July 26th, 2012
My daughter sometimes points out hetero-normative behavior on the part of my husband and myself. Unfortunately even though I grew up with a cult and didn’t have the privilege of seeing the mash Americans make of families, the roles of fathers and roles of mothers, I did have some sort of set idea in my head of what men do and what women do. My husband grew up the youngest of a three children in a family that was traditional until he was in his early teens. Then he was on his own and since he never lived with his siblings again, I suppose that family was only traditional in the early days, but that seems to have been enough to cast him the hetero-normative role as well.
In many ways, we aren’t very “hetero.” My husband listens and he does cook. But I do the laundry and I like to have him make the final decision on things like what car to buy and whether to get a new water heater and how to take care of the sprinklers. We think of ourselves as being outside hetero-normative roles, but clearly we are not. Even when I see a gay couple, I will often wonder who is the “bossy one,” which for me means the male one.
So immersed am I in these roles that when I go to a house that is completely decorated by the man, I feel kind of weird like the woman is erased. My husband and I decorate the house together although he has good taste and I can’t even describe my own taste in home decorating, perhaps the word, “random,” is the best word I can think of, but I like to be involved. I want to appear in the house. I think a woman should appear here, there and everywhere.
I do the laundry because I don’t like anything spoiled. I have my ways. But I wouldn’t like it if I had to do all the cooking or shopping.
The role for men has changed drastically in the last fifty years while women have simply taken on more. Men used to be able to get away with just making the money. Now they must be emotionally available, they must undertake child care, they must listen to their wives and be willing to go to therapy with them if necessary. They must be good in bed, be good listeners, be adequate cooks, stay in shape, and be willing to take care of any problems that scare the wife.
Women’s roles used to be childcare and home care. Now we must also look stunning, stay in shape, go to the gym on a very regular basis, be wildly entertaining sex partners, great mothers, good cooks, and we need to make as much money as our spouse while not acting like we are the boss of anything. Be successful but don’t act uppity or you will piss of if not your husband, certainly other men.
It’s a lot of change for one generation but we women can handle it. The question is, can the men?