Perhaps---but only perhaps---the problem started long before the carrots, but it was the carrots that made me realize there was a problem.
We were sitting at the pub just a few miles from our house, my husband Michael and I, enjoying a pint of beer and surveying the menus. No kids, no curfew---just two wanna-be hipsters in their mid-to-late thirties pretending we were cool again.
When actually we never were cool.
"What do you think you'll get?" I asked Michael.
"Fish and chips," he answered casually, barely scanning the menu. Cause hipsters are casual like that.
Me, sighing with a similar (false) air of casualty: "Yeah, I think I'll get that too."
And the the waiter came to take our order and all hell broke loose.
"Heyyyyy guys..." Said Dirk the waiter. "Do we know what we're having tonight?"
"We do!" said I "Two orders of fish and chips!"
"Excellent!" Said Dirk the waiter, beaming with pleasure as though we had just agreed to his oft-proposed, ne'er accept threesome request or more importantly, to be on his Tuesday night trivia team.
He hopped away, a little lumbersexual jack-rabbit in maroon skinny jeans and a bolo tie.
"Wait!" said Michael, bringing Dirk, who was still beaming over our menu choices, sailing back to our table.
"Yes, sir?" He may have even mini-saluted.
"On second thought, I don't think I'll have the french fries," said Michael easily.
And here's where things get really bad, people, so you might want to avert your eyes.
"No French fries?" said Dirk, looking hurt.
"No French fries?" said I, looking confused
"No French fries." said Michael, looking oblivious.
Then he said the words that he would live to regret for hours, days, weeks to come. Words he could never take back once they had thudded out, like dead weight.
Like cold cod fillets falling from a salted barrel.
He said: "I'll have steamed carrots instead."
And with that, it was over.
Dirk was hopping away, I presumed, to locate said carrots and catch the fish, perhaps, with a reel he had whittled in his apartment in his spare time. Michael was tipping his pint glass to his mouth, smiling. Tapping his foot to the strains of hipster odes---Dave Matthews and Coldplay pounding rhythm on the wooden floors. He looked pleased.
But. I. Was. Fuming.
I decided to count to ten internally before making any move, because my initial reaction to his food order would have put me in jail for destruction of property (think: pint glass through plate glass).
After I finished counting to ten, I reassessed.
My second reaction would have put Michael on the floor (think: my moccasin be-clad foot and one swift kick to the chair beneath him).
I decided to count again, this time to 467 and then, I spoke the most agreeable words I could muster.
"You are a flipping jerk." Except maybe I didn't say flipping. Or jerk. .
"What???" He said, clearly confused by my reaction.
"Carrots." I said through clenched teeth. "Just what the HECK (maybe I didn't say Heck either. Just remember, I'm Italian. And very...spirited) was that about?"
"I just wanted carrots...". His eyes darted from side to side, wildly.
Like a caged animal searching for any sign of exit. He had been down this rabbit hole before.
"Oh I know what you wanted." I answered back, looking him right in the eyes. "You wanted....to send a message, didn't you." I sounded sort of sweet, and his confusion turned to fear. He had learned that sweetness was more dangerous than overt anger at this interval of my madness. It meant I had crossed over from outrage to cunning. It meant that I was preparing for something dangerous.
It meant: things were going really bad for him and he was unlikely to get laid.
"You ordered the carrots because..." I said, slowly. "Because....you think...I need TO GO ON A DIET!"
"Huh?" he looked truly stunned. And Dirk picked just that moment to put my heaping plate of fish and chips in front of me.
"YOU get the french fries!" Dirk said, beaming as though I had just won the olive green Amana range set on Let's Make a Deal.
I smiled warmly at Dirk and his scraggly beard.
And then I aimed my laser beam eyes at Michael who was sitting looking down at the orange spheres on his plate.
"Eat your carrots!" I said pleasantly.
"They just sounded good..." He said helplessly, his voice trailing off. "I had french fries for lunch..."
He was quickly realizing there was no way out of the hutch--Dirk was hopping, I was hopping mad and there were carrots galore.
It was his own personal rabbit hole of hell. And our furry waiter was the tour guide.
I realize now, after the fact, that as a woman, as a wife, I can sometimes over-interpret, mis-interpret an action that capitalizes on my own self-consciousness--twisting carrots into commentary about the curve of my thick hips.
All right, I'll be honest. At 35 years old, I am an expert at this.
I realize now that it is entirely possible that he just wanted to eat carrots for dinner.
But I was sitting there in my size 10 (12?) jeans, the edge of the waistband pressing on my flesh.
And here's how the female wife brain works, folks: I wanted french fries and I felt guilty about that. I wanted him to eat them too, to assuage the guilt. His carrots made him seem "holier than thou". Which in turn made me want to stab him in the eye with my fork.
I'm not pretending this is NOT unreasonable of me. I understand that it is irrational that when he sees carrots and thinks yum! I see his carrots and think "you....prick".
Let's blame society for this, it's easier than blaming my insecurity. Plus, I would be willing to bet that I am not the only wife whose brain works this way.
But it isn't fair and I know this.
This is a man who married me exactly as I am now, french fry eating, big-assed and white girl afro and all that.
This is a man who just wanted carrots for dinner and ended up unknowingly making a horrible, orange mistake.
We sat in silence. I ate my fish with reckless abandon.
"Dos more pints." I burped to Dirk, french fry hanging from my lip like an ashen cigarette. "And the dessert tray, por favor."
Michael didn't eat much.
I felt badly, kind of, but I didn't know how to fix it.
Unlike him, I wasn't used to having to apologize (ahem).
But I didn't have to.
My husband leaned in and took my hand across the table and looked into my eyes.
"Every guy here wants to be me right now. Every guy wishes he was with you, right here."
This clearly wasn't true.
I looked around at the other patrons, at Dirk flirting with the other waiters, at a guy with an arm sleeve of tattoos doing a Russian dance near the band.
No one cared about us. No one cared about me.
"You're one of a kind." He said warmly, squeezing my fingers.
Now this...this, clearly WAS true.
Maybe the carrots helped him see things a little more plainly, rabbits have very good eyes, don't they?
I squeezed his hand back and smiled a half-drunk smile.
"So are you, love" I said, pushing forward my plate. "Now have a french fry."