How to be a super-bitch
Meredith Carroll’s column in last Saturday’s paper, “I’m not really a nagger – am I?,” triggered a wave of husband memories, the first being of me, eight and a half months pregnant, hovering over a 12-foot hole that Burt was digging in preparation for the erection of an elaborate double A-frame edifice on our homestead in Alaska, he looking furiously up at me from the depths of the hole, snarling that the “cabin” would be finished before Skye was born if I’d just stop BITCHING at him.Fast forward three years to 1966 and we are in Aspen, the “cabin” in Alaska left behind with six pilings in the ground, and we (now four, with the addition of our daughter Hillery) are living in an old Victorian on Hopkins Avenue and a mound of trash and garbage is accumulating under the shelter of our back porch, which Burt keeps promising to take to the dump (where the public pool is now) if I’ll just stop NAGGING him. I cannot exaggerate the state of that maggoty garbage when he returned to Alaska and I called the trash collectors.At the time of my two marriages, in the decade spanning the late ’50s and ’60s, there was a clear delineation between “women’s work” and “men’s work.” Women cooked, took care of the children, kept the house spotless, and IRONED as well as, in my case (except when we were living in the wilderness and I was washing diapers in melted snow and sawing off chunks of frozen moose meat for dinner) working full time.”Men” tended to the vehicles, shoveled snow, dealt with the trash (har), turned on pilot lights, chopped the wood, did all the driving and “shouldered the responsibility.”That this was not “fair” wasn’t even an issue in those days. I accepted it, grudgingly, though neither Gil (my first) nor Burt were exactly bringing home the bacon, and I quickly learned that requests (nagging) for assistance from either husband were doomed to failure.”Hey, I’ll cook dinner” (if you’ll just stop bitching at me). “How do you turn on the oven? Where’s the spatula? Where have you hidden the salt? Hand me the pot holder!” and when all was said and done we sat before the charred remains with the kitchen looking as if a tornado had struck it, leading to the inevitable declaration that since HE had done the cooking, it was of course up to ME to handle the cleaning-up.Ladies, this is the oldest trick in the book, learned at the knees of their fathers: agree to help and then screw up so magnificently that you’re never asked again. “It’s easier to do it myself,” you fume to yourself so loudly that you can’t hear the faint chuckle of triumph.Though now and then I’d love to have what Bailey White called, “something like a husband” to get into the spidery crawl space and turn off the water main during an unexpected flood, I’m pretty much done with the husband scene, but I have to hand it to the women who have come up with the answer to a small part of the distribution of labor in the household which is, wait for it:The grillThe grill used to be an outdoor device consisting of a layer of charcoal sprayed with lighter fluid and all things cooked upon it tasting of same, which has now been refined with canisters of natural gas, making it the perfect alternative to greasy frying or sautéing indoors.If only these spiffy gas grills had been in vogue during my marital years – even Burt would cook outdoors when we were camping because it was such a Manly Thing to crank up the Coleman stove or throw a steak on the fire (it was NOT a manly thing to cook on our wood stove in Alaska, which went from 200 to 400 degrees if you added a match stick).Who would have thought that grilling would become such a male bonding social event that women, instead of being relegated to the kitchen, can now toss a salad and sit tossing back a few martinis, while the men swelter over a hot grill and stamp inside, exasperated because dinner is ready and no one’s waiting at the table.Su Lum is a longtime local who thinks that cave women had it figured out. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times.
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