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Jewish World Review
Feb. 22, 2007
/ 4 Adar, 5767
Relationships can be such a chore
Whenever women's magazines poll their readers on the most common sources of conflict in relationships, the most frequent responses tend to be: A) "Lack of communication"; B) "money troubles"; and C) "Not enough help with household chores, like the way he always tosses dirty underwear on the hamper - not in the hamper, mind you, but on top of it. God only knows what would happen if he ever bothered to put his dirty clothes in the hamper itself. It's like he's afraid there's something alive in there that's going to reach out and grab him if he ever opens the lid. Which, considering how disgusting his jockey shorts get by the time he stops wearing them, he may actually be right about."
From these results one things is apparent: women's magazines need to stop providing so much space in their polls for write-in answers.
As to the chores issue, however, I asked my wife, who confirmed that many women do complain about the inequitable distribution of household responsibilities. Clearly, times have changed since the era when the husband's primary household task was to earn a living while the wife stayed home and took care of all the housework. Back then, of course, she had plenty of assistance, whether from a wisecracking maid or through witchcraft, depending whether your understanding of traditional American life comes from watching reruns of "The Brady Bunch" or "Bewitched."
Thankfully, in my home, we share all household chores equally. Take, for example, vacuuming. While my wife is responsible for getting out and putting away the vacuum cleaner, moving the furniture and performing the actual vacuuming, my job is to lift my legs as she comes by, while also increasing the volume on the TV so that I don't have to miss the football announcer breaking down the subtleties of the West Coast Offense.
Ha ha, I'm just kidding, of course. I would never suggest that what little housework I do is anywhere comparable to my wife's Herculean efforts to maintain our household, not with so many sharp knives lying around, anyway.
Some men claim ignorance as a defense of their perceived inattentiveness to household duties, often with some justification. I am thinking here specifically of my friend Gary, whom I shared a group house with during college. One night, our housemate Peggy, irritated that Gary rarely lifted a finger unless a remote control was involved, after dinner one night marched him into the kitchen after dinner and said, "You do the dishes." Gary stared dumbly for a moment at the sink overflowing with plates, silverware and pots, before saying, with complete sincerity, "Um, could you show me how?"
Laugh at Gary's cluelessness all you want Lord knows I do but the fact remains that many men avoid housework simply because they're afraid of the harm they might do. Truthfully, what husband hasn't caught hell for making a simple mistake like putting one of the "good" knives in the dishwasher, running a cashmere sweater through the dryer or, unable to locate any steel wool, improvising by scrubbing the pots and pans with a toilet brush?
Then again, if my wife is to be believed, the problem may just be genetic. The other day she shared with me one key difference she's observed between the way men and women respond when there's a cleaning task to be done. She explained, for example, that at a dinner party when one woman begins clearing dishes from the table, the other women present will almost always jump up to help. Men, by contrast, she says, often do not even notice that their plates have been removed, and as a result will frequently start jabbing their forks into the tablecloth.
"That's why it always amazes me that you can sit at the kitchen table reading the paper while I'm mopping or folding laundry," she added. "I could never imagine just relaxing like that while someone else is doing work right in front of me."
I offered to give her some pointers, and maybe even take her on a field trip to see how the experts working on road repair crews do it, but she said no, muttering something about me missing the point.
But I think she's the one missing the point. The women's magazines always offer suggestions on how to get men to do their share around the house essentially to cajole us into acting more like women. But wouldn't a better (and more realistic) solution be for women to start acting like men? Sure, overall household cleanliness might suffer, but without the housework issue dividing us, husbands and wives will finally have the time to sit down together and really work on that lack of communication.
To begin I suggest discussing a pressing topic that all husbands will agree requires greater attention: the West Coast Offense.
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JWR contributor Malcolm Fleschner is a humor columnist for The DC Examiner. Let him know what you think by clicking here.
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© 2006, Malcolm Fleschner