It was just an ordinary day. But my reaction was anything but ordinary.
It started out innocently enough. My now-ex-husband and I were walking through the mall on a cold, rainy Saturday afternoon when he posed an innocuous question:
“How many stores here apart from department stores do you think sell lipstick?”
I pondered for a moment, mentally cataloging the Brookstone and Ambercrombies, before responding, “I don’t think any more than three or four.”
“I disagree. I’ll bet there’s at least five.”
It became a challenge. What should have been a fun, mall version of Slugbug or logging truck tallying turned into an all-out war.
At least for me.
I started out confidently enough as we passed store after store that did not display any lipstick on its shelves.
But then my assurance was shaken when we found two stores in a row that promoted lip coloring products: Spencer’s Gifts had black lipstick for those that leaned towards Goth and a store that appeared to cater to strippers had a small lipstick display with the accessories.
We hadn’t even walked a full wing of the mall and the count was already almost halfway there.
He kept it light, teasing and joking and laughing.
After a third store, a place that sold upscale handbags and scarves, proved to have lipstick, I grew obsessed.
For some reason, this became about more than lipstick to me.
It wasn’t even so much about needing to be right.
It was about wanting him to be wrong.
As I think back now on my first marriage, I realize that I had a tendency to point out his mistakes or misdirections.
Rather than simply turning off the oven, I felt the need to inform him that he left it on.
Instead of simply securing an unlocked door, I felt the need to point out that the door was left unbolted.
Now, I fully recognize that this was not an attractive trait I carried. I accept full weight of that fact. I fight sometimes with a need to be right, an insecurity found in wrong answers that was fortified with a drive for good grades in school.
But there’s more to the lipstick story than that.
Because I have never been that prone to point out mistakes with anyone else. In fact, I generally am more apt to avoid confrontation and do a behind-the-scenes cover-up than to announce someone’s mistake.
So why did I act that way with my ex?
I think it was because he never admitted his own wrongs.
He never copped to forgetting something.
He hated to reveal any weakness and would strive to cover it up.
He always seemed to know everything.
Be able to do everything.
And so I felt a need to prove him wrong.
To show that, like all of us, he had areas of strength and areas of deficiency.
To bring him down from a pedestal to a human level.
Interestingly enough, one of the traits that Brock possesses that attracted me was his ease with admitting fault.
Because in order to fix anything, we have to first accept our responsibility.
Otherwise, all we’re doing is putting lipstick on a pig.
Side note: I am fully aware that this inability to admit fault and the need to be perceived as all-knowing is a characteristic of narcissism. I refrain from labeling him. Here’s why.