Like many straight women, most of my domestic partners have not scored high in the household chores area. I have been known, to stomp around making a big show of doing all the chores by myself while the man of the house watches tv, reads, yacks on the phone or naps, oblivious. All the time I was cooking, cleaning, canning and gardening, I was thinking, “If only he’d get off his butt and help me, It’d get done quicker and I’d have more time to write.” Oh, the outrage. What is this? The 50′s?
Our mother’s fought a feminist revolution to make sure we were allowed to do “men’s work,” but men never developed an interest in doing “women’s work.” And, you know, somebody has to do it.
I tried all the usual tactics. Just so you know, in case you’re still wrestling with this issue in your relationship, none of them work. Here’s the short list, with analysis:
- Going on strike. He won’t notice the fur growing around the base of the toilet. If the window is too grimy to see out of, he’ll open it. When there are no more clean dishes, he’ll stick to foods that can be eaten on a paper towel. When you get rats, he’ll either start hunting with a bee bee gun or buy a new house.
- Assigning him his own personal chore. No matter how manageable it is, he won’t do it. At least not consistently. And probably not to your standard. And then you’ll have to get mad at him.
- Nagging. Doesn’t work and you’ll be embarrassed for yourself.
- Shaming. Similar to nagging, but more specific. “If you loved me more…” Don’t stoop to this. You’ll hate yourself in the morning.
- Sexual withholding. Are we really going to whore ourselves out for a little help around the house?
Well, then what is to be done? Honestly, who does he think he is, sitting there contemplating the horizon, with his feet up while I scrub and clean, repair and paint, beautify and upgrade. What a sense of entitlement!
I remember the exact moment I got free of this syndrome. I was driving and someone on the radio was talking about gun control and the third amendment and how to interpret the Bill of Rights. I pictured a man named Bill of Rights, feet up, coffee mug steaming, reading the paper, content.
“I have a right to my downtime!” he was saying.
“What about my rights?!” I shot back
Bill just looked at my pityingly and went back to his paper. Oh, my God! That was it. I had Sense of Entitlement envy.
Whenever anyone treats you disrespectfully, your mother will say, “She’s just jealous.” Well, I was. I was jealous-going-on-bitter. I wanted to revoke my partner’s right to sit, relax, expand, contemplate and enjoy the view. Why? Because I was jealous that my own bill of rights didn’t have any of that stuff.
And Bill of Rights was right, I realized. Was this to be my contribution to the world? Healthy houseplants and organized cupboards? A well-stocked pantry? Is that what I wanted my obituary to say? “She leaves behind her husband of 40 years and a completely dust-free living room…”
If God were to pick my ear, of all the ears in the world, to whisper the secrets of life into, I don’t think I’d hear, “The road to heaven is paved with chores.” Or “I have filled the world with dirt so that woman may clean it and I may be well pleased in her.”
I think I’d hear, “I gave you gifts, girl. You could show a little gratitude by using them.”
Perhaps you are conditioned to plump pillows. But you are entitled to write, to create, to make meaning of your world, to contemplate and celebrate the complexities of existence. You don’t have to earn it, sneak it, squeeze it in between “real” work, justify it or have anything to show for it. You’re just entitled to it.
If your messy house distracts you, get out of the house.
Let the dishes sit there. Eat your cereal with a fork if there are no clean spoons. Or drink your cereal from a glass. Is it more important to be civilized or to create? Clean when company is coming, if you must. Or, better yet, meet company for drinks and then go take in some theater.
Who was that person that thought the closets needed repainting?
DAILY PROMPT: Finish the sentence, “I’m entitled to…” as many different ways as you can in the allotted time. Or use it as a launchpad and return to it if need be. 7 minutes
Note: This is a good one for character development