“Do you enjoy getting dinner together?” Lisa said.
I looked at her like this might be a trick question, a set-up or something. But the mantle has already shifted in our household–I’ve already been doing the bulk of meal prep since the time of Lisa’s foot surgery (weak though that prep might be!). I couldn’t see any angle where this might be anything than it actually was, a simple check into whether I enjoyed the act of getting dinner together.
For most of the years of our lives together, we’ve had a fairly traditional set-up. Lisa was at home, I was working. Lisa did the stuff to keep the home cycles running, I did the grilling, the mowing, and the occasional botched repair. It all worked. Now that’s changing, and I suppose it’s the farthest thing from unusual for Lisa to be curious.
Last week I talked to a younger, female co-worker whose husband has been staying home with her two young children. The kids are getting a bit older now, and he’s ready to embark on starting his own company. She talked about the stigma he faced, what are you going to do? he would be asked. Who’s going to make the money?
What I’m going through is not quite like that, of course. But in some ways it is. Now that most everyone at work knows that I’m leaving soon, I get a lot of comments and questions and whatnot, and in some of those conversations there lies embedded an undertone of discomfort and uncertainty. I talk about writing full-time, but also being free to do things like grocery shop in the day, or keep the laundry cycles running, or having dinner at home, or … and the conversation sometimes goes in these oddly discomforting directions. It’s never outwardly condescending or aggressive, but there’s this tone that comes along … a “oh, so you’re not going to work full time” kind of feel, and a sense that I’m taking step back. I don’t think they mean it this way. Most of the time I think it’s unintentional and maybe even unconscious.
Interestingly, but I suppose not too surprisingly, the discussions that get uncomfortable are pretty much always when I’m speaking with a male. Ok. Not “pretty much.” They are always when I’m speaking with a male.
I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing unto itself. It’s a measure, a yardstick of where our culture is. You can’t expect people as a whole to change on a dime. But among all the things I’m sensing as I get to this transition point, this is one of the most interesting.
I’ll leave it to you to decide why, or to decide if I’m just being too sensitive, or whatever.
FWIW, my answer to Lisa was that I didn’t mind getting dinner together at all as long as I had time. It’s like cutting the grass–something I can focus on a bit, but still let my mind wander–and in that way I suppose it’s actually helpful to a writer at those times when you need to let your brain disassociate and run free to find those places where creativity hides things.
And, um, yeah … started on Episode 8 this morning. Hope to finish in by the end of November. I think I shall consider this the beginning of my NaNoWriHaMo (National Novella Writing Half Month).