Monday, 16 September 2013

Don't Be His Cooky-Baking Slave

It is a brand new year on campus, so I think it high time I write another post admonishing you all not to bake boys cookies, make them dinner, do their laundry, tidy their disgusting rooms and all those other things some of you do for free, to be "nice."

How well I remember my first High School Party with Boys. It was way across town at the house of a girl who was not very popular at my school, but she seemed nice enough, so I went to this party, and across the room from a few shy girls was a sniggering group of Bad Boys. At 14 I had all the social smarts of a four year old, so I was quite terrified of these boys. They were discussing some girl I didn't know, and I have never forgotten the breathless excitement of the one who exclaimed, "I hear she gives, man. She gives."

What this girl was believed to give I would rather have died than ask, but I am sure it wasn't chocolate chip cookies. And whatever it was that this girl gave (if she really did), it clear was that her generosity wasn't something that brought her respect.

Well, you might be saying, obviously. That's sex stuff. Although it is now The Most Important Thing in the World ™, we know men don't respect women who offer or give up their favours generously and indiscriminately. We know men never have conversations that go like this: "Wow. So-and-so is a great girl. She never lets a guy go without, no matter who he is or how lousy he treats her. Respect." "I hear you, man. The man who marries her will be really lucky. And she'll make a great mother, too." "You bet. She's a living saint." We know that doesn't happen.

Because knowledge of this strange male reaction to getting The Most Important Thing in the World™ for free was hammered into young women's head from the beginning of human sentience until the 1960s, it does not come as a surprise. What does come as a surprise--indeed, often as a nasty shock--is that there are all kinds of generous deeds that backfire.

These include baking cookies for a guy who hasn't as much as bought you dinner, making a special dinner for a guy who isn't even your boyfriend, doing the laundry for a man who tells you he doesn't understand how, and getting on your hands and knees to clean his messy place. In short, anything that Single men used to hire servants to do.

If you are the same age as some guy, you can never be his mother. And you probably don't want him to think of you as his mother, as that would be weird. If you really, really like him, and have honourable intentions, then you probably want him to see you as a potential wife and mother to his kids. And what better way to do that, you think, than some wifely and motherly activities like baking, cooking, laundering....

But strangely no woman goes to the altar dressed in an apron holding a bouquet of wooden spoons and toilet brushes. No. Most brides go to the altar dressed like princesses. Some dress as fairy princesses. Some dress as Hollywood princesses. Some, e.g. the ones in red, dress as rock'n'roll princesses. Some dress as Personifications of the Christian Church as the Bride of Christ. And why? Because men want to marry princesses, not servants*, and deep down we know that. Our mistake is thinking that a woman can simultaneously serve a man and be his princess without him being totally in love with her first.

Meanwhile, I know how tempting it is to do all that cooking, baking, cleaning and blah blah because I love to do it for guests--especially young guests whom I can pretend are my children home from college. But socially I can get away with it only because (A) everyone knows you have to be extra-nice to guests not related to you by blood and (B) I am way old and married and totally non-eligible. And if I don't get at least a bread-and-butter note, I get mad, a truth which cannot be too widely known.

*Occasionally men have married their housekeepers. Laicised priests, for a more contemporary example. Those housekeepers earned wages, though. They weren't scrubbing for love.


Julia said...

I've never heard about young women I know doing household chores or cooking for young men (unless they're in de facto marriages with, or related to, those men). And actually, the idea of a woman doing household stuff for a guy who isn't her husband (or male relative), even if he is her boyfriend or fiancé, creeps me out a bit.

I don't get why girlfriends take their boyfriends shopping to get them shirts or shoes. What is this? Once a friend of mine got herself all worried that her boyfriend might catch a cold if he went out without a coat or something. What the flip is going on here? I'm sorry, I just don't get it. Maybe I'm a heartless cow. If Mr Boyfriend doesn't have a decent pair of shoes or doesn't care if he catches a cold, I don't see why Miss Girlfriend needs to make that her problem.

TRS said...

Hmm. I'm one of those who went overboard in the housekeeping department for an ex.
In my mind, it was partly because he had a nice place, if only it was clean... I can't stand to see dishes and pans in the sink or on the counter when they could be in the dishwasher! Grr. So I just cleaned it!
In retrospect it was partly because, I got laid off from my job about 5 months in to our relationship, and had the time. I also wanted to see that I was a worker, since I was having trouble getting work.

Ultimately, he resented what I did for him. Because essentially I was putting myself in the position of wife when he hadn't asked. So there you go.
Don't do that.

In my defense, he was the first catholic man I had found to date in YEARS, and I was 38 and felt THIS HAS TO BE IT! If I come out of this relationship single I shall be a failure. He must be the one for me.

Silly woman. God has something better in store. No idea what, but I know I dodged a bullet not marrying that guy!

Jackie said...

This is only tangentially related, but I can't help but remember the advice I received upon starting my business:

People NEVER respect what they get for free. Like it, yes, and will *gladly* take everything you offer. 'Cause, hey, free stuff! But respect it and/or you? HIGHLY UNLIKELY.

Ironically, as this person advised me, the higher I raised my rates, the better treatment ensued. Self-respect: Use it or lose it!

The value and worth you have in yourself and your work sets the stage for how people will treat you. I think that in business, like personal relationships, people want to be with someone who has self-respect.

Unfortunately, our culture does not have a lot of healthy messages about respect and so one has to go against the grain, which can be pretty challenging sometimes.

Julia said...

TRS, thanks for the explanation (and for politely ignoring my exasperated tone!). :)

Since I'm in my early twenties, most of the men I know are as well. And, like me, many of them still live with their families, which isn't uncommon in Australia, and it's not really seen as weird or as a problem, but I guess I can just wonder what these guys actually do for themselves when they not only live with their mums but have girlfriends hovering about too.

Pearlmusic said...

Julia: I think Christian women are especially prone to do such things, as we're encouraged to service, charity and so on. Some women are tempted to show the best of us regarding household, because they think they'll show themselves as marriage material and win men's heart this way. "Przez żołądek do serca", we say in Polish, this meaning "Through stomach to the heart [of a man]".

But just as men often pressure to have sex before marriage, women seem to perform other marriage activities before they actually marry and often don't see anything wrong in it because they think it's a very noble thing, unlike premarital sex.

I've had this problem too, but not as much with cooking and cleaning, for I never did such things for men I was hoping to marry. My issue is (hopefully, was) being a free "therapist" for them. It was so innocent in my view, as I just wanted to be supportive and prove to be this good girl they'd been waiting for. Needless to say, I ended up heartbroken.

My, oh my. Had I realized earlier that I'm doing stuff people are normally paid for, it would have saved me so much pain.

Julia said...

Pearlmusic, I'm sorry about your heartbreak. Men don't really tell me super-personal stuff. One time one of my guy friends tried to tell me about his girlfriend problems. He actually tried to get me to READ AN EMAIL SHE HAD SENT HIM. "No way," I said, and that was that. You know, I really like his girlfriend. She's awesome. And reading her emails is not my business. Also, she used to be a uni tutor of mine.

It's so cool that real Polish people read this blog! Because now my Babcia Stories have some context. We have the saying "The way to a man's heart is through his stomach" in English too, and although I've never heard my Babcia come out with that in either English or Polish, she has expressed grandmotherly concern for my lack of housewifely skills (although she hasn't brought it up in awhile).

But really, my skills aren't that bad, Babcia! I keep myself and my dwelling place clean. I can cook, and although I don't have a huge repertoire of dishes, I have more than a clue about nutrition. I don't bake though. I haven't lived in a house with a working oven since 2008.

I think I'm fine by Australian standards (hey, who wants a kangaroo steak?), but who knows, I'd probably be a dismal failure by Polish cooking standards! :)

Seraphic said...

Polish cooking is easy. What you do is get a Polish recipe, carefully translated into English, and then follow it to the letter. (Yes, 3 whole Tablespoons of marjoram is normal.)Then you feed it to homesick Poles.

British people keep asking me if I'm not scared to cook Polish food for Polish people. I don't really get this. Maybe it's from their experience of tea made by Americans or something, or what Americans used to tell them about their coffee. At any rate, Poles have never been rude about my cooking, and unlike the British they don't believe in polite lies.

I say, cook up some lovely Polish food for Babcia! If she complains, well... Complaining will amuse her.