Owen called last night. I'd sent him a series of amusing and then increasingly perturbed text messages. The last one said, "Mad at me?" Yes, I am that crazy.
He said, "Hey, I noticed I'd missed your messages and your call..."
I said, "Yeah, you did."
"My phone was charging in the other room and on vibrate."
We chatted for a while and it was good. I need to talk to him more than anything during the week. If we could have a couple of good conversations, I'd happily trade those for a sleepover.
I said, "You know, when I'm sick you should keep the phone closer. What if I needed you to come over here and take care of me?"
"What? Why would you need that?" He said.
"Because I'm sick!"
"You needed me to come over?"
"Well, no. I'm not that sick. But I could have been."
"You don't need that."
"Because we're grown-ups."
"Are you kidding? You're kidding right?" I said.
He said. "No. You're kidding."
I said, "No. I'm not kidding. That's the whole point. That's your job."
"That's my job?"
"Yeah. If I'm sick, you have to take care of me."
"I know you didn't expect me to come home early on Saturday. But you weren't sad that I did, right?"
He said, "Boo hoo. No, I was glad you came home."
"Good. So, what if I were so sick I couldn't leave the house? You wouldn't come over?"
"If you were that sick...I'd probably take the day off and stay with you."
"Well, that's not...that's sweet."
"But, usually, what can you do? I don't usually take a sick day...I don't mean you shouldn't have..."
I said, "No, no...I know what I need to do. But I think it's just nice to have some one take care of you."
"But what do they do? Bring you food? Rub your head?"
"Yes. But mostly it's for the company. If you stay home all day, not talking to anyone, it gets lonely. Maybe you don't know because you've never lived alone. It's nice to have someone around."
"It's good to have someone to drive you to the hospital."
"Uh, yeah, sure. But that's not really my point."
"So that's my job, huh? If you fire me, what kind of unemployment do I get?"
"Unemployment? You have to give me some time to think about that. I haven't worked out the metaphor that far."
Owen seems to think it's a sign of immaturity (or weakness?) to ask for help when you're sick. Or just feeling low. Yet, I've noticed that he likes to take care of me--he's made sure I don't grab hot pot handles, I don't get lost, I have enough to eat. He's cooked for me and generally looked out for me--without me having to ask. My instinct is to comfort those who are sick. I'm rather indulgent of sick boyfriends and I've rarely received the same kind of attention in return. I can't live without it. I do think it's the whole point of a committed relationship--the care taking, the looking out for each other, and the sex. That's your boyfriend job: when I'm sick, offer to come over. I'll tell you if you need to or not.
With Owen, since I cut short my Saturday night to take care of him, I assumed that he would know it was what I wanted. Owen didn't ask me to come home early on Saturday. In fact, he told me to stay out. He was sincere. I, however, didn't want to stay out--I was worried about him and I needed to go home and comfort him. Being out when he was sick made me miserable. Would he have felt the same way? Maybe not. But if I asked him to come home and comfort me, would he be willing to do that? I think so.
It's funny, though, yesterday I wondered if I should tell Owen how important it is to me that he make the offer to help. I've had this happen many times in relationships: I was a fantastic caretaker when my boyfriend was sick and then received nothing similar when I was ill. (I'm thinking of occasions when I had a fever and was unable to function or leave the house.) I tried to remember if I ever told those other boyfriends what I wanted. I assumed because I did for them, they would know to do for me. I don't recall ever having such a conversation with a boyfriend. I realized after talking to Owen that they may simply not have known what I wanted--because I never asked. At least Owen knows. And I know to tell him what I need.
I need him to coddle me a little when I'm sick. It cheers me up and makes me feel better. Just because he doesn't think it's necessary--well, that doesn't matter--he can do it and I'm pretty sure he can do it uncomplainingly. It's what I need. And I need to be able to do it for him. Maybe he doesn't need that--but as long as he doesn't mind, we're ok.
Perhaps I've been making all kinds of wrong assumptions all these years. There is a lot more to talk about than I thought! How interesting.
Grateful for: learning something new.
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