Mel did a really nice thing this morning: he put out the garbage and took out the recycling. This was especially endearing because he took out the trash at the crack of dawn, when he was in a rush to get to work. I had this on my mental to-do list, so I could cross it off without even putting down my coffee cup. And now I can't even thank him.
Interesting, isn't it, that I feel I have to thank him for participating in the routine chores of our household. But the truth is that I have to reinforce these types of things—they consolidate the victories in my guerilla domestic warfare.
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There is always the question, especially with men of Mel's age: is he incompetent, ill trained, or just plain lazy? Funny, how most guys keep you guessing on this point. For example, just as Mel had convinced me that he was not capable of ironing I overheard him giving his son ironing tips! I had to wonder why he had always asked me to iron for him (once or twice a year, when he really needed clothes that were not wrinkled)? Was this laziness? Or lack of confidence?
Perhaps Mel asked me to iron for him because of the old gender burp: just because I'm female it's so much more natural for me to do the grunt work. This is simply a joke. I am no domestic goddess, and many people know this. In fact, I have secured a firm reputation with my family of origin as a slob. To this day I can see the surprise on their faces when they find my house neat or I cook them a good meal.
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When I was younger I vowed to hide all my domestic abilities so that I would not get trapped by them. However, I met Mel and got slack. This is a common mistake women make: excessive caretaking of their man during the courtship phase of the relationship, or during the honeymoon phase of the marriage. (In fact, this may be the whole reason the honeymoon comes to an end—the new wife gets sick of pretending to be a domestic goddess, and the husband feels cheated when she comes down off her pedestal.) I fell deep into this trap and have been trying to get out ever since. Mel actually had reason to think I was domestically inclined during our courtship when, for example, I cleaned his whole roach-infested apartment. I cleaned it because I was pretty sure it was a health hazard, and it was beyond even my high threshold for dirt and disorder. But how could he know I was raising false expectations? This ruse has haunted me even after all these years: Mel still has not noticed I am a slob, and routinely accuses me of oppressing him with my neatness!
This is the thing: we are baby boomers, we lived through the surge of feminism of the seventies, and we are both lapsed hippies. So, theoretically, we both believe in equality for men and women. But theory and application are very different. Many of you have experienced this firsthand, I suspect, at home. We women can work all we want outside the home, with enthusiastic support from our husbands; the gender gap reveals itself when it comes to finding a babysitter or doing laundry, or, or, or.