My husband Cj and I have been married for ten years and throughout this time we have learned the different little things we can handle with each other or the little things that we cannot.. as well as all the little things that make each other crazy. I know for a fact that Cj cannot handle sitting beside me on the couch and talking whilst I eat dinner beside him. It literally makes his brain explode.. Like I’m sure I can hear the bursts going off and I am not exaggerating when I say that if I did this every day on purpose our marriage would cease to be. And I know the way I purposefully flip the cakes I make upside down to ice them so they’re flat drives him crazy because !! I’m icing the bottom of the cake!!! Not the top!! Also don’t even get me started with how much I make his brain hurt when I chuck all the dirty dishes in the sink haphazardly and don’t neatly stack them beside the sink. Okay really the last few things he wouldn’t divorce me over but I’m pretty sure his Misophonia would enable the first. But we all have our limits, don’t we?
Which brings me to groceries. Ah, groceries. The supermarket run. Doing groceries is one of those chores you either love or you hate.
If you’re like me you’ll pretty much be eating mustard out of the jar with a spoon and be counting that as a meal before you admit defeat and go and buy more food – that’s how much you hate it.
But oh hark! I got lucky with my husband in our marriage and we have an arrangement that means I never have to do the groceries ever again.. Providing I let him do it, his way, on his timeframe. And providing I never attempt to give any input or distract him from his method.
Today I made the faux pas of going with Cj to do the groceries and whilst I was initially hesitant (recollections of past grocery shopping trauma) he assured me that it would be and I quote “fun” and “easy”. What I really should have done was stay in the car.
You see my husband is autistic. His brain works in numbers: grouping, categories, method, timing, precision. Whereas in contrast my brain works in sort of fireworks: sporadic bursts of energy and wild colour. So for him; a trip to the store to buy food supplies and refill our fridge and pantry is a major exercise in time-effective logistics, meeting a set budget and method. You don’t just go in, buy random things and chuck them in the trolley at random intervals: do you? No. No you don’t.
Cj plans the list in detail before he leaves the house. So this means he scours the pantry for what items we have left that need restocking, and makes note of the things we have bulk of. He cross-references the food we need according to the menu plan I write up for the week containing that week’s meals. My husband’s brain is so incredible in that within seconds he can calculate exactly how many apples we as a family go through each week; and how many boxes of apples this means he needs to buy at the store. This applies for all other items we need, too.
Then he writes the list according to the store layout. So he knows that as he enters the store what he’ll need to grab from the shelves immediately. As a result this means that if I accompany him on a grocery trip (as I tend to do every few months, I’m a glutton for punishment clearly) and I find things that I want to add to the trolley this is met with a big NO NO NO. This isn’t part of the plan! My husband doesn’t plan for rogue-wife shopping assistants who have no method to their madness and buck the system. No, he does not.
So as my husband walks around the perimeter of the store which he has memorised, he adds items to the trolley in the order he has them written down. As he does this he’s also automatically tallying up totals in his head.
Which is really awesomely effective. And time efficient. Providing I don’t ever go with him and completely fuck up his system.
Then at the checkout my husband puts the items into the conveyor belt in the order he wants to pack them into the car in and groups them into categories according to their type. As you can imagine, a rebellious chocolate bar just thrown into the personal care category is not a welcome addition. And it can completely stump and inhibit the remainder of the grocery-unloading which often means Cj’s thought process is thwarted and items he may have had to quickly go back and grab get forgotten about because evidently I . Messed. With. The. System.
The system! The precious system.
So as he quickly loads the trolley up with precision and packs the groceries into the cart according to their assigned categories I stand back and can actually take a deep breath and relax knowing that it is done. The groceries are done and there have been no causalities – only confirmation that I am never ever accompanying him to do them ever again. Or at least until the next time I have a brain-lapse and forget; only for the realisation to come screaming back at me once again.
But in hindsight it then becomes clear to me that his way is probably way more effective and better than mine. It’s certainly more economical. Because being autistic means his incredible brain allows him the ability to add up the cost of items as he goes along, and therefore he manages to easily stick to the budget we have to meet. Today’s grocery budget was $165.00 and the total was $163.95. If we did groceries my way we’d likely be well over budget as well as having a whole lot of stuff we didn’t need (like that totally necessary fuzzy blanket I walked around the shop snuggling for a while). Cj’s method means that when we get home and unpack the groceries (OK I’ll admit it, that’s the job for the two bigger girls -why else have so many children if not to enjoy the perks of having ample helpers for boring chores?) everything goes seamlessly away into their storage spots in no time at all. And there’s also minimal waste when Cj does the groceries because he never buys too much of something “just because”.
But he still never forgets my precious Danish marinated feta or mint-choc chip biscuits.
So at the end of the day if one of the conditions of our marriage that exists in order to allow it to run as smoothly as possible is that I don’t go grocery shopping with my husband; that’s okay with me. Actually, in fact, really… that’s bloody awesome.