Here’s a situation I found myself in at the grocery store this past weekend. It’s been on my mind ever since so I guess that means it’s time to blog about it.
Sunday afternoon, while stuck in a traffic jam in a crowded aisle at the grocery store, a man, let’s say in his sixties, tried very hard to convince me that the reason he was in this predicament was because his wife was punishing him. The conversation started off innocently enough. Upon entering this jammed packed aisle I said something like, “Ugh, what a mess.” This man in front of me turned around, smiled and said, “Yes, my wife sent me here to punish me.” It was funny and I laughed. But then he got a very serious look on his face and said, “No, really my wife is punishing me by sending me here. Do you send your husband to the grocery store?” I was hoping he was still joking so I said, “No, not usually but he does enter this place on occassion. And besides that I usually have to do this with a two year old tagging along and believe me that’s not always easy.” This man then got an almost evil look on his face and still insisted on telling me how his wife was mean and this was his punishment and she should not be sending him there. At this point the aisle started to clear and I steered my cart around him and said, “Well, believe me women don’t like being here any more than you do and today must have just been your turn.”
About 20 minutes later I was in the produce section and was close enough to a young couple in their late twenties or early thirties to hear the conversation they were having. She was pregnant. He was doing most of the shopping. I listened as this man was actually thinking aloud about their menu for the week. He seemed to be enjoying the whole process of shopping and menu planning. It was apparent that he must do most of the cooking.
It struck me what a difference in the attitudes of these two men. Maybe it was a generational thing as most younger men know that they are expected to do at least some of the household tasks. Or maybe it was just two different personalities. Whatever the reason I felt sorry for the woman of the older man who seemed so indignant that he should be there. Does this man actually think that women like this shit? Now I know that some people do like to grocery shop and cook, but a large group of women do this only because they HAVE to. Food must be fed to families and someone has to shop for it and cook it. Mostly it still falls to women to do these tasks. This does not mean that we love standing in a crowded store trying to get through aisles that are jammed packed with people and products and then standing in long check out lines so some cashier or bag person can put our bread on the bottom of a bag of heavy things. Having an extra “X” chromosome does not mean we love all things domestic at all times. It just means that we do it out of love for our families.
Then I thought of the pregnant woman with the husband who shopped and thought out the menu for the week. I’m praying that is the normal routine for them and that when their child is born things won’t change. Our children need to see both men and women taking equal and uncomplaining responsibility for the duties in running a household and raising children.
Our world has changed so much in the last two generations. Men and women are still trying to figure out exactly what the proper balance of repsonsibility is and where exactly they fit into all these new gender roles. Wouldn’t it be nice if by the time our children were older they didn’t run into people who still have old-fashioned gender hangups about who should be doing the shopping and also not be so surprised by a man planning the dinner menu? It amazes me that so many years after the Women’s Movement we are still dealing with these issues. I hope when Shorty gets older we finally have most of this stuff worked out so he can just live life and not worry about whether or not he’s doing it the man’s way or the woman’s way. Although, I’m not sure that grocery shopping will be his thing as yesterday morning in a half awake-half asleep state he was yelling, “No go to the grocery store! No go to the grocery store!” My apologies to the future Mrs. Shorty because she may be the one to do all the grocery shopping. But hey, if she ever wants to punish Shorty she can just send him to the grocery store. <grimace>