For those who know me, the title of this post is a clear signal that I am gearing up for a visit with my family, in which the men are special and the women live to make the men happy and comfortable. I will enter a world in which the women spend endless hours cooking and cleaning, and the men sit on the deck drinking and talking about war and sports. Every once in a while, a man will be asked to do something manly, like carry something heavy.
Last year, I watched incredulously as my mother asked an ancient and decrepit male relative to carry something heavy that I knew would be difficult for him but easy for me. I said “I can carry that”, but this bizarre and emasculating suggestion was met with frowns and then ignored. Will I never learn?
And no, I don’t wish I could sit out on the deck with the men. Most of them are boring. Some of them are scary. I’d rather chat with my mother and aunts and cousins in the kitchen, but I can never stop feeling angry about the extreme gender role segregation in which the women are servile and the men are Men.
In recent years, my mother has been increasingly involving my daughter in the Women’s Chores, and I don’t think my daughter has yet realized that her male cousins aren’t expected to do anything.
It might be easier to endure these family visits if I could get away once in a while and take a break from making sandwiches for my uncles, but our family get-togethers occur on an island, in a house surrounded on 3 sides by tall trees and on the fourth side by a cliff. I think it would be easier to escape from Alcatraz.
My husband does not come on these trips. He is still traumatized by previous trips when he had to sit on the deck and drink with my insane male relatives. I in turn do not accompany him on visits to his family, and this mutual avoidance of visits to our respective ancestral homes pleases us both. His family is even stranger than mine.
My mother has already started to prepare for the big family get-together by asking me to do all sorts of tasks that will make my brother’s visit easier and more comfortable for him. My brother visits the ancestral home once a year. I visit the ancestral home once a year. Yet, somehow, his visits are more special than mine, and I have to make accommodations for him, not at his request (he is oblivious) but at my mother’s request.
In her most recent communication, my mother told me that it was really nice of my brother to arrange his schedule to make this visit at the same time that I will be visiting, and so I should do X, Y, and Z to make sure that his visit does not require any difficulties for him with regard to parking his giant SUV, having the food he most enjoys, and spending time the way he most wants to. If I don’t do these things, he might not visit again for several summers and it would be my fault. Is it too late for her to read a parenting book that explains that this type of behavior is really not appropriate? I have tried talking to her about this, to no avail.
Between my family and my career, I encounter a wide variety of sexist beliefs and behaviors, and I still fundamentally don’t understand any of it.
10 years ago