Who washes up?

2014-02-16 10:00

The extent to which housework is shared among genders is in the interest of domestic harmony.

It’s a lovely Sunday morning until I see the kitchen sink.

It’s a neatly packed pile of dishes and it looks clean until you pick up a plate and see food crusts.

Then I begin doing a mental count: I did them for most of the week and I’m pretty sure we agreed he would do them this weekend.

So I walk over to him calmly and say: “Hey baby, are these dishes washed ’cause, you know, there’s crap on this plate?”

“Huh?” He looks up from reading. “Oh, ja, I rinsed them so I could get them out of the way.” Then he goes back to reading.

(Breathe, Joonji, just breathe sisi?...)

“Aha, that’s very nice, but don’t you think it would have been easier if you just washed them then they would be packed and really out of the way?” (Smile) (Doesn’t look up) “Oh, sure I’ll do them now.”

(Starting to froth at the mouth) “You’ll do them now, as in right now or now-now?”

“I’ll do them.” (No sign of movement.)

(Lose the plot completely and stomp on over to the sink and do my bang-plates-as-I-wash-them routine until he takes over – or not.)

This time, he continues reading and I’m left seething.

Housework is a gender equality issue for me, and dishes are the ultimate symbol in that battle.

Maybe it’s because they are always there: how a teaspoon turns into a pile of dishes by evening.

Housework reminds me of my childhood weekends spent cleaning, scrubbing, washing and ironing.

Oh, and getting the belt for playing after school instead

of tidying up, and young women bent over sweeping the yard at six in the morning because that’s what good girls do.

There just seemed to be a never-ending list of chores we were somehow born into by virtue of us having vaginas. I hated it.

There must be better ways to waste my time. When I’m grown, I thought, I’m spending my weekends reading and sleeping in.

And mostly, I’ve lived up to that promise.

As an adult I realise being a working woman was much more difficult in the 1980s, when it took hours to get to work and there was a social contract that stipulated husbands did diddly–squat as regards housework.

At 30, my mum was a married mother of three girls.

That meant being up at the crack of dawn to prepare for school, crèche and work; and taking the train to work.

Back home in the evenings it was time to feed the kids and husband. As my mum likes to joke: “At your age, I already had three kids and your father.”

That left only the weekends to get the housework done. She hoped we would grow up to lessen the load, but we were, unfortunately, a very lazy trio.

Things got better – she got a washing machine and learnt how to drive.

Still, I’m in a much better place compared with my mother, and we pay for help once a week so I never have to iron my own shirts.

But most importantly, I married well.

I could have ended up with the guy, who after tasting my mother’s dombolo with corn, asked if I would make it for him because he loves it so much.

To this I said: “No, but you can ask my mother, I’m sure she can teach you.”

That did not go down well with him – and I wasn’t even making a feminist stand.

Personally, I think dombolo is overrated and I wasn’t prepared to spend my time kneading it.

I married a man who said “I love dombolo, how do you make it?” and he bought his own ingredients to make it himself.

And he does not expect me to cook and clean for him the same way I don’t expect him to pay for my hair and shoes.

I will concede to double standards, too. I don’t do the “manly stuff” of fixing things.

When the DVD player jammed the same weekend, I remained in my seat and checked my Twitter while he sorted it out.

But there is a huge difference between the daily drudgery of piling dishes and the hanging up of wet towels over the changing of the occasional light bulb.

Housework is crappy work. There is no value in jamming a fist in a mug to get to the coffee stain or cleaning the grooves of a fork. But it has to be done.

And I can’t help feeling that, even with all my advantage, I’m still doing most of it.

So how do I make it fair? Drawing up a list and divvying up the duties seems ludicrous.

And why can I just not wait until he does do them, which he does – eventually?

Is it stupid to make dishes an issue in a relationship when all it takes is just 20 minutes to clear them up?

I can’t figure out if it’s the housework I find offensive or what it represents – even though I don’t have a partner who expects me to do the dishes, I’m the one who still ends up doing them.

Maybe I should just do my bit of housework, and he does his, and we call it even-ish.

I don’t know.

I’ll have to let you know when I figure it out.

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