticize her writing too, and she won't take it personally. I told her I have no intention of criticizing her writing because I don't want to sleep on the sunporch.

I also told her that I think it would be obnoxious if I did, or if I was offering to "help" her. I know what it's like to be overshadowed by your partner; for most of my career, I felt like the fact that I was a really good reporter didn't matter because I was far less important and made far less money than my husband, who also works in news. (He's currently the executive editor of all the New England newspapers owned by a big media chain.) A is a good writer, and I think she actually has some talent, but I don't think she's likely to explore that talent with me in her face, "helping."

A. keeps an online diary that she likes me to read, and her latest entry (today) was about how bad her classmates' writing is (surprise) and that if she ever wanted a job with a secure future she'd be an English teacher -- but it's a hopeless cause because America is full of idiots.

She had at least a half-dozen grammar/spelling/punctuation mistakes in her entry, and if I didn't know her I might have left a comment to the effect of, "America would actually prefer that you not teach English."

Which is why I'm writing this entry ... I recognized an unusual and unexpected amount of venom in myself and I need to fix that.

This obsession of hers IRRITATES the SHIT out of me because I hate it when people who don't have a leg to stand on bitch about other people. A. may be a slightly better writer than her English Comp classmates, but she plenty of flaws of her own. To be 100 percent honest, she's not that much better.

I know that the reason she's doing this -- counting other people's mistakes and bitching about them -- is that she feels like English is the thing she IS good at, whereas she's "hopeless" and "dumb" in math. She is really insecure about her math class and I know she's just trying to compensate. But understanding her doesn't seem to be able to prevent her from getting on my nerves.

I've read that the happiest couples are couples who censor what they say, and I think I agree with that -- the unvarnished truth in all things is really NOT good for a relationship. It is not going to benefit A. in anyway if I tell her that she doesn't have a leg to stand on AND she's annoying the shit out of me. She'd be crushed and humiliated. She would think twice before telling me what's on her mind -- and I've spent seven months trying to get her to open up and talk to me and not worry that I'll think badly of her.

So telling her what I really think would be counterproductive and destructive.

On the other hand, if she doesn't quit obsessing (and I mean obsessing; it has been her main topic of conversation for a couple of weeks) -- I am going to go batshit.


So. I am taking some time off from her to "do homework" and hopefully by the time I go back I will have thought of some new tactics for politely changing the subject.

(For the record, I neither edit nor actually READ my diary entries before I post them -- I do write much better than this when I'm writing for money.)



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