Tuesday, 26 April 2011

One of Seraphic's Top Commandments

It was rather shocking, really. After [a certain supper party], I was asked by a hopeful bachelor if I would like to return in the morning and wash the glassware. Taken aback, I did not do much more than smile politely and think idly of what my husband might have to say if I did.


Personally, I enjoy a good blether with handsome young men over a hot soapy sink of dishes, but the politics of doing a-man-not-my-husband's dishes are so fraught with horror that I don't really know where to start.

My mother, who was at university in the 1960s, was generally tolerant about her non-religious friends sleeping with their boyfriends, but what really horrified her was the idea of "doing a man's laundry without benefit of clergy" which one of her girl friends actually did do.

Indeed, there does seem to be something seriously and fundamentally wrong with doing men's chores for them for free. If it is your job, and you are paid, well, carry on. But to do a wife's jobs--any of a wife's jobs--for a man when you are not married to him or related to him by blood is almost always demeaning. Yes, I make exceptions for the very old or the very ill, particularly if you have no romantic interest in Mr. Old or Mr. Ill whatsoever. But in general, uh uh.

So with all those "ifs" and "except", here is one of my top commandments for women: Never do housework for a man to whom you're neither related nor married.

Yes, it can be tempting. Yes, it's a nice thing to do. Yes, everybody loves Betty better than Veronica (except, ahem, Archie). Don't do housework for men for free. You'll regret it.


leonine said...

AMEN. And under "housework," let us also include cooking. Hosting the periodic dinner party? Fine. Routinely providing food? Not fine. I figure out that one the hard way...

leonine said...

That's supposed to be *figured. Whoops.

dark but fair said...

I do not even understand why those bachelor fellows ask us ladies to do those things for them. It just screams, "I can't take care of myself, even though I am a grown man. I consider the things I am too lazy to do as 'women's work'. My presumption is a result of YEARS of taking women for granted. If you go out with me I will be a cheap date. If I court you I will expect you to cook and clean as if we were married. If I ever marry you (which is highly unlikely) I will never lift a finger to help around the house."

Gentlemen, please...don't even ask. You just make yourselves look bad.

MaryBeth said...

I agree, Seraphic. But, it makes me wonder...should I not ask a man to change a tire or take care of a mouse?


Cordi said...

Seraphic, what do you think of men washing the dishes of the girls they socialize with? That's usually what happens in my circle, and I think there are few things more charming than a man who, after a dinner party, and without being asked, starts washing the dishes, and smilingly refuses when you ask him to leave them for you.

sciencegirl said...

My 2 cents re: asking men for extraordinary favors.

I see a difference between helpfulness, emergency assistance, and tedious chores a spouse would do out of love and duty. As an example of just helping, I would edit a friend's paper or stir a friend's pot of soup while he stepped out of the kitchen for a moment. Women can & should help in surprise emergencies. If my male or female friend tripped and spilled the pot of soup all over the floor, I would help mop it up. I would not, however, offer a general cooking, cleaning, or mending service.

I would ask myself: does the favor involve going over to the other person's house, or is the matter a pressing one right in front of you? Would you provide this favor for absolutely anyone, or would you only do it because you have romantic feelings for the person?

I would say that a flat tire is a surprise emergency and any man who helps is a nice gentleman. If the man is a passenger in your car, he'd better not just sit there! He could at least loosen the lug nuts for you. If no volunteers are around, it is possible to hire skilled mechanics to fix your tire. By "take care of" a mouse, I assume you mean kill it & not care for your pet mouse over the holidays. Killing mice is a tedious chore involving laying traps or poison and disposing of tiny corpses. It's not difficult, just gross & depressing, so I would suggest it be done only by you or by a hired exterminator.

Seraphic said...

One of my other top commandments is that men and women are not the same.

I am staggered that in 2011, when I say "women shouldn't do X" people still wonder "but what about men?" What is this, 1977? Apples and oranges, people!

It is never degrading for a man to help a woman fix a flat tire or to save her from a mouse. Men like to be useful, and few insights makes them happier than realizing they can do stuff women (or that woman, anyway) can't do.

However, I would think twice about constantly calling up the same man to fix things around the house, because then he might suspect you are romantically interested in him. It doesn't take much.

Men washing the dishes right after women cook is a very nice way of acknowledging and thanking the women for the food and extending the party. Outside of family dinners, I haven't seen this since university.

Men have a lot of social status. I don't know if you've noticed it. Men can demean themselves around other men, and most of them are very, very careful not to do that.

But it is not so easy for men to demean themselves around women. Act like jerks, tyrannize, intrude---yes. Be demeaned, not so much. That is why it is so charming when they get on their knees to propose. It's the humblest thing they can do.

It is a mark of virtue for men to temporarily take on a servant's role because it corrects the male-female imbalance in society. However, it is not a mark of virtue for a women to take on a servant's role (except in the context of her paid work, family or religious order): it only makes men despise them.

So many women love to wait on men they're not related or married to because it makes them feel closer to these objects of their ardour. It's so naive about the way men's brains work that it makes me sad and almost ashamed to be a woman.

Jess said...

I wish I had read this sooner. I definitely, definitely regret the cooking, cleaning, and laundry-doing. I thought I was being helpful and domestic, but really, I was just letting myself be used and acting like his mother.