When I was teaching, many times my students told me that my wife and I had it backward. What was backward was the fact that I was a teacher and she was police. I would patiently explain to them that just because more men are police and more women are teachers doesn’t mean that a man can’t be a teacher or a woman can’t be police. If the class was really scintillating, I would talk about traditional gender roles and how those roles no longer apply.
“But it doesn’t seem right,” they would argue.
“It seems okay to me,” I’d reply. And it does. It always has. It never even occurred to me that I wasn’t the boy in our relationship. I watch football. I like boxing and beer and barbecuing.
I’m not sure when I noticed that within the confines of my marriage I am, in fact, the girl. All of the signs were there and had been for some time. For example, I do all the cooking, and it always made sense for me to do the cooking. My hours were relatively regular, but my wife’s hours are not. Any number of police emergencies could tie her up indefinitely, so I’ve always been in charge of child care and child transportation for the same reasons.
Still, it never occurred to me that I was the girl. I own tools.
When it comes to home repairs, I’m from the “blast and bludgeon” school of fixing things. Because I tend toward brute force solutions, there’s usually a lot of trial and error whenever I’m fixing things for the first time. Or the second or third. Some people have a natural relationship with tools and machines and materials. My maternal grandfather, for example, could do incredible things with carpentry and machining parts, and there was no job he was afraid to tackle. He finished the entire second floor of his house himself. My paternal grandfather would hammer screws into plaster with the claw end of the crowbar. Guess which one I take after.
The reason I tell this story is so you’ll understand how I figured out that I am indeed the girl. I don’t remember exactly when or what, but a few years ago my wife and I were attempting to fix something or put something together. Whatever we were doing, I was not meeting with a great deal of success, meaning I was getting more and more pissed off. My wife would on occasion take whatever tools I was using out of my hand (at the risk of losing the hand) and do whatever it was I was trying to do the wrong way the right way instead. I may be stubborn, but I’m not stupid. After having my face rubbed in it, I let her keep the tools and take point on the project.
My journey to the girl side was complete.
Now I fetch tools for her and hold things in place and generally do whatever I’m told. I get prickly when she does something I think is wrong, but it usually ends up that I’m the one who’s wrong, so I’m trying to learn to keep my mouth shut. When I start getting cranky, I take one of the many medications I have for my generalized anxiety disorder, and by the end of the project, I’m glad its done rather than disappointed I didn’t do it myself.
I don’t mean to say that I’m completely incompetent. Today I replaced the washers in the main bathroom’s tub fixture and replaced loose tile and re-grouted the area. I also made a lot of stupid mistakes that probably doubled the time it would have taken my wife to finish it. If we were both home and working on this project, she would be in charge, and I would be fetching tools, holding things in place, and perhaps baking cookies for after.
Sometimes, though, being the girl is hard. In situations that are potentially dangerous, my male instincts tell me that I am the one who is supposed to protect my wife and child. Reality, on the other hand, dictates that my wife is armed and trained and has almost twenty years of being police under her belt. My job is to get our son out of harm’s way, not to stand in front of him and puff out my chest like my hormones tell me too.
I can also get snippy when I’ve been told to fetch one tool too many. It brings me back to when I was a boy fetching tools for my father. It was not the preferred way to spend my weekend.
Now that I’m not working outside the home, my girlhood has never been more obvious. I do all the cooking and most of the cleaning. I don’t do all the laundry because my son is old enough to do his own, and my wife doesn’t like the way I wash her clothes. When my wife comes home, I talk about the chores I’ve done (which strikes me as fairly pathetic). In fact, the reason I thought of writing this blog is because I found myself sitting by a window sewing a button on one of my wife’s work blouses.
Believe it or not, I only get bored when I’m tired. Between writing and housework, I lead a pretty busy life.
As it turns out, I like being the girl. At this point in my life, it is the role I was born to play.