the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Married Couples


The plan this afternoon was to bring some Chinese food over to Sophia’s mother, now back from the hospital,  then head over to Danny’s house to pick up those birthday cards and gifts that I haven’t yet seen.  There’s a whole range of reasons that Danny and I couldn’t connect during the last two weeks, but I told Danny that I had to pick it up today.  I was beginning to be terrified that I would be the most hated man in the blogosphere for not saying thank you within the allotted period mandated by Emily Post. 

While in Portland, we bought Danny two “Pacific Northwest” cooking books as a thank-you for all his help with my virtual birthday party.   One little problem.  As Sophia and I got ready to leave the house, neither of us could remember where we put the books.

“How can you lose Danny’s gifts?”  asked Sophia.

“How do you know I lost it?”

“You unpacked the luggage!”

“I don’t remember seeing it.   In fact, didn’t you tell me NOT to put it in the luggage so it wouldn’t get crushed?”

“So, where DID you put it?”

“Maybe you left it in the hotel.”

“I would never do that.” 

“How can you be so sure?”

“Because I am.  I handed it to you when we got into the car.  It was in that Powell’s Books bag.”

“Yes, and then I handed it back to you when we stopped in Carmel.”

After ten minutes of back and forth, we slid into name-calling and eventually stopped talking with each other completely.   We grabbed a twelve-pack of Portland-brewed beer (that we bought as a gift for someone else), and took it as a substitute gift for Danny.

The car ride from Redondo Beach was an unfriendly one.  The air was as cold as a twelve-pack of Portland-brewed beer fresh from the freezer.  As we came closer to Sophia’s mother, we stopped at the reliable, but simple King Fu Mandarin for take-out.  Because it was Easter and Passover, the restaurant was empty other than the husband and wife who run the place.  The wife was behind the counter.  The husband was the cook.  Sophia ordered chicken wonton soup, eggrolls, and two dishes, one beef and one chicken.  The wife wrote down the order, then headed behind a back curtain to give it to her husband/cook in the kitchen.

Sophia decided to speak to me for the first time in an hour.

“Do you think two entrees are enough for us?”

“Well, we ordered soup and egg rolls.  And there’s rice.  Your parents don’t eat much.”

“Well, maybe they’d like more of a selection.”

“So, get another dish.”

“What should I get?”

“Get what you want.  I don’t care.  Get what your mother likes.”

“I’m asking YOU.”

It was clear that the air between us was still ten degrees below zero.

“Get a noodle dish.” I said.

Sophia grumbled and walked into the back, calling out to the owner/wife.

“Excuse me.   Do you think we ordered enough for four people?”

“It depends how hungry you are.”  said the owner/wife.

“Are your portions big?” asked Sophia.


“So maybe we don’t need another dish?”

“No.  I think you have enough.” said the owner/wife.

Sophia returned and sat next to me.

“So, are we talking now?” I asked. testing the waters.

“No.” she said.

“And what EXACTLY are we fighting about?”

“You’re irresponsible when you lose Danny’s gift like that.  I look bad because I told him we got the books.”

“You know, there’s no actual proof that I misplaced the books.  If this was in court, it would be dismissed.  You could have lost it.”

“I didn’t.  I haven’t seen them since we came home.”

I bit my lip, frustrated.   We started repeating the same conversation that we had earlier, blaming each other, acting like guinea pigs going round and round on a wheel.

I started “reading” some Chinese-language newspaper that was under my chair.  Sophia started reading the menu like it was a novel.  Neither of us wanted to talk, afraid of what would happen if we opened our mouths. 

It was then that we heard the voices from the kitchen.  It was the husband and wife owners.  They were arguing, speaking in Mandarin.  Their voices got louder and angrier.   It was uncomfortable sitting in an empty restaurant as the owners were fighting at the top of their lungs.

“Maybe we should go,”  said Sophia.

“We can’t go,” I answered.  “We already paid for the food.”

Sophia nodded.

“So, what do you think they are arguing about?” I asked.

“I think he’s mad at her because the wife told me not to order another dish.”

“That’s ridiculous.”

“Look, they have no customers today.  He’s probably saying to her, “What’s the matter with you?  We could have made another $7.95.  Why did you tell her she ordered enough?  What kind of businesswoman are you?””

We listened to them argue some more in Mandarin.

“Maybe you’re right,” I told Sophia.  “It sounds like she’s fighting back.  It sounds like she’s saying, “We didn’t go into business to be greedy.  Better we get them to come back as repeat customers than pull every penny out of them!  Look what happened to your brother’s Chinese restaurant when he started counting pennies.  No one went there anymore.  We never went there!””

“Now he’s really getting pissed,” said Sophia.  “Now he’s saying, “Why do you always bring up my family in a negative way?  Do I bring up that your Uncle Chang is a drunk and cheats in Mah Jongg?!””

Sophia and I started to laugh, thinking about the ridiculous things that married couples fight about.

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month:  I Love You, Sun-Maid Raisin Girl


  1. better safe than sorry

    i always order extra food in the hopes that no one eats it and there are leftovers:)
    it’s easy to fight over little things when you’re worried about big things, someone’s mother having unexpected surgery, that’s a huge thing.

  2. Margaret

    I wish I had someone to argue with and knew mandrin so i could do it in public..

  3. steppingoverthejunk

    Ha. I just watched Mr and Mrs Smith on HBO yesterday. You are so cute, you two. Now, did you ever find those books?

  4. Neil

    I found them within two minutes of getting home, sitting in the garage.

  5. Stacey

    My mother tells me that it’s good to fight when you’re married because of the whole making up part.

  6. Otir

    I wrote a note today about how relationships are accounted for in writing. Sorry you can’t read it, it’s like in Mandarin after all, you can imagine what I am saying it’s so much more fun.

    I like what you write so much. Thank you Neil.

  7. Karl

    Ha, I wondered how quickly those books would pop up. It’s just the nature of the universe.

  8. Neil

    Stacey — Remind me to talk about that with you one day. That has NEVER worked for me.

    Otir — I think Sophia may be able to translate your posts for me. Anyway, what’s with the French? So old school.

  9. Rhea

    Your facility with the Mandarin dialect is amazing!

  10. Bre

    You mean I’m supposed to save all of my ridiculous fighting for a husband? Jeeze, I’ve been dong this wrong for a long time!

  11. Dagny

    My best friend occasionally has these fights with her husband and then calls me to tell me that she’s mad at him. When I ask her what the fight was about, she can’t remember. Married people…

  12. girl and dog

    My parents always told me that marriages end not because of what is said, but because of what is NOT said. So, fight on!

  13. Finn

    I bet they were really fighting about whether you or Sophia lost the books. She was telling her husband that “he” lost them, while he insisted that “she” did.

  14. Hilly

    That reminds me – I just put the order in yesterday for your paper…sorry for the lag time, but I’ve been so busy with the new job :).

  15. wendy

    Did you see the remake of Freaky Friday?? Your scene reminded me of the dreaded Chinese Palace …Do not i repeat..Do no open any fortune cookies.. Hear me…I’m glad Sophias mom is home. Hospitals SUCK.

  16. Jazz

    Fights are good. Really. ’cause that way you can have makeup sex. Which is hot.

    I think Mr. Jazz and I don’t fight enough.

    Excuse me while I go pick a fight.

  17. Mist 1

    You should have ordered another dish. I always enjoy the veggie potstickers because I like that salty sauce they come with. When I come over for dinner, make sure you order another dish. If I don’t eat it for dinner, I will get up and eat it in the middle of the night.

  18. kapgar

    Funny the things that spark a reconciliation of sorts during a fight, isn’t it? Kinda like my post about the best way for me to feel better after a bad day is by seeing someone who is clearly having a worse day. Heh.

  19. rach

    So you found the books? Have either of you taken responsibility for them being in the garage yet?

  20. Wombat

    Northwest food is just salmon anyway. Salmon followed by coffee. Big deal.

  21. Noel

    S & N—
    You’ve now completed the marriage check-up. Yes, I hid the books, and convinced the Chinese restaurant proprietors (who only speak English) to make up some jibberish you’d mistake for Mandarin. You’re now good to go for another 25,000 miles.

  22. Churlita

    Are you saying you’ve never had make-up sex? That’s too bad.

  23. Neil

    Churlita, I’ll have to bring that up in another post. While Sophia can get very pissed quickly, she also gets over it very quickly. In the beginning of our marriage, I thought this was very strange. Who wants to be intimate five minutes after you were annoyed at each other? I don’t get mad very easily, but once I do, I could be sullen all day. To this day, Sophia says I act like the “woman” in the relationship after a fight, pouting around.

  24. mrsatroxi

    I am too slow to anger for many fights with my husband.

    Usually a week or so after an exchange with someone, I’ll realize that they were actually being insulting.

    Then I’ll get mad, but since it’s a week later, all I can do is slam around the house and stew in my own juices.

    It’s hard being dumb.

  25. Nance

    Now go and read “Free Samples” in the magazine I sent you.

  26. Danny

    So where are my books? Oh wait, I’m too drunk on that beer to read them anyway. You’d never know you two were fighting yesterday, you were both as delightful as ever. On the other hand, when you arrived Sophia was up my steps fast while Neil was still in the car—not entering together is often a sign of couple strife. Don’t forget to use that birthday gift sent by TherapyDoc to help couples in trouble.

  27. Paris Parfait

    This is such a hilarious story. And I got your email – thank you – but haven’t had a chance to respond. We’re beseiged with guests – more arriving tomorrow and Thursday. Will catch up w/ you and your blog soon. And thanks for the Crush of the Day honour – do you realise this is twice within the space of a year?! Am I lucky or what??!!xo

  28. Scarlet

    I have no idea what your post is about because my eyes can’t move past the picture of Brad Pitt.

  29. Blitz Krieg

    Neil, you and Sophia have not been together long enough. After twenty years, the loving wife and I would have taken the restaurateurs argument to the next level and not talked to each other for a week. Oh, and we sure as hell would have never made it to the in-laws.

  30. V-Grrrl

    Twenty five years of marriage. We had few arguments the first 13 years, and then we had kids and started becoming irritable and testy. Being endlessly patient with children and chronically sleep deprived doesn’t leave much energy for the spouse, though it gets better as the kids mature.

  31. psychomom

    I told him not to talk to me unless he had something nice to say. He hasn’t talked to me in 7 years.

  32. mrsmogul

    Okay I’m a loser! I forgot your birthday!!!! HAPPY BELATED NEIL!! I’m so sorry i forgot!! Anyway my husband and I fight about who will unload the dishwasher. It can get nasty!

  33. Alexandra

    Laini found two NW cookbooks in her house and she didn’t know where they were from so they must have been yours.
    You and Sophia are a wonderful couple! I could read about your fights all day long!

  34. Mine is a Gin

    There are some immutable laws of the universe:

    1) However much Chinese takeaway you order, you always think you’ve haven’t ordered enough.

    2) However little Chinese takeaway you actually take home, you’ve always got more than you can possibly eat.

    3) Other people’s arguments are invariably about trivial stuff that you couldn’t possibly get so heated about.

    4) Except for when you’re really, really angry.

    5) If you can’t find the books (or whatever you’ve misplaced), look for the hammer you wanted last week and you’ll find the books. You won’t find the hammer until you’re looking for something else altogether.

  35. Oopsy Daisy

    What I am wondering is how we are going to top your birthday next year. maybe we will just all show up on your doorstep at once. Be sure to order enough chinese for us. Hot and Sour soup for me please.

    BTW, I think I told you Happy Easter in my email to you when I was replying about the lottery tickets. My Jewish sister in law sent me an email today telling me that it was appropriate for me to have sent her an Easter card. (Excuse me for trying to be nice) Now I am thinking about all my Jewish friends that I said Happy Easter to. Oh shit! I guess I shuldn’t have sent my Jehovah Witness friend a Christmas card either. My bad.

  36. Neil

    Oopsy, it is fine to tell a Jew “Happy Easter.” We’re not very jealous of Easter. The last thing any of us want to do is sit around with our families AGAIN and play with colored eggs. We don’t want you to say “Merry Christmas.” Christmas we ARE jealous of because of all of the good songs. You can keep “Easter Parade,” written by a Jew, of course.

  37. Pearl

    My husband and I don’t argue too much. Our disagreements often are about the kids.
    Other times he might tell me that I spend way too much time blogging and on the Internet. Hmmm…I think he definitely has a point there!
    C’mon, Neil & Sophia, making up is the best part of a fight. Laughing about the fight come sometimes even be healthier to the mind and morale. Keep laughing you two.

  38. Stu

    I’m an Imus fan and believe that what he said about the Rutgers team was wrong and hurtful and he should pay a price. I don’t believe that he should be fired and am sorry that he will not be on MSNBC or CBS. He will surface elsewhere.

    Steve Capus, MSNBC and the NBC family of companies should be ashamed. Capus and NBC caved to pressure and fired Imus because sponsors began to pull their support. For Mr. Capus and NBC to say otherwise is shameful and dishonest. He and his board caved to pressure from the sponsors and to a lesser degree to the rants of some members of the NBC staff. Capus and the other leaders of the NBC family of companies made a gutless, shameful and wrong decision to abandon Imus and it will cost them. I, and I believe many others like me, will not watch any NBC news product anytime soon.

    Capus and the other leaders of NBC who allowed liars and hypocrites to influence their decision and demonstrated that they are cowards and care only about the bottom line. This was purely a business decision and I understand that. For Capus and the other leaders at NBC to contend that it was anything else is insulting to us all.

    Ask Al Sharpton if he has said he was sorry for the hurt and the lies he spewed during the Tawana Brawley case. he was a small-time huckster who made his career on the back of a lie and nobody has ever held him accountable. He has no credibility; and for corporate executives to bow to him is truly shameful.

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