HALLIE: Never mind What Would Betty Do, what would she think? We may be marching in a post-feminist age, but when my husband was packing up for a two-week trip and I realized I’d have to put out the garbage and mow the lawn, I found myself complaining, “But that’s men’s work.”
We have pretty strict divisions of labor. I shop for food and cook. Jerry loves eating (oh yeah, he does the dishes, too). I throw things away when they’re broken; Jerry retrieves them from the garbage and fixes them. Jerry navigates. I drive and yell, "Wasn't I supposed to turn there?"
Clearly, in this household at any rate, there’s men’s work and there’s ladies’ work.
From about the age of three, my daughter Molly had gender differences nailed. My husband was shaving in the bathroom, and Molly was there by his side, standing on a stool so she could herself in the mirror, her face slathered with soap bubbles. As she scraped off the suds with tongue depressor, she said dreamily, “Men shave. Ladies chew gum.”
At the time, it seemed like quite the epiphany.
How do you divvy up the work in your household, and how post-feminist is it?
JAN: We're not especially post-feminist here. I grew up with three older brothers, so its hard for me to even consider taking out the trash. Also because I like to cook, I cook. And because Bill likes to clean, he cleans.
I do all the paperwork -- paying bills, getting taxes organized, handing health insurance -- and he does all the heavy lifting. The cars, the garage, the basement, and the yard, are all his domain.
He also does his own laundry and my daughter and I have actually had to put signs on the hampers and machines forbidding him do do our laundry. (he turns everything pink or shrinks it.) The man has so much energy, he's tough to stop.
HANK: We're so post feminist, I almost feel guilty. Jonathan does too much. Which is maybe, post post feminist.
And I think writing my books started it all. Time I used to spend doing house things (minus dusting, which gets done on Fridays by the wonderful Susan) is now spent in front of the computer. As a result, Jonathan has a choice: either he can do the laundry, or no one will do the laundry. I do fold it, though, usually at 11 pm while I'm multi-tasking and watching the news.
Trash? Is funny, isn't it? When I lived by myself all those years, I was fine taking it out. Now, married, like Jan, it wouldn't cross my mind to do it. Cooking? I cook dinners (or, during book writing, figure out dinner, which may mean Paddy's Grill or Whole Foods actually cooks it.) Jonathan's in charge of dnner on Thursdays. Which is such a wonderful treat.
There was a bat in our house last week. I cowered, Jonathan got rid of it. He handles bugs and broken things. I handle birthday presents and family-occasion remembering. Social engagements. Grocery shopping in about four different stores. (A topic for anoother day!) Interior decorating. Home organization. Medical things.
Jonathan drives. I'm the designated heckler of other drivers. ("Hey, moron, don't even think of turning in front of us!")
How do we decide how to divvy it up? We never decided. It just was. That's nice.
ROBERTA: This is an interesting topic, though it makes me feel guilty too. Didn't we come of age during the time when we women were told we could do anything? then why am I willing to turn the finances over to John, also majority of the driving, and calling unpleasant home repair people. As you might remember, we're having major work done on our house this summer (yes they're STILL here.) The head man is very sweet and willing to talk with me about procedural questions, but he won't act on anything until he's talked to John.
John was worried that if something happened to him, I'd be lost with money matters. But now that I'm handling my father's affairs--plenty complicated--we both feel a little better: I could do it all if I had to, I just prefer not. And though I do most of the cooking, John manages to cook while I'm away, so I guess he'd be ok too:)
RO: I'm tempted to say that Bruce makes the money and I spend it, but that would make me sound like a princess and we know that's not true. But I AM the one to say that the oven doesn't work and we need a new one. Or the fence is falling down...you get the picture. So in that respect I am the spender. He could - happily - live in a house that was crumbling all around him and as long as he had his New Yorker and a glass of scotch he wouldn't notice.
From March through October, I don't cook. Bruce grills or makes salads while I work in the garden (or these days on the computer) until he yells "are you thinking about food?" If he's out of town, it's not unusual for me to hang on the refrigerator door and stare until something reveals itself to me. In the winter I cook and bake.
I pay the bills, deal with lawn boy, pool man, tree guy, contractor, tile man, etc. I am also the official pillow arranger and furniture mover - two roles that are are neverending chez Harris. There was an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm when Larry raged on about all the pillows in his home and a hush fell over our living room. I have a lot of pillows.
Bruce is The Cleaner, as in he removes any creature in the house - living or dead - that is not our dog. He gets a LOT of extra points for doing this.
When pressed, Bruce will clean the garage or his office. It generally goes something like this "next weekend I'm going to clean the garage." Then he mentions it about a dozen times before doing it, while doing it and after doing it, to extend the experience. In the words of Colin Powell "tell 'em what you're gonna tell 'em. Tell 'em. Tell 'em what you told 'em." Bruce travelled a bit with CP on his book tour and took this lesson to heart.
Everything else we do together. That way I can correct him.
HALLIE: Jan, in our house I'm banned from doing my husband's laundry as penance for turning it pink...again. And Hank, wish I could've witnessed the bat--sounds like the escaped lobster in "Annie Hall." Roberta, yes, isn't it amazing how we can all do "men's work" when we have to. And I'm with you, Ro. Correcting 'em is definitely "ladies' work" for this crew, though we *may* be a slightly skewed sample.