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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Monday, August 14, 2006


First, you'll notice we posted no Weekly Behavior Award winners this week. What can I say? We got no nominations. Actually, we got one at the start of last week - the piglet dude for Biggest Bum. But that one was a given and not worth a formal nomination.

So onto chores. Maybe I'm slow - 'cause it's taken me one year of marriage to figure this out - but there is a chore double standard, and I don't like it.

It finally dawned on me this weekend that there are guy-specific chores, and gender-neutral chores. But there are not so many her-only chores. That's not to say that she does not handle more domestic duties than me. But at any time I can be called up to active duty on any of those things. The draft, as it were, does not work in reverse.

I, for example, must mow the lawn. It's something guys do. If my wife asks or insists that the lawn be mowed, I know without question that it is my job.

If, however, we finish a meal and dirty dishes need cleaning I had better not say "Dishes? I'm not doing those. That's your job!" That would be chauvenistic of me.

Car washing? When it needs to be done, it's MY job.

Tidying up the house, like straightening flower arrangements and putting away or recycling loose paper? That's OUR job.

Entertaining the cute little kitten while she plays, so she doesn't tear up the house? OUR job.

Getting up in the middle of the night and at the butt crack of dawn to let the dog outside? MY job.

For some reason I feel wronged. But I don't think N.O.W. is gonna return my calls.


  • It is possible to have a conversation about whose job is what. That works much better than relying on cultural expectations or whatever you grew up with, because some of us frew up with different expectations. My household has an adult male and an adult female, and we do not do jobs based on those genders. Each of us picks what we are good at or likes, and that's what we do. But it only works because we talked about it. If we waited for one to do a job based on gender, a lot of them would not get done.

    By Anonymous Ritterskoop, at 1:40 PM  

  • JB--claim your rights as a man and be man of the house. Put your foot down and state clearly which home chores you will definitely do and leave in limbo the status of the others. (As I write this, I know that there are a great many women who will view my words as sexist and chauvanist. These women will no doubt excoriate me for my point of view, but here it is, unabashed and post modern. The reason I say this is because no woman really respects a man whom she knows lacks the outward appearance or capacity to be in charge of something. Men will not respect this man either, which adds to his further despicability to women.)

    As to the chores you don't like doing, the only choice you have is to start doing them very poorly. Leave stains on the laundry, put dirty dished in the cupboard and leave food crusted on the silver. When the cat has to be toyed with, fall asleep.
    Ultimately she will get over your errors and realize that her mistake was entrusting you to do those jobs in the first place. Especially since the jobs you describe seem more important to her than to you. After you flub them miserably a few times, she will get tired of having to redo them herself and stop asking for your help to save herself the work.

    I know this sounds sort of wicked, but I always feel that the work should fall to those who really want it done.

    By Anonymous Big Daddy, at 5:17 PM  

  • But then do get blow JOBS....

    I hope.

    By Blogger Rune, at 7:54 PM  

  • Careful, James! Some women may feel that dealing with chauvinistic husbands is the "definition" of the her-only chore!

    By Blogger The Sarcasticynic, at 10:05 PM  

  • I must comment. Once I re-entered the workforce my husband took over the laundry (which he does way better than I) and continued to do the grocery shopping (which he'd done prior to kids). He's the coupon king. I fail at grocery shopping.I'm the impulse queen.
    It's worked just fine for the last 25 years.
    We pretty much jointly do whatever has to be done around the house. I'm more the clean the toilets/carpets/dust crap and he's buy stuff, fix the big broken items.

    By Anonymous Frothmistress, at 11:25 PM  

  • The doing-a-chore-badly thing can work. My parents bought a house with their first machine dishwasher right at 30 years ago. My mom loaded it improperly several times, according to my dad. He has rules about which way silverware should point, and that spoons should not be in baskets with each other so they don't nest and get water trapped between them, and like that. It all makes good sense but is also rather dreary. Mom said if he didn't like the way she did it, he could do it.

    As far as I know, he has always done it in those 30 years.

    By Anonymous Ritterskoop, at 11:34 PM  

  • Thanks all for the anecdotes and advice. After further consideration I have decided it is in my best interest to do my chores and zip my lip.

    It's easier that way.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 8:13 AM  

  • James said: "After further consideration I have decided it is in my best interest to do my chores and zip my lip."

    Uh-oh, the better half must have read this post. ;-)

    I try not to let my better half cook very much, because I'm a lot better at it than she is. On the other hand, I refuse to do her laundry because she has clothing made of weird fabrics that require strange and exotic routines. I don't mind doing laundry, but I don't want it to be a giant pain in the butt. If I can't just toss it in and wash it on the Regular setting, I want nothing to do with it.

    She'll mow the yard (sometimes), but for some reason she won't run the weedeater to trim it. On the other hand, she'll use the blower/mulcher thing to vacuum up leaves on the patio, which isn't a behavior that would actually even occur to me--I'd blow them out in the grass and mow them.

    By Blogger Cranky Puppy, at 12:33 PM  

  • "Thanks all for the anecdotes and advice. After further consideration I have decided it is in my best interest to do my chores and zip my lip."


    You asked for that with the blog. Particularly as studies done in the UK show that women with partners still do the majority of the housework, even when they have children & a full-time job!

    By Anonymous bronchitikat, at 4:59 AM  

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