How do I love thee? Grammar.


There are two people in this house who use better-than-average grammar in daily speech and writing: one of them is yours truly. The other? Is not my husband. Ha! (It’s A., if you hadn’t already deduced that.)


Seeing as I was an English Lit major and the daughter of an English teacher, it would be somewhat appalling if my grammar wasn’t at least decent. It stands to reason that I would have had proper syntax and structure modeled to me all throughout my formative years and, make no mistake, that makes a huge difference!


(Reading classic texts rather than text messages didn’t hurt either. But I digress.)


Anyway, my grammar, and writing, skills have always been pretty good. In fact, I was deemed good enough to work for a couple of years in the Writing Center at college, supporting other students as they worked at polishing their assignments.


For our liberal arts education, we were not required to take any particular writing curriculum– provided we could submit a writing portfolio that would pass, according to the college’s standards. This was kind of a Big Deal on campus and many students fretted about it.


I submitted mine my sophomore year, passed, and washed my hands of it. Most people, however, turned it in during their junior years. If they passed, they were all set. If they did not? They then had to squeeze a writing class in somewhere among all the requirements for their majors– kind of a pain.


When I was a senior, my now-husband was a junior. (This is due to those whackadoodle birthday cut-offs we previously discussed.) He and his friends were all preparing their portfolios and, somewhere in there, he happened to gloat a bit, saying, “Guess who’s smart enough to date an English major?”


The requests to review and edit portfolios poured in. I read captivating works on art history for one of his friends. I yawned my way through some wordy biology reports for another. I learned more about environmental sciences than I ever wanted to know from correcting his roommate’s submissions. Five guys. Four papers each. I read and checked and marked and edited and suggested changes through it all.


And, when the results came in?


Four out of five had passed. They. Were. Ecstatic. One bought me champagne. Another swung me through the air. One showed up with chocolates. One offered me a massage. (It wasn’t a creepy offer, actually– you’d have to know the guy.) They were full of gratitude.


But the one who didn’t pass on that go-around? Took off roller-blading, anger all over his face.


And I? Felt like a failure.


The one guy I hadn’t managed to help was the one I was dating.


Now, there are lots of reasons for that. For starters, he and I are both stubborn, so, if I claimed a reference was done incorrectly, he’d argue that his major used different guidelines. I didn’t think so, but I wasn’t positive, so I backed down. On top of that, I worried about hurting his feelings if I were too critical. As a result, I avoided some corrections that probably would have helped him. Finally, while the other guys could view me almost as a teacher and receive my feedback dispassionately, it was personal with my boyfriend. I didn’t WANT to be his teacher. I just wanted to be the girl he was dating.


So, he didn’t really get the best work from me (and that was my fault) and my suggestions weren’t accepted as readily by him (and that was his fault.)


The whole thing was kind of a bummer.


Anyway, time went on and he passed the portfolio the next go around (without my help, thankyouverymuch.) We were both glad.


I wouldn’t say that time was particularly fun for either of us and I, for one, was glad to put it behind me. We both graduated, moved on with our lives, and I turned my attention to modeling good grammar for our children.


And then he asked me to proof a paper for his MBA class.


My heart sank. I just didn’t even want to go there again. But it was eleven o’clock at night. Who else was he going to ask?


I picked up my pen.


The thing is– I have so much respect for him. I can’t imagine it was fun to have to ask me. I don’t suppose he has great memories of that whole reviewing and editing fiasco from college. It certainly wasn’t an awesome day for him, either.


But he calmly asked me. And I did my best to help him, just like he does his best to help me with tech-y things that just don’t come naturally to me.


That whole “respecting one another’s strengths even when they’ve failed you in the past” thing?


Yeah, I love that, too.

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2 comments to How do I love thee? Grammar.

  • mlearley

    Not sure how to word this so here goes. In college I had my now husband proofread EVERY single paper for me. I knew I was horrible at grammar/writing, so I took all of his suggestions and went with them. There were times that he asked me to read his papers but it was more of a “does this make sense” than a “check for grammar.” Anyway, I never had an issue with pen marks ALL over my paper. Could this be a difference of male ego? However, if he tries to give me his input on something that I think I’m stronger at than him, I do get a little more defensive.

    • Hmm… I don’t know! Honestly, I don’t think he minds the pen marks at this point– he just wants to make sure he gets things right and he knows I’m picky enough to point out little errors and details. But, well, the 21yo male ego may have been an entirely different animal. ;)

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