In 1997, when Todd and I were together for a total of 5 minutes, we went on an overnight trip together. He was living at his parents’ house in Vermont for that summer. I drove up there from Boston to join him on an overnight to Burlington, VT. On Saturday we prepared to leave for Burlington, when he asked me to pack an overnight bag for him. I frantically glanced around his room, confused as to what to pack for him. Which toothbrush was his in the bathroom? What will he want to wear? Where were his shorts? Surely he wouldn’t want to wear that T-shirt. Was I really at that stage of girlfriendness that I could pack his things? I think the last question freaked me out the most, at the time. The sudden jump in girlfriend status that he had imposed on me at the time threw me for a loop. I went from “New girlfriend” to “Girlfriend that knows what to pack for him and dutifully does it.” I refused to pack for him, he thought I was over-reacting about it and got annoyed with me. But, if you think about it, I didn’t know what to pack for him. At the time Todd had a lot of clothing in his drawers that he hadn’t worn in years. With any luck I would have packed pants that didn’t even fit him, and his mom’s toothbrush.

A year or so later, we moved into our first apartment together. We lived in Brighton, Massachusetts. I worked in Andover, MA—which is north of the city and almost in New Hampshire. He worked in Providence, RI, which is about an hour and a half south of Boston. We were planning on a trip to Vermont for the weekend. Whenever we went to Vermont, he’d stop in Andover and pick me up on the way, as my office was literally 2 seconds off the highway we’d have to travel on. I took the train to Andover, and then he’d pick me up after work.

For some reason I didn’t have time to pack for the trip. I got up at some obnoxiously early hour to catch the train. The trip on the train to work was impossibly inconvenient. It involved a near hour ride on the green line from Brighton to North Station. Then I had to change to the commuter rail and ride that for another hour. After the train I had a mile and a half walk to the office from the train station. And I had to do all that before 9 AM. All to save me the time of driving back to Brighton, just so we can drive right by my office on the way to Vermont.

But on this trip I didn’t have time to pack. Packing for a trip for me is an event in itself. It involves organizing outfits. A bathing suit. And don’t even get me started on my toiletries. Todd had volunteered to pack for me. In the afternoon he called me at work and asked me what I’d like him to pack, in a “how hard could it be?” kind of a voice.

“OK, for toiletries, I’d like you to refill the little bottle of shampoo, conditioner and Cetaphil that are in my travel toiletry kit, if they need refilling. I need body lotion, my face cream, and my eye cream. I need both the night face cream and the day face cream. Grab that bottle of body spray from Bath and Body Works. It’s plastic, so I don’t have to worry about it breaking in my bag. Then I need my hair dryer, mousse, texturizing gel, hair spray, and my hair brush. Bring a spare barrette, in case I lose this one. Oh, and I need my tweezers, and q-tips. I need enough multi vitamins and calcium pills for as many days as we’re gone. Put those in the Altoids tin in my travel kit. I have a new deodorant in the closet. Don’t take the one in the medicine cabinet because that one’s nearly finished. Take the new one. I need my chapstick from the drawer in my night table, too.”

“Are you serious?” Todd asked, exasperated. I could hear him rifling through the medicine cabinet.

“Oh, and don’t bring the Clinique eye cream. That stuff sucks. Bring the L’Oreal stuff, please.”

“If the Clinique sucks, why did you buy it?” he asked.

“I didn’t know it sucked when I bought it. I bought it when they were having the Clinique bonus thing at Macy’s. But I did get free eye shadow and lipstick when I bought the eye cream, so it was worth it. Oh, and I would like the lip gloss and the lip brush from the medicine cabinet, and my mascara and eye shadow. The brown eye shadow with the two shades of brown in it.”

“The Neutrogena eye shadow?” he asked.

“No, the Clinique one. The one with the 2 shades, not the 4 shades…”

“Are you kidding me? You really use all this stuff?” he asked.

“Yup. OK, ready to pack my clothes?”

“I have to pack your clothes now?” he laughed.

“Yeah, I can’t spend the weekend at your parents’ house naked. OK, let’s start with the black chenille sweater…”

“What the hell is chenille?” he asked, slight annoyance in his voice.

“You know that black sweater with the zipper down the front?”

“Hold on,” he sighed, “OK, got it, what else?”

“No, I don’t want the one with the zipper. I want the one with the scoop neck that is the same kind of material as the one with the zipper.”

“What the heck is a scoop neck?”

“You know, the black sweater I wore when we went to dinner in the North End that time? That’s the one I want to wear.”

“When we went to Georgio’s?”

“No the other place, across the street from Georgio’s…”

“OK, I think I have the sweater. What else?”

“I want my Gap jeans. Not the faded ones, but the other ones….”

“OK got it…”

“Now I want the brown boots. Not the pointy ones, but the rounded ones…”

On it went for a good twenty minutes, as he scrambled to and fro trying to get everything I wanted into my bag. He very tolerantly packed every stitch of clothing as I barked commands into the phone. But we both knew that would be the first and the last time he’d pack for me.

But since that jump in girlfriend levels, as his wife I could pack for him blindfolded. All that’s required are 2-3 pairs of pants or shorts, a stack of T-shirts, one dress shirt in case we go somewhere nice for dinner, a few pairs of socks, and a bathing suit. For toiletries he needs a toothbrush, hair brush, deodorant and cologne.

But him packing for me is like a surgeon walking him through an appendectomy, or the tower walking him through how to land a plane. Only he’d likely succeed in those ventures.

BJ Knapp is the author of Beside the Music, available for purchase here. Please sign up for the Backstage with BJ Knapp mailing list to get updates on events, signings, dog pictures and so much more.

BJ Knapp is the author of Beside the Music, available for purchase here. Please sign up for the Backstage with BJ Knapp mailing list to get updates on events, signings, dog pictures and so much more.