Although I am not normally in the habit of paraphrasing Rita Rudner, I recently did so in an office card for a colleague’s wedding, noting that I was delighted he’d found that special person he wants to annoy for the rest of his life.  The present Boy Person and I are not nearly that far gone, but have taken great pleasure in irritating each other for the last couple of years; it’s all part of the loving foundation on which long-term relationships are based.  Whether we’re goosing each other in the stairwell, making hideous faces behind each others’ backs, or imploring one another to, please, really, just shut up, we’re never short of love or totally obnoxious behavior.

I don’t know why we find such mutual amusement in annoying each other – I don’t mean to the point of actual anger, but certainly irritation of the junior high variety.  My latest and greatest achievement is the bottle of nail biting solution I’ve brought home in an effort to curb his nasty habit.  He’s agreed to this treatment after two years of my pleas for hygiene and observations that the stubs on his fingertips look like ten little bald men, and so every other night, I get to coat his nails in highly flammable polish that tastes like a pure Everclear hangover.

And, oh, it is delightful to witness him absentmindedly snag a cuticle between his teeth, and hack like he’s coughing up a hairball.  The faces, the sputtering, the whingeing…  My enjoyment of the spectacle even surpasses the nearly-maternal pride I feel when he displays his half millimeter of nail growth (“Look!  White bits!  There are white bits on the ends!”).  Good job, baby.

You see, I also consider this just revenge, of a sort, due to an incident from early on in our relationship.  Allow me to set the scene of the crime. 

The Boy Person likes to cook, which I, of course, encourage, because I like to eat (this sentence = comma-mania!).  Anyway, stir-fries took a starring role in his bachelor-chef repertoire due to their cheap-and-cheerful attributes.  These meals were heavy on rice/noodles and chicken/pork, seasoned with oyster sauce, fish oil, ginger, and fresh chilies.  One memorable evening, I was over at his flat and he was cooking dinner while I carried out my supporting role of drinking wine and entertaining him, because that’s what I bring to the table.

While the chicken sizzled, things got a little saucy, and we ended up making out in the bedroom with dinner still on the stove top.  As is their wont, his hands wandered southwards, and it was a matter of thirty seconds or so before I was aware of a fiery sensation wholly separate from the stir-fry:  a burning within my most delicate of places, an arena that should never be subjected to “chili fingers!” (I screamed).  Yes, he had only minutes before been slicing and dicing raw chili peppers and proceeded to… well.  The hollering, the blasphemies, the slamming of bathroom doors and applications of ice water that followed were punctuated with the apologies he could barely issue, suffused as he was by hysterical fits of laughter.

August, 2008.  Never Forget.

In remembrance, I look forward to six months of nail-bite polish retribution.  Every time he dips a french fry and innocently licks the salt and ketchup from his fingertip, I will laugh with abandon.  I will feel no shame.  After all, it is for his own good.

Generally, however, we enjoy psychological torment.  For instance, I missed out on the “no-touching” game as an only child, to which my boyfriend has helpfully introduced me.  This involves him holding his hands inches from my face/person and declaring, “Can’t-get-mad-I’m-not-touching-you!” and laughing like a drain the more pissed-off I get and try to swat him away.  Oh, the fun we have!

It turns out there is a grown-up equivalent (however juvenile) of yanking on the pigtails of the girl you like, or sitting on the cute boy on the playground and administering a wet willy (ahem).  Apparently, our iteration involves dry-humping my leg when I’m trying to hang up the laundry (we refer to this as him “helping”), or me wandering into the living room to make snide, derogatory comments about Formula One until he throws a decorative pillow at my head.

And, oh, I could go on.  There is no such thing as a solitary pee in this small apartment, for another thing, as one of us is almost always following the other around and yapping about something.  We are all up in each others’ space, with constant poking and nagging and complaining, but we probably wouldn’t have it any other way.

If you have any other suggestions as to how to annoy your partner, I am all ears…