Back on May 8, Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar of Annie’s Mailbox published a short question from an frustrated wife:
Dear Annie: My husband has the bad habit of not closing doors — kitchen cabinets, file drawers, closets, etc. Do other women experience this? I try to ignore it, but I worry someone will get hurt. — Help
K & M recommended a training program that echoes what you hear at puppy obedience school, which gives me an odd feeling. Surely one shouldn’t try to shape a spouse’s behavior the way one would a pet’s. These techniques are used by dog whisperers and preschool teachers the world over because they work. On an adult, though…I’m betting on backlash:
Dear Help: If you’re lucky, your husband will smack his head on one of those doors and remember to close it next time. Every person has at least one bad habit. Your husband can be “trained,” but it will take effort. You’ll have to sweetly call him every single time you see an open door and ask him to close it. Repetition and consistency are the keys, and progress won’t happen overnight. While you will be counting on him to shape up, he’ll be counting on you to give up.
Who would have guessed that this letter would strike a chord with so many readers? Since the original letter on May 8, at least 5 Annie’s Mailbox columns have featured reader responses to this issue. (While Abby and Amy tend to compile readers’ reactions in a single follow-up column, Marcy and Kathy, I learned tonight, spread theirs out over months. Months. )
As we might expect, the responses were mostly from frustrated wives, though at least one husband weighed in. Interestingly….not a single door-leaver-opener wrote in (notably, too, everyone was part of a married couple–no significant others, parents/kids, roommates, or any other arrangement) :
Dear Annie: I read the letter from “Help,” whose husband doesn’t close any cabinet doors.
My mother left her cabinet door open and stood up quickly, hitting her head smack into the corner. Nothing happened right away, but a month later, she bent over to pick up a book and felt nauseated and got a severe headache. Thankfully, my father was home and took her to the hospital.
The neurosurgeon said this blunt trauma to her head caused a cerebral hemorrhage that left her left side temporarily paralyzed. If she had been alone, it could have been fatal. Her rehab took more than a year. Thankfully, Mom has made a complete recovery, but should she bump her head in the same spot, she is at risk of dying.
I hope this helps someone else understand the seriousness of not closing cabinet doors. — Laurie B.
Dear Annie: I have a suggestion for “Help” on how to get her husband to close doors and drawers.
My wife had the same problem. After several conversations on the subject, I told her I would remove every door or drawer she left open. When that didn’t help, I took pictures of each open cabinet and then removed all the contents and placed them in the living room along with the picture. That worked. I suggest “Help” empty the drawers or cabinets and put the items on the counter or floor. — Deep South Reader
Dear Deep South: We suspect having cabinet items strewn all over the floor might bother women more than men, but thanks for the extreme suggestion.
Dear Annie: “Help” said her husband never closes cabinet doors and asked if anyone else had this problem. Yes. Big time.
Not only does my husband leave doors open, but he leaves the cap off the toothpaste and the top off the orange juice (so that it flies all over when I shake it), fails to close cheese packages, loaves of bread and cereal boxes, and leaves all the lights on. Last week, he even left the hot water running in the sink. I call this condition “failure to complete.” — Hamden, Conn.
Dear Annie: Like “Help,” I, too, have a husband who refuses to close things. He leaves the house and car doors wide open, and often, I find the refrigerator and freezer doors left ajar. Any bottle or package sits without the top on. Bagged lettuce spills all over the fridge, pills scatter all over the vanity, and more shampoo has fallen down the drain than you can imagine. He also refuses to hang up his clothes. Instead, his shirts are stuffed on shelves, and his pants hang on decorative hooks.
It doesn’t matter if it costs him money, injures him or forces him to clean up spills. My pleas fall on deaf ears, and if I say too much, he accuses me of being overly critical. I am open to all suggestions. — The Closer
Dear Annie: I read the letter from “Help,” whose husband leaves all the cabinets open. I can do her one better. My husband leaves the back door open — even in the winter at night. One time when he was making a new laundry room for me, I counted 13 times that he came and went, and he never once closed the back door. For good measure, he also leaves the dryer and microwave doors open with the interior lights burning.
This is my second marriage, and I keep telling myself that this one is so wonderful in every other way, the least I can do is close all the doors when he’s done building me a new room. — Canada
Yikes–I love Canada’s jolly attitude and broad perspective, but I could never keep it up myself. This would drive me absolutely batty. This seems like one of those issues that would never even occur to you–because why would someone not close something they just opened?–until you had to live with someone who did it. And yet, apparently it’s alarmingly common.
This quirk was even featured in this spring’s Date Night, which I recently watched on a plane ride. Tina Fey’s character crashes (repeatedly) into drawers left open by her husband, played by Steve Carell. The bit is even mentioned in this entertaining interview, where Carell admits that the bit is inspired in part by his own life–he and Tina Fey’s husband both apparently don’t close doors or drawers.
We’ve heard from all of “the closers.” Now, I’d love to hear from folks who do this. If you leave things open, do you realize you’re doing it at the time? Is there a rationale for it (like you’ll need to go back in there again soon), or do you just forget? How do folks who share space with you react?