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Cooking with Martyr Stewart

Why traditional couples weird me out

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I guess I'm truly a part of modern society because I'm always weirded out when I see traditional couples. Of course, I don't find it strange when couples that are my grandmother's age behave traditionally. Both of my grandmothers cooked and raised the kids, while my grandfathers were the breadwinners although my grandmothers both had jobs outside the home in addition to their household responsibilities.It never fails to surprise me, though, when I meet people my age who keep so strictly to these traditional, outdated rules of behavior. It's possible that I'm completely out of the loop, but I think most modern couples tend to share household responsibilities, rather than relegating everything to the wife. This likely has something to do with the fact that both the husband and wife work. Although studies have shown that even in couples in which both partners work the wife tends to have more household responsibilities, husbands do typically share in duties like cooking and cleaning. At least in most cases.

There are some throwbacks wandering around, however. One such female throwback recently dazzled me with stories of her fabulous, caring husband who on one night when she was really, really tired, having worked all day (as she does everyday), conceded to making dinner for the two of them. Obviously, the man deserves a freaking medal. Does the Kraft company, makers of macaroni and cheese, a favorite of the incompetent male cook, give Purple Hearts to selfless husbands who consent to combine cheese powder and milk one evening per month?

I'm probably giving off the wrong vibe here, really. I could care less how other people live their lives, and if women want to bust their asses working to provide for their families and then come home and take care of every blessed thing in the house in repayment for a Saturday afternoon of lawn care, that's certainly their business. I firmly believe everybody should have ample opportunity to screw up his or her life in whatever way he or she sees fit. And I suppose there are a few women who really enjoy playing house, and I hope they have a great time.

I know it's not real life, but there's this J.C. Penney's commercial playing on television right now that drives me up the wall. It's a father trying to take care of his child, while the mom is out shopping. "Where is your mother?" he cries in despair, completely incapable of feeding a child for an hour or two. Are there people who find this commercial appealing? It's not as though children are like snakes and require regular feedings of live mice.

It's not really the husband who makes me the maddest, though. It's the wife. Clearly, she has her "One Day Only Sale" to enjoy, but is that it? Is that all she ever wants to do? Even more than I hate people playing up their spouses like they're the greatest thing since frozen TV dinners (Look, honey! I made dinner!), I hate the reason they're playing them up. It's really a very subtle wile. They play up some dumb feat of their husband's, like cooking dinner one night or washing one load of laundry, as though that makes him as heroic as Mel Gibson in Braveheart. But secretly, everyone thinks: "That poor thing. It's about time she had a break from cooking/doing the laundry for that man! He just doesn't appreciate her." And they end up thinking she's some kind of heroine. A very clever ploy.

A very clever ploy that makes me sick to my stomach. You're not a heroine if all you do is sit around the house cooking and cleaning in hopes of inspiring sympathy from your fellow human beings. And if you go around telling people stupid stories like that, then you're probably the exact opposite of a brave heroine: a pathetic loser.

Ironically, the people who always tell terrible stories highlighting the stupidity or cowardice or lack of skill of their spouses are usually the ones who actually care for their spouses the most. They may tell other people these kinds of stories, but you'd better believe they wouldn't tolerate anybody else saying such mean things about their spouses. Meanwhile, the little wives who sit around saying how great their husbands are secretly hate their husbands' guts and resent every minute they spend folding linens or peeling potatoes. They're the ones who wind up leaving their husbands and running off with guys they met on the internet.

This is not in any way an indictment of people who choose to stay home and be housewives. If doing so makes you happy, and I've known both women and men who are very happy being housewives or househusbands, then live it up! Clean that toilet!

But I see too many people, who tend to be women, who live in a traditional role that entraps them and saps the life from them. They turn to these complicated ploys because if they just "fessed up and admitted that they were unhappy, many of us would tell them to join the modern world and change their lives. How ironic and sad that in the age of feminism, it's not men who hold women back but women themselves.

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