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  • Kristan Higgins

The other love language

Updated: May 6, 2022

While it’s been around forever, I just found out about the love languages, which are, according to the Google, words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch.

I commanded—er, suggested—that McIrish and I take the quiz. To be fair, I’d say we’re very good examples of marital happiness, so it was kind of hard to nail down just one love language. We sat there across from each other, glancing at the other, clicking boxes, and snickering. “I know what yours is,” said I. “Physical touch, you randy beast.”

I was correct. “I know what yours is, too,” he said, misery flickering across his face.

That’s right. The one he dreaded most. Gifts.

“Crap,” he muttered.

I think my husband is about as good as a person gets. He loves me, takes care of me, thinks (most of the time) that I’m delightful. He appreciates my work ethic and sense of humor. I make him laugh and bake him goodies. So yeah, I’d say I’m pretty great, too!

I also give great presents.

This is where our paths diverge. McIrish has never once spontaneously bought me a gift. He will deny this, but it’s true. Okay, okay, he’s brought me food. And flowers. (“So what are you complaining about, Higgins?” you’re ask. “Because I need a blog topic,” I answer.)

Once, many years ago, he announced he was going to a hardware store. “Bring me a present!” I commanded. He did. It was a green clip. I love that clip. I have it here next to me as I write. It’s not that I’m hard to please. But over the years, when I have told him how much it would mean to me if he bought something that reminded him of me, or that he thought I would like. “It could be a pen,” I say encouragingly. “A pair of earrings from Target.”

And still, his record remains unbroken. Sure, sure, he gives me birthday and Christmas presents. But that pen? Those Target earrings? A cute paper clip or magazine on house decorating? Nope.

“Do you want a present for our 30th anniversary?” the naïve lad asked in December.

I answered with the sigh heard around the world. “Do you really have to ask?” I said.

He got me earrings. Beautiful earrings. ; )

But recently, with the move into our house, a friend’s illness, some company, a family member’s recent surgery, I’ve discovered a new love language. Cleaning. No, it does not fall under Acts of Service, because my ability to clean, my thoroughness, my art at cleaning deserves its own category. This is not “I picked up your dry cleaning” kind of service.

This is charwoman, Eastern European, my great-grandmother was a laundress, why-yes-the-sheets-have-been-ironed love language. It deserves its own class. When I told my friend her birthday present would be that I would clean her office, her face lit up like a kid on Christmas morning.

It's more than a hobby. It’s my holy calling. My fingertips are cracked. My hands are so dry that they feel like sandpaper. My knees smell like Clorox cleanup, because there’s only one true way to wash a floor, and that’s on your hands and knees, people! I went up and down the stairs a hundred and eleven times yesterday. I am in my bliss. I am Thor of the vacuum cleaner. If there was a Netflix competition for cleaning—the Great New England Clean-Off—I would win.

On a sincere note, I love cleaning because I loved my grandmother. Everything in her tidy, worn little house smelled so nice. “Stains are for the weak,” she once told me. I may have that tattooed on my person somewhere. Gram did housework every day of her life until her death at 87 and she loved doing it. She ironed my Poppy’s socks.

Need I say more?


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