I’m not really a nagger – am I?
I grew up in an upper middle class liberal household. I read Betty Friedan, Simone de Beauvoir, Susan Faludi and listened to “Free To Be You and Me.” I know women have been treated unfairly for centuries at the hands of oppressive male-dominated societies.However, nearly seven months into my marriage, I have a different take on the reason for one of the age-old feminist sore points – the disproportionate distribution of household labor. Studies over the past several decades suggest that women spend an average of 39 more hours per week than their husbands planning and executing household chores. A quick assessment of the labor division in our home support those findings, but there’s no underlying societal factor to blame – I perform more domestic tasks than my husband Rick by choice. (Gloria Steinem would be proud. I think.)I don’t really fit the classic stereotype nagging wife: the woman with the crazy look in her eye and curlers in her hair (I have to imagine those things cause wicked headaches) wildly waving around a rolling pin (we might have rolling papers somewhere, but there’s nary pin in sight) while wearing a housecoat (does anyone born after 1952 own one of those?) and yelling at her husband for not taking out the trash or hanging up his wet towel. I probably get a crazy look in my eye from time to time, but I’ve come to learn that if I nag Rick, he, in fact, helps out more. Which, in turn, usually creates an additional 39 hours of work on the top of the first 39 undoing and then redoing everything that he’s done.Rick washes the dishes once in a while, but he never puts them away afterwards. He used to leave them to dry on the counter for a day or five, saying that air drying is much more effective than using a dishtowel. Up until a few months ago, he said he didn’t realize he was supposed to put them away, which I took to mean that he believed in the dish fairy. You know, the pretty little nymph who magically appears when everyone’s asleep and puts away the pots and pans with just a wave of her wand and a little sprinkling of pixie dust, all the while with a big smile on her face. Soon after I killed that myth (and with it Rick’s final bit of innocence), I discovered that the only thing worse than him not putting the dishes away is when he puts them away. Even though he finds what he wants in the kitchen when he needs it, he never puts things back where he found them. Which means I have to get into his brain to figure out where everything has gone. He once thought the knives belonged not in the knife block, but in the drawer with the cutting board. Which, I suppose, has its own twisted logic, since he always uses them together.To be fair, Rick is happy to help out around the house. (Alright, “happy” may be a bit too strong. “Willing” is probably a touch more accurate.) But when his solution to helping keep the floor clean is taking off his muddy sneakers and placing them sole-side down on the dining room table or our off-white duvet cover, I’m not always so sure that his help is required or desired.Rick offers to cook somewhat regularly, but unless I’m in the mood for tacos (which is rare) or red beans and rice (which is never), I usually choose to grab the reins in the kitchen. There was the time not long ago, however, when I arrived home, opened the front door and so much smoke came pouring out that I tried to determine if, (A) we had inherited a fog machine, (B) he was practicing making a Halloween punch with dry ice, or (C) wildfire season had arrived early. As it turns out, Rick had been cooking hamburgers on the stove and didn’t think to spray a little Pam in the pan – he figured the burgers would be good if they cooked in their own grease. He also failed to notice that when they were done cooking, there was no grease left in the pan because it had splattered on every available surface within a 4-mile radius. When I asked if he planned on cleaning the grease, he said no; he thought a little grease might actually do some good. Because, apparently, the walls needed a good lubing. Crumbs on the countertop, in his opinion, are best dealt with by brushing them discretely onto the floor. He thinks gobs of toothpaste in the sink magically disintegrate, even if they’re out of reach of the water stream. He’d unpack the groceries, he says, but he knows that I’m just so good at it. Laundry on the floor is simply easier for him to get to than when it’s put away in drawers. In his mind, under the bed is a much more practical storage solution for old newspapers than the recycling bin. It’ll take care of itself, he always says. To which I inevitably reply, “Nice to meet you. I’m It.”The thing is that Rick is the very picture of organization, time management and resourcefulness outside the house. Which is why it makes no sense that at home every sock ceases being part of a pair – forever – the moment it comes off his foot, unless I’m there to stage a coupling intervention.My third-grade teacher had a sign that hung behind her desk, “If you think there’s not enough time to do it right, think how much time it takes to do it over.”In our case it should read, “If you think there’s not enough time to do everything yourself, think how much time it’ll take to undo and redo everything your husband has done.” And when you look at it that way, 39 hours a week doesn’t seem that bad.E-mail questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.