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The dark side of the moon: Confession of a househusband The dark side of the moon: Confession of a househusband
by Alexander Mikhaylov
2008-05-25 09:05:59
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I feel genuinely sorry for my wife who, when being asked this simple question ‘And what your husband does?’ is always struggling with a right answer. The honest reply to such an inquiry would be ‘Why, he is a househusband’. That is who I am. There is no beating around the bush. Yet this is not something we would admit freely. You see, there are conventions one must observe. After all, ours is the society where the legend of bread winning man and house-proud woman is still alive and well. I wish it wouldn’t be so. To me it is simply a lie. And yet…

Perhaps one would say I am a good for nothing guy. Perhaps some would label me as a queer. A lazy bastard… A manipulator… A leech… And so on… ‘Don’t you have a real profession?’ ‘Couldn’t you come up with something better to do?’ ‘I’d never met anyone who has been lacking all ambitions, like you do.’ It seems that I’ve heard it all.

Of course, besides being a househusband I am also an inspiring writer (you might insert your ironic smile here, if you like). Naturally, the term ‘an inspiring writer’ can mean any number of things. It has become something of the euphemism, even. Mine brand of ‘inspiring writer’ is the guy who writes every day, completing one book and starting on another, being published on various literary websites (for free), and for better or worse hopes to see some monetary return for his labors sometime in a future.

In a meantime, my wife earns all the money we live on. By the way, we’ve been married for twenty-three years (For those who wonders how old I am - I am forty-one now. My wife is a roughly the same age.) I remember holding a succession of low paid jobs. I used to sell my art (oh yeah! I am also a painter, don’t you know). But by and large my working history has proved to be the one of a failure. I am not considering myself as such (nor does my wife, apparently). On the other hand, my role as a househusband has a long history. Once again, that’s who I am. That’s who I am not. It doesn’t matter. That’s what I do, among other things.

I cook every day (which I do not mind doing, really). My wife claims I even do it well. I clean the house. I do the half or all of the shopping. I compose shopping lists. I know what kind of cookware we need or might need. What kind of cleaning solutions. It’s funny that my wife is often confused as to where our pots and pans are. I feel it is only fair. She works hard and she makes a success of it. It is only fair on my part to provide some kind of livable, clean home where one can expect a dinner, a glass of wine and decent conversation after a long and tiresome day of work.

I must admit that I am not always happy to do it. Sometimes it’s getting tiring, you know. To listen to my wife’s troubles at work, to nod and to say for a tenth time in a row ‘Don’t worry, it’ll be all right’, to try cooking a variety of dishes and to try making them eatable too. It is especially funny when you occasionally enter reverse roles (I believe it is a truly valuable lesson in comprehending a nature of sexism, when your wife comes home around ten in the evening, exhausted after a long day of work, hungry and dispirited and yells in your face over the table ‘This spaghetti is over salted!’ or ‘What? The dinner is not ready yet? What the hell have you been doing all day long?’ and so on…

Well, believe me, when you happen to experience something like this you start to understand in a hurry all the pleas of all house wives. ‘I know he’s been working all day! But what about me? I spent several hours standing next to a hot stove, cooking Goddamned dinner. And I’d been cleaning the house from nine till five before that. And I popped into a supermarket in between too, because we were low on cooking oil… Or tomato paste… Or vegetables… Or coffee… Or I don’t know what… Doesn’t it count as a job too?)

It also helps if you try to look yourself presentable. And I mean PRESENTABLE. Always shaved. Dressed nicely… Manicured nails (oh yea!) Not stinking of anything (beer, cigarettes, burned garlic, stale sweat, oil paint, you name it…). Greeting your wife with a kiss. Calling to her (if she’s unusually late) Asking ‘How’s your day was?’. And listening to it too. Supplying appropriate remarks. Paying the attention… Having an interest… Keeping the toilet lid closed… Throwing your dirty socks in a hamper instead of leaving them in your shoes, or under the bed (and washing them regularly). And so on…

I am speaking of all this simply because I want to say it as loud as I can – the gender roles are a bittersweet fiction. I am sorry for all so called emasculated men, who might be spending their entire lives trying to maintain a good old ideal of a ‘real man, who doesn’t know how the house broom looks like or what it really takes to make even something as simple as an omelet.’ I am sorry, guys but your beloved gender roles, that we supposedly acquire at birth, and which make us who we are, do not exist.

I do not think I am such an exception from the rule. In fact, I remember how surprisingly often my buddies’ eyes went all misty when I was telling them what I do and how I live. The most common reaction I used to receive was ‘Hey, man! Where can I get a wife like yours, huh?’ I am serious! Perhaps ninety five percent of all men with whom I ever had a conversation regarding househusband issue expressed this or nearly this sentiment ‘You know, honestly I’d rather be staying at home doing house chores that working my ass off trying to accomplish some kind of a career.’ I suspect some bonehead would reply that ‘I guess all your buddies were closeted queers.’ I assure you they aren’t. Not am I, for that matter. And speaking of our family sex life – (excuse me, but I feel like saying it too) I never played a role of a French maid, neither my wife impersonated a rough and hungry track driver either.

There is yet another reason as to why I am writing about all this. I would like to refer to yet another legend that seems to be still alive. I am talking about a’ double income families,’ or ‘living wage.’ I think none of them truly exist anymore.’ (Here’s I would like to make a correction. They do not exist as a rule and/or are becoming a rarity real fast) It is getting exceedingly harder for one person to earn a decent family living (or any living wage at all). It is especially strange, if we consider how much empty talk is being spent on promoting ‘family values,’ or supporting ‘families.’ It seems that in reality no business, no employer and no state is willing to recognize the fact that the family, especially the family, where the woman is compelled to take a role of a breadwinner, needs to earn it. Perhaps it is more ‘efficient’ and economically sound to treat a working woman as an aberration, your classic bored house lady, who seeks ways to kill her spare time by sitting in some office, with consequent treatment of her staying at home husband as a quant oddity with perverse overtones.

As a conclusion, I might add that it shouldn’t come as a surprise that victims of sexism are not only women. Do not men suffer from it as well? For once, I am not talking about would be househusbands and such. Consider ‘a square’ men’s lot.. Did any of these guys ever consider how much strain and unnecessary social pressure this role of ‘the real man, who despises ‘a woman’s lot’ places on them? It is especially noticeable when more and more women enter serious professions and become actual breadwinners, despite all measures from conservative politics to keep them at bay. Are the women to blame that many a men feel themselves inadequate and even marginalized, simply because they are unable to earn as much as their wives/girlfriends etc, or maybe unable to earn anything at all? Isn’t it a reverse side of sexism?

It is amazing how every aspect of our lives has yet another side. A dark side, mostly…Truly the dark side of the moon.

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Emanuel Paparella2008-05-25 11:09:10
In a society ruled by efficient ordering, production and consumption, wherein men and women have become objects of disposable commodities, it is no wonder that those who stay home and namufacture nothing are thought of as an anomaly. When women begin to change that kind of mind-set and offer viable alternatives they will have earned the right to replace men in every field of endeavor and create a better more creative society. Till then, they are merely playing the same shabby dehumanizing game of men leading nowhere and ought not be patronized.

Alexandra Pereira2008-05-25 14:20:50
Men have all the right to stay at home, just like women. Each couple can hopefully find the best way to function at a given moment, it's up to them to decide, and no one else's business. You actually seem to work quite well like that, and to be happy.

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