Thursday, May 12, 2005

You're Not the Boss of Me

I've never been a girly-girl. I don't think anyone could ever accuse me of that. I played a lot of sports as a kid. I even stuck with soccer for 12 years. I don't often wear dresses. I don't usually wear makeup. I don't like bows in my hair. If given a choice between playing poker with my husband or watching a Meg Ryan movie with his friends' wives, I'd choose the former.

However, I know guys need their man-time. I get it. I know I'm not welcome at poker night, which is kind of cool because I don't really know how to play. Besides, they usually end up arguing over poker-related minutiae, which is a one-way ticket to Snoresville for me. I like hanging with the guys, but up to a point.

With the prospect of being Susie Homemaker for the next few months looming over my head, I'm chewing my nails a bit more than usual. It's so old-fashioned, so feminine, so not me. Plus, I like having a job. Not necessarily working, mind you, but making my own money. My parents taught me that I have to take care of myself because no one else is going to do it for me.

Now, I have to let my husband take care of me. That's an almost foreign concept for me. Let someone else pay for my stuff. Heck, it's not even my stuff any more. It's our stuff. Lunger will buy the stuff and I will cook it, clean it, and iron it. Weird. Just, weird.

I'm so used to being self-sufficient. I can easily entertain myself. I happily go to the movies by myself. I gladly eat in restaurants alone. What is it like to truly have someone with you, all the time?

I had roommates in college, but it's not quite the same, is it? Living with a spouse is a horse of a different color. I had another taste of it last weekend, when I visited my husband in Canada.

May 6th was his slava, or Saint George's Day. The celebration consists mostly of having a ton of friends over to eat a gargantuan amount of food. Cabbage rolls, roasted lamb, roasted pork, schnitzels (chicken and veal), mashed potatoes, potato salad, salad salad, cookies, cakes, soup, etc. and so on. There were just over 20 people there, so there weren't exactly enough seats. My husband and I served instead of sitting.

Growing up in my house, it was every man for himself. If we wanted something to eat or drink, we raided the fridge. If we had people over, the meal was served buffet-style.

This all leads to the concept of the woman as homemaker for me. Gender roles are more clearly, traditionally defined in my husband's family. I always thought I would hate a setup like this. As if this sort of partioned lifestyle was archaic and unequal. That's not really the case.

Housework is shared because Lunger's parents both have jobs outside the home. That's how it will be when I work, eventually. If I'm not working, I think it's only fair that I take care of the everday household maintenance. It's not something I'm used to doing, but that doesn't make it sexist.

Basically, what I'm getting at here is that I have to redefine myself again. This time, as a wife. That doesn't mean aprons, high heels, and hair-curlers. It means I have to think and act as a couple. I've been married for two years, but we haven't worked on the everyday living stuff because we've been in different countries.

After this weekend, I'm starting to see that I like filling some of those traditional feminine roles. I like serving guests. It makes me feel useful, like I'm taking care of people. And God knows, I like to do that. Just call me Miss Fix-It. Doing things for people is nice, even if you're just mixing them a Crown and Coke.

I see this new person emerging from the old, selfish, child-me. It's like I've said subconsciously to myself, "Ok it's your turn to be the grownup." That doesn't mean I'm not hip, though, darn it. I still like to listen to the White Stripes full blast while I clean things.

And I'll never give up my funky thrift store t-shirts and my Vans with the pink elephants on them, even when I do have kids. So there.


omar said...

You'll get the hang of it in no time. You may want to reconsider the aprons and hair curlers though. I find wearing curlers and an apron (simultaneously, of course) makes me feel brand new.

Seriously though, I had some transitional trouble when getting married also. I'd guess most couples who didn't previously live together do. I don't want to say it was difficult, but it was challenging at times. It got easier after a couple of months, when roles became more established. It was all very easy for a while, until we had a kid. Then you have to start all over again :)

Mad said...

I don't do the girly stuff either, but then I'm a guy. But a good marriage takes a lot of work. How do you be part of a couple yet maintain your individuality? You'll figure it our.

Jon said...

I don’t think life would be very fun if you didn’t get to redefine yourself over and over again. It would be too stagnant. An open mind and a serious lack of expectations can go a long way.

Gloria Glo said...

I think every woman has to deal with the inner conflicts of feminism. There is a part of caretaking that comes very naturally to a woman, but a lot of fear that indulging that piece of ourselves could result in a total loss of self. I truly think that failure to address this conflict has been one of the major failings of the feminist movement. Until women can be complete versions of themselves, we will never be able to call ourselves liberated.

Philosophy aside, I love the intricacy of adulthood so much more than I expected to as a girl. I get excited when I face a new challenge or need to erase an old belief. It's so much fun to reinvent yourself at every stage of the game.

girlspit said...

Reinventing oneself is definitely a necessity. I think we always have to check ourselves (before we wreck ourselves, of course). At least, I'm always striving to do better, be a better person.

Maybe I should re-think the curlers and apron. Donna Reed seemed to know what she was doing...

cadiz12 said...

just because you're not a martha-stewart wannabe doesn't mean you can't still be a fantastic part of the household. it's good that you can enjoy the new things but still hold on to what makes you you.

and smart move on divvying up the chores ahead of time.

Guyana-Gyal said...

Women here, in Guyana, are basically very traditional. Even if they have jobs [I've hardly heard a woman here say she has a 'career'] they still look after the children and husband. can I forget this...many women here who have jobs have maids who do the housework.

Housework CONSUMES women's time. A clean house is no. 1 priority. And food. Families ust have 3 cooked meals.

But there is a growing number of men now here [surprise surprise] who do help their wives. Clean windows, walls, sweep the house, go to the market... you have me thinking about 'readjustment' in relationships...

I lived in another country for a whole chunk of time, then returned to Guyana. And found, shock, horror...I had to readjust to people of my OWN culture, race, religion...I had to relearn how to live in a little fishbowl society. Phew.

I think in any sort of relationship it needs a sense of humour, loads of tolerance, realistic expectations, a sense of humour, sometimes just going with the flow, a sense of humour, communication and a sense of humour.

Dad said...

I once read a book by a science fiction author whose name now escapes me but at the time I thought he was wonderful. He lived in Nova Scotia or Newfoundland and there was a lot of detail in the writing about how one dealt with the cold.

Anyway, in one of the books he is lamenting the fact that his wife left him because, she said, "After six years of marriage, she had lost the ability to re-invent herself. What I took that to mean was that he knew her too well for her to try to be someone else. I recall thinking at the time that that is what had happened to my first wife.

I'm sorry I don't have much to add to the discussion about the duality of being a wife and working "outside the home" as the saying goes, but whatever role you find yourself in, losing the ability to re-invent yourself is one of the most debilitating things that can happen. One thing that divorce and the events that occurred thereafter have taught me is that it truly is better to have loved and lost or tried and failed or taken a chance and had it not work out than to never have loved or tried or taken the chance at all. After all, so far as know, we only go around once.

JumpUpMy said...

You will be surprised how quickly you can settle in the Happy Housewife routine. I never thought I would be "that kind of wife", or a wife for that matter, but after a very short period of time I found that I really love it. That's the reason I hate working now.....because I like taking care of my fella and a job gets in the way of that.

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