Raspberry Relationship

When you live in a 6-by-17-foot box of a travel trailer, almost everyone asks, “How can you survive each other in such a small place?”

Even other full-timing couples, the ones in the giant fifth-wheel trailers, have the same sort of comment.

Having the whole great outdoors just outside the window is of limited benefit when another ice storm traps you inside for two days. That happened to us four times this winter.

Vicki and I have developed a system, or perhaps it just grew on its own, that I call a Raspberry Relationship. This has nothing to do with fruit. Instead, think of the old Bronx cheer, if you’re of one generation. For boomers, think of Bill the Cat, the character from the Berke Breathed comic strips.

Bill’s sole method of communicating, as I remember, was one action: “Pbbbbttttttt!!!” Or, as Breathed apparently spelled it for Bill, “Thbbft!” That fits better in a comic strip panel, and I shall adopt it for my own use in the future.

Get your own Bill the Cat “Thbbft!” sticker by going to the source:

The dictionary calls the raspberry an expression of contempt or derision, hardly the thing to be used to support a relationship.

When used properly, with both sides accepting the practice, there are many layers of meaning possible for this simple action:

“Thbbft!” — You’re being silly. Again. Let me join you.

“Thbbft!” — Now you’re just annoying, but I forgive you.

“Thbbft!” — The tension is too high today. Let’s back off a bit.

“Thbbft!” — You’re overthinking things. Don’t worry so much.

“Thbbft!” — Life is absurd sometimes.

“Thbbft!” — I love you.

The sound of the raspberry is symbolic of something very important to any relationship. It’s the gradual deflation of a large balloon. This balloon may be pride, stress or irritation, but it always involves pressure. This balloon isn’t being burst suddenly with a pop. Instead, the pressure is being released slowly, and in a controlled manner. Thbbft!

And that’s the most healthy thing.

There was one night when we were up past my bedtime. I was tired and irritated and just wanted to sleep. Vicki remembered I had a rash on my arm and insisted that I put the medicine on before we went to bed. I didn’t want to, and worse, I didn’t pick up on the big smile she had on her face. She was inviting a raspberry. I didn’t deliver, used the medicine (grumpily) and we both went to bed irritated. Not a good situation, even if we had recovered by morning.

Vicki had the wisdom to instigate this thing while we were trapped by a medical issue in Texas. For almost two months, I was restricted in movement and didn’t really know if we would even be able to continue our travels. All of the chores associated with living in a trailer devolved to her, all the while I was tense and grumpy. She got me through that time, and now we are back on track to be in Yellowstone this fall.

The Raspberry Relationship may not work forever for us. I hope it does, because we still smile anytime either of us sends out a “Thbbft!”

And it certainly won’t work for everyone. 

It requires agreement on using it, a shared recognition of the benefit of being goofy, a willingness to deflate the other, gently, and to be deflated yourself, and, above all, not taking yourself or your situation too seriously.

For us, for now, it works like a charm.

And we still have fun doing it.


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