The current conversation about whether women can have it all revolves around children and a high-powered career. What nobody's acknowledging is that it isn't the children that beat you into the ground and leave you depleted. It's the dirt, grime, grease, hairballs, laundry, spills and maintenance. It's the food -- shopping, hauling inside, putting away, preparing, serving, cleaning up after. That's before we discuss the bills that somebody must pay attention to; and the decisions about various insurance questions that repeatedly emerge, not to mention the annoyance of getting prescriptions filled --
In other words, the kids go, but the drudgery stays all the the way to the grave.
It's possible for two people in a relationship to work out the issue of who is doing what. For instance, Mormons tend to stick with firm gender demarcation lines between what a penis can do without shriveling and what chores (vacuuming and dusting come to mind) depend on a vagina.
The issues can also work out if both parties in the relationship are egalitarian. As it happens, such was the case in my previous marriages.
The problem I've got now is that I'm the person I've always been but The Tall Dude, with whom I share space, was never house-broken, in any authentic pick-your-crap-up-off-the-floor sort of way.
I gotta tell you: I find it incredibly annoying. It's not that he isn't improving in these matters. This very summer The Tall Dude emptied the dishwasher ALL BY HIMSELF at least five times without being asked, coaxed, cajoled, or harangued into it. (Okay, fine, he didn't wash the big pans or clean off the stove top, but I've given up even fantasizing about getting out from under those tasks.)
The upshot is that I've had it. I give up. I'm crying "Uncle!" I decided a few months back that I'm dedicating this year to homemaking, which is a lot like my telling a surgeon "Go ahead and give me a lobotomy. Probably by the time the year is up you'll have learned to reverse the procedure."
I've been a feminist since the day an employer told me I could get a salary increase as soon as I went to Sweden and had a sex change operation. I hold two graduate degrees that cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $100,000, not counting time. Just to round things out, I'm on a drug that makes my joints ache all of the time. Most critically, any interest I ever had in housekeeping whisked itself out the door with my children when they left home.
I've been driving myself nuts over the one-sidedness of the household drudgery. The first year or two I overlooked pretty much anything The Tall Dude did or didn't do, because he's really cute and has a precious smile. A year or so later, though, I noticed that, while one of us rinsed her dishes and placed them in the dishwasher, the other one set his plate BESIDE the sink. I don't know if he was expecting elves or a maid or spontaneous combustion to take care of the plate; but none of those things showed up.
I'm reverting to the practice of homemaking because I refuse to spend the rest of my life angry; and I also refuse to spend the rest of my life waiting on somebody capable of pitching in and doing his fair share.
Come year's end, if we've worked through the issues, the Tall Dude and I will begin the slooooooooow process of planning a wedding. (I believe in really, really long engagements.) If we can't reach some level of parity, I will, on the other hand, throw his ass to the curb.
I'm not looking forward to it. After all, when you've unloaded one dishwasher you've unloaded them all. Or, as my late husband Fred, who was annoying in an entirely different way (he'd unload and reload the dishwasher BECAUSE I HADN'T DONE IT RIGHT," said when I gushed over my first sight of an oil rig on a trip across Texas, "Only the first one is actually interesting. After that, they all look alike."
The purpose of this decade of my life, I'm convinced, is not to be an unpaid maid and personal secretary, and also cook. My exceptions are Laramie, the little dog who upchucks fur balls with all the elan of a Persian cat -- and her big brother Koko, our yellow Lab, who every few years gets sick before I can shove him out the front door. They can't open their own cans of dog food. They can't take themselves for walks or drive themselves to the vet's office.
What does The Tall Dude make of all of this? Every time I mention that "throwing his ass to the curb" option, it throws him into a great good humor, and he wanders the house in a flurry of dropped socks and shirts and handkerchiefs chuckling to himself.
He's not a stupid man, which suggests he won't let the situation reach the stage where I'm lobbing his combat boots across the yard into his truck; but we'll see who breaks, and when, and then what.