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January 29, 2003

Men of the World, Rise

Men of the World, Rise Up! You Have Nothing To Lose But Your Washerwoman's Elbow!

I was already a firm believer in the magic dishwasher fairy, who appears late at night and magically puts all the plates, bowls and silverware up in the correct place, but now I'm tempted to start believing in the magic vacuum and bathroom fairies, too. Might as well, because according to the latest in feminist thought, doing those chores isn't getting me any extra action.

What we've learned during this thirty-year grand experiment is that men can be cajoled into doing all sorts of household tasks, but they will not do them the way a woman would. They will bathe the children, but they will not straighten the bath mat and wring out the washcloths; they will drop a toddler off at nursery school, but they won't spend ten minutes chatting with the teacher and collecting the art projects. They will, in other words, do what men have always done: reduce a job to its simplest essentials and utterly ignore the fillips and niceties that women tend to regard as equally essential. And a lot of women feel cheated and angry and even—bless their hearts—surprised about this. In the old days, of course, men's inability to perform women's work competently was a source of satisfaction and pride to countless housewives. A reliable sitcom premise involved Father's staying home for a day while Mother handled things at his office; chastened and newly admiring of the other's abilities, each ran gratefully back to familiar terrain. Nowadays, when a working mother arrives home after a late deposition, only to find the living room strewn with Legos and a pizza box crammed into the kitchen trash, she tends to get madder than a wet hen. Women are left with two options: endlessly haranguing their husbands to be more womanly, or silently fuming and (however wittingly) launching a sex strike of an intensity and a duration that would have impressed Aristophanes. The men who cave to the pressure to become more feminine—putting little notes in the lunch boxes, sweeping up after snack time, the whole bit—may delight their wives but they probably don't improve their sex lives much, owing to the thorny old problem of la difference. I might be quietly thrilled if my husband decided to forgo his weekly tennis game so that he could alphabetize the spices and scrub the lazy Susan, but I would hardly consider it an erotic gesture.

All I ask is that In the matter of chores, if someone wants something done around the house, someone should tell me to do it. I'll do it, I'll be happy to do it, but expecting me to somehow know that the mantle needs dusting or that the inside of the microwave is dirty is guaranteed to end in frustration. I'm not writing little notes, though.

Even if I did put little notes in lunchboxes, they'd be unreadable. I'd rush the writing to the point of illegibility. If taken to task for that, I'd type them up the night before on the computer, and print them out, fulfilling the letter of the law while destroying the spontaneity of the moment. Eventually I would start composing them days in advance, and entering them into a database. I bet once I had a few hundred different ones I could randomize the process, and never have to write another note again.

I'm the same way with Hallmark cards. In my opinion, cards are what you give a person when you don't get them a present. They're better than nothing, but not as good as anything else. Giving a person anything on that special day; whether that day is Christmas, Valentine's, a birthday or a wedding anniversary, obviates the need to give a card. Frankly, cards are cards, but gifts are trumps.

For years, when a special day came around, I would give a present to the Sainted Wife, either one she has specifically asked for, or one that I had put some thought into. No dashing out at the last minute for me, no ma'am!

She would take the present, look at it a bit oddly, and ask "Where's the card?"

I would look at her a bit oddly as well. "There is no card."

"Why not?"

"Because I got you a present!"

"That's no excuse!"

In my world, cards were pathetic substitutes for presents. In my wife's world, cards were required, regardless of present presence. She thought I was uncaring. I thought she was insane.

I still think she's insane, but after several special days were rendered slightly less special by my inability to remember to buy a card, I said the hell with it and bought 5 years of special day cards. I have 4 Halloween, 4 Thanksgiving, 4 Christmas, 4 Wedding Anniversary , Valentine's Day, 5 Birthdays Mother, 5 Birthdays daughter, and 5 Mother's Day cards left. Just to make a point, I also have 5 Arbor Day cards. They're all on top of the china cabinet, where they get pulled out at need.

She'd prefer spontaneous, but seems content with weird.

Posted by Bigwig at January 29, 2003 04:58 PM | TrackBack
Postscript:
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