Friday, October 17, 2014

On Men, Love and Politics

Not so long ago I was having an issue with my car, some minor inconvenience I did not want to deal with, and said to my 30 year old son, mostly sarcastically, “Man, I sure wish I had a boyfriend who would deal with this shit.” 

And My Son Who I Adore stopped walking, came back to my car and leaned in, and with all the seriousness he could muster, looked me in the eye and said, “Ma, that boyfriend you’re wishing for would probably love a home cooked meal in exchange.”  And he gave me THAT LOOK.

I laughed at him and his comment, and at his knowledge of me as a non-happy chef/domestic goddess, but the truth of it filled me with dread.  I decided right then I am probably better off just staying single, because if that’s the bargain I have to make – a meal for some car repair - somebody’s going to get short changed (The Guy) and somebody else is going to cop a big fat resentment (me).  

But my little car dilemma has pointed out the fallacy in my thinking. I mean, I’m apparently walking around with the delusion that most men like to fix shit.  Not all of them do. I mean, I knew a man once who said his favorite tool was his cell phone because he could use it to fix anything – plumbing, electrical problems, auto repair.

And then there is the question I’ve been asked recently, right in the middle of a date, which proves that some men also walk around with delusional thinking.  And the question is this:

“So…do you like to cook?”

Each time I’m asked this, I know it spells doom for any possibility of a budding relationship, and signals a deep divide between my worldview and his worldview. And just for the record, I would never ask a man while on a date, “So…do you like to fix shit?”

The question of my enjoyment of cooking seems harmless on the surface and a way to get to know me, but I dread this question.  I’m sure if I were a woman who actually liked to cook I might welcome it, anticipate it, and answer it with an enthusiastic yes, maybe even ask what his favorite dish is. But for someone like me who does not particularly enjoy it, who is mediocre at it at best, it’s a loaded question.  And it’s loaded not just because I am not at my best in the kitchen, or with anything related to domesticity, but because of what it says about the man asking it and what he might expect from me if something developed between us, and in truth, about how inadequate I feel in this area of life.  Domestic goddess I am not.  Cooking just takes so much time! And so does housecleaning! And food shopping!

I mean, really, I was raised with the idea that women have far better things to do with their time than cook and clean and shop. This belief is both a curse and a blessing.  It’s a blessing because I know I have value to offer the world and to other people beyond what I can do for them on a physical plane – I mean, I am more than a woman who has clean, folded towels at the ready, some yummy treat I’ve saved in the freezer just for your visit, or the proud owner of a clean floor you can walk on barefoot (full disclosure here: I am not now this person and probably never will be).

But it’s been a curse because when I am engaged in either of those activities, cooking or cleaning or food shopping, I feel slightly demeaned and resentful, because instead of being cooped up with domestic chores, I believe I should be out on a long hike, or ministering to some lost person’s soul, or you know, frolicking in some other way that women are now allowed and encouraged to go do.  And the additional aspect of this curse is the noticeable lack of clean towels for guests (which are few and far between anyway), the empty fridge, and the existence of that floor you should definitely not walk barefoot on.

The last guy who asked me the ‘Do you like to cook’ question was someone I was very attracted to, physically speaking, and I maybe wouldn’t have minded cooking for him once in a while if it ever came to that. And because of that attraction, I was initially willing to overlook a few things in the interest of, um, fun.  But this was a man who, as it turns out, defines himself as a ‘redneck.’  This is hard to fathom, since the man grew up in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, so how redneck could he truly be?  What’s a redneck, anyway? I looked it up:  Southern, white, and uneducated.   Yet when he told me this little tidbit about himself, my first question was, “OK…so does this mean you know how to use a chainsaw?”  

His answer was yes, of course he can use a chainsaw.  I confess I appreciate this skill in a man, on a visceral level, despite the fact that I don’t have any real need for it in my daily life - and as a side note, I think it would be wonderful if this was how men feel about women cooking.

And when he asked me while we were playing pool what I think about guns, I realized his ‘do you like to cook’ question and his self-definition as a redneck (and um, his Harley, did I mention the Harley?) was maybe part and parcel of something bigger going on.  Like maybe some kind of agenda for his potential lady friends, some big old hoops I was maybe going to be expected to jump through.  But my answer to him was, “Oh, I don’t have a problem with guns… as long as they’re not pointed at me.”

He just laughed.  

This was a new experience for me, dating a gun owner, a person with the worldview of a gun owner.  I mean, every Saturday morning I hang out with a stable and welcoming crew of truly wonderful people – mostly men, a couple of women.  These are bright, articulate, witty, gentle, kind, progressive, open-minded, affectionate, thoughtful people. We have a lot of laughs and give a lot of hugs and our conversations range from the truly mundane to the deeply spiritual.  So if any of them announced during our Saturday morning coffee time at Starbucks that they’d bought a gun, I would assume they’d suffered some recent trauma – a home invasion, a car jacking, a school shooting – that had twisted their worldview from one of relative safety and benevolence to one of danger and evil.  None of them would buy a gun simply to exercise their right to own one, or to ward off some impending doom.  It would be a reaction to something really, really bad and really, really scary that had already happened, not something really bad and scary that could happen at any moment because the world is a bad and scary place.  Do you see the difference? And I am pretty sure they are mostly not stuck on playing specific gender-based roles in their respective relationships, at least not in any conscious ‘this-is-how-it’s-supposed-to-be’ kind of way, as if any other way was wrong.   But my redneck friend is pretty much a walking cliché and owns a gun because ‘you never know what might come in the front door.’  I feel sort of sad for him, living life behind his armored heart (and that is a subject for another blog post).

Anyway, during our last telephone conversation, my redneck friend with the completely divergent worldview began channeling Archie Bunker on steroids with a large dose of Rush Limbaugh thrown in for good measure. This was a very painful, disheartening experience for me [sniff] and told me everything I needed to know about him, to wit: that I would be much better off never allowing him to come through my front door again (the one and only time he did was to pick me up for our date). I mean, for a woman like me who is not domestically inclined and who is deeply progressive, a statement like this: “You know what’s wrong with this country, this disaster of a country? You know what fucked it up royally? Well, I’ll tell you:  The loss of the American housewife.” ….well, that kind of statement perfectly highlights without any ambiguity that he and I don’t even inhabit the same planet, never mind have a similar worldview. That kind of statement just simply spells….d-o-o-m.