In which my femininity does not suffer

We grew this.
We grew this.

I am the lax gardener in this household. But I did grow that succulent little watermelon in the photo above. (And by “grow,” I mean plant the seedlings way too close together and leave them to their own devices for two months and then take credit for the beautiful harvest.) We had it for lunch yesterday and it was perfect.

Guion, it turns out, is the better homemaker. He is the champion gardener. He is the master chef. He is the kitchen sink doctor. And I am perfectly OK with him being all of these things. My femininity does not suffer a whit.

I thought it would. When we were first married, I wanted to follow those traditional Southern-woman housekeeping roles. I had to be the better cook. I had to have this instinctive green thumb. I had to fold hand towels in thirds. If I couldn’t or didn’t, I would be a bad wife. Many women imply this, even today. They see this 1950s housekeeping mold as The Gold Standard of matrimony and domestic living: The proper wife stays home, gardens, tidies rooms, makes 95% of the food (leaving only the grilling and the slicing of meats to the husband); the proper husband goes to work, mows the lawn, and fixes broken appliances. These are the roles and you stick to them.

This, obviously, is a fading archetype in modern America. And yet I wanted to follow it. Sometimes, when I do spend time with family (particularly my maternal side of the family), I feel like the lesser wife, the domestic failure. I was raised, after all, by and among these paragons of domestic virtue, the hostesses of wide repute, the kitchen gourmets of local renown. And so it is astonishing to my relatives that my husband is the one in the kitchen, whipping up some chutney from the tomatoes he grew in the backyard. Isn’t that women’s work? The men in my family can barely wash a dish, much less follow a complex English recipe from produce they harvested. And here is my hard-working, housekeeping husband, the culinary trailblazer. He is pure mystery to them all. They stare at him with bemused wonder.

I have always thought that my attainment of true womanhood, of authentic femininity would lie in my inherent ability to whip up a pound cake, hem a skirt, and grow daffodils. I cannot do any of these things. I despise DIY home decor projects. I cannot improvise a marinade. I have never learned how to cut a man’s hair myself. And for the first time in our marriage, I am not ashamed to admit any of these things. I do not feel like a lesser woman or a bad wife anymore.

All this to say: I don’t know what kind of wife I am. I am not the traditional model. But I do know that I found myself a very, very good husband. And we make it work.

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46 thoughts on “In which my femininity does not suffer

  1. It’s refreshing to hear of other women who do not force themselves into typical definitions of femininity when that’s not who they are!

    I frequently find myself surprised at how traditional I am…but, I know that it sincerely comes from my own enjoyment of gardening/baking/sewing etc. (And maybe, I’ve been able to come to these things on my own, since my mom didn’t do some of these things – like sewing or knitting, etc.)

    It’s lovely how y’all compliment each other. Now, if you could just get Guion to teach David to make some chutney, or really, anything other than spaghetti, that would be fantastic.

  2. I wish society would put fewer emphasis on “roles” and more emphasis on “skill sets.” And to have two people in a relationship whose skill sets complement each other is a BEAUTIFUL thing — congrats to you and your husband!

    And yes, my towels are in thirds … just watch what happens when someone tries to fold them in halves…

    😉

  3. I love your post–the title got me. I accidentally turned out to be one of those women who does all these traditional things, things that are no longer really appreciated in my country. I also practiced law for a while, a time when I felt I had to pretend NOT to be good at those traditional feminine things. Recently, I was discussing femininity with a close friend who is a Judge and we both confessed to deliberately disarranging our hair and dumbing down our femininity in order to be taken more seriously in traditional “men’s” jobs. Ridiculous! As if any man would try to make himself look worse or less attractive in order to be respected! I don’t know why women are subjected to, and subject each other to, the ridiculous stereotyping we do after all these years of supposed fenminism! Somehow, we all still believe in the back of our minds, no matter what and how much we accomplish (even when most men cannot attain some of the things we achieve) that being feminine makes us less credible! Women, we have a long way to go before we can just be what we are and embrace it.

  4. While I love to cook – and actually claim the kitchen as my holy place in the house – that is all I do, pretty much. My husband does the laundry, dishes, all of the “outside” stuff, grills and cuts meat, and fixes stuff. I do, however, know how to fix plumbing, wiring, and mow the lawn.

    When my father-in-law passed away 13 years ago, I saw my mother-in-law suffered through what I considered to be common tasks. My in-law’s relationship was exactly that of the 1950s, because I’m pretty sure that’s when it started. When he died, she didn’t know how to take care of the things he took care of. He died within a year after my husband and I were married.

    Since then, I decided to make our relationship a partnership. We both know how to do everything the other does, to a point. I’m the better cook and he definitely knows how to fix stuff better than I do. But we’ve tried learning from each other so we’re never in the same shoes as my mother-in-law.

    It looks like you’ve broken the mold, and thank God you did. You’ll be better for it, both of you. You’re the kind of wife who loves her husband. I don’t think there’s much more to it, other than being yourself. You seem to do that quite well.

  5. My two older brothers are masters in the kitchen. About 10 years ago we had a family gingerbread-house making party (a family tradition). My brothers were in the kitchen trying to get the best frosting consistency for a very ambitious gingerbread building, and my younger sister and I were on the roof, in a snow storm, putting up the Christmas lights for my Mom. I called through the window that it seemed strange that WE were the ones in the cold on the roof while they were in the nice warm kitchen. My oldest brother called back that my sis and I were “decorating” and he and my brother were working on “structural support.”

    I’ve never forgotten that, and the memory always makes me smile.
    Here’s to not being traditional, and being perfectly fine with it. *clinks glass

    xox

  6. my boyfriend is the better homemaker i think…in terms of cooking and general housey knowledge. but honestly, it’s all about balance, and i think, our home wouldn’t be as wonderful without both of us there to make it that way. same goes for your home for sure! 🙂 x

  7. I think you sold yourself a bit short on that whole womanhood thing.
    Personally, I’m looking for a husband that will do all those things. Because a husband without some home skills ain’t that great. But that’s just my two cents. I’m glad you don’t feel like a lesser wife. You shouldn’t. Congrats on the FP.

  8. My husband is a far better cook than I am. I tend to do most of the cooking, but we all know he has the creative talent. Like you, I’ve learned to appreciate it and enjoy the perks of being married to someone who has many talents!

  9. Wow! I really enjoyed reading your blog post. I myself have always wanted to be that perfect housewife from the 50’s but I’m not even married lol although I do live with my boyfriend/partner/bff/etc. We both like to cook, we both like to clean, etc. so it’s a 50/50 thing we’ve got going on and it’s great.

    Lovely watermelon btw. Kudos!

  10. I am always trying to battle the “should”s and “should not”s as well as the cultural expectations that my conservative upbringing instilled in me. I thought this was a great read about doing what works for you rather than what we are expected to do.

  11. What a well-written and enjoyable post! I love that you’re beginning to feel comfortable in the roles that work well for you. That’s a beautiful thing! My husband and I have morphed into fairly traditional gender roles over 15 years of marriage, but he has just recently started developping this enjoyment of cooking that is absolutely thrilling to me! Maybe in another 15 years I won’t have to do anything culinary! 🙂
    Congrats on the FP!

  12. Amazing story. The world is surely changing, but despite the fact that I do not enjoy household things, sometimes I feel that I am telling myself that I don’t enjoy them. In fact, I learned that I hate household duties because the men in my family never appreciated a woman’s work. In truth, woman’s domestic work is extraordinary, and is its own special contribution to the family, and should not be respected any less from an office job. Unfortunately, I don’t think our society agrees..

  13. Nice perspective. I certainly belong to the domestic disaster category, and I am not even married yet. I can barely take care of myself, forget taking care of the house and making it ‘lady-like’. I do think that the position is changing, albeit gradually. In the end, what really matters is that we fight the urge within us that shrouds us in these ridiculous stereotypes. That will take time too, but I am sure will happen.
    I sincerely hope for the well-being of the both of us, that my hubby is the better cook.
    Congrats on being freshly pressed!

  14. Great post! I salute you for your non-traditional approach. The thing is, sometimes the non-traditional is simply what is natural to a person, and to try to ‘force’ the traditional actually makes us uncomfortable. Most things have to be worked at and I love your courage and confidence in charting your own pathway. Thanks again 🙂

  15. Felt so happy reading this. I hope more husbands would follow suit. I don’t mind being a traditional wife but I will be only too glad if my husband would at times become ready to take up some of the household duties. What an inspiring post! Congrats!

  16. I think it’s best to fit into your own mold of what it means to be a wife, rather than a mold that was pressed upon you by society or history. Whether you’re the one in the relationship who cooks or you’re the one who mows the lawn, being a good wife (I think) means being supportive and throwing all your love his way 🙂

    Cheers,
    Courtney Hosny-

  17. I really enjoyed this post! I’m adequate at pretty much everything around and outside the house — but so is my husband. So we share everything, and mix up duties as schedules allow. Right now, as he recovers from surgery, I’m doing everything. But I don’t mind. As soon as he heals up he’ll be right back in there, scrubbing the toilets while I mow the lawn, or vice versa.

    For what it’s worth, I’ve never felt one bit of guilt or remorse that I’m not more like the ideal ’50s housewife. I don’t feel like it makes me a bad wife, either. I support my husband and he supports me. We work well together. End of story.

  18. Cooking lies at the borderline of femininity and masculinity – it is almost unisex now. The traditional household has evolved for some families – and men sometimes takeover what was once considered a woman’s role. I really enjoyed your blog – keep up the good work. I will make sure to visit your page more often. Please visit http://www.mynutritioninsight.com for information and disease prevention and healthy food and drink recipes.

  19. Very, very rarely do people fit into the rigid gender roles society has put down before us. Like you do, my fiance and I divide work by our strengths, regardless of gender. He’s the better cook, so he cooks and I help. I am better at cleaning, so I clean and he helps. Everyone’s happy and we can each be ourselves (and everyone else’s judgements be damned!). Thanks for the post!

  20. Nice perspective. If for you to be feminine you had to cook. Then for him to cook would make him effeminate? I know of more top male chefs than women, so why can it not be the same at home. You do sell him quite well, but I am sure it is not a one sided partnership so don’t sell yourself short.

  21. It’s great to know that I’m not the only one who can’t cook, can’t make home projects, and can’t garden. My husband does all three of those and I feel very lucky to have him.

  22. Hi I loved your post and it echoes my attitudes and I live another world away just North of Sydney in Australia. I have a friend with a boutique down the street which is a bit like that salon in Steel Magnolias. We’re all a bit irreverent and gather out the back. I do a bit of baking and collect those traditional china tea cups but that’s where it all ends. My mother and my grandmother before her wouldn’t have left the house without lipstick whereas I am lucky to know where to find mine. I have friends who are all into neat houses etc but mine is rather cluttered and a little scruffy. I would much rather be writing, painting, playing my violin, spending time with my family rather than watch all my precious hard work go up in smoke 5 minutes after everyone gets home. That seems pretty futile to me.
    I also hope that we have moved a bit beyond “women’s work” and “Men’s work” into the=ing more like “teamwork”.
    You might enjoy a post I’ve just written about work…battery people. It partly addresses the value bias between paid work and unpaid work which I detest. I do work part time myself but I don’t like how people put down mothers etc.
    Anyway, there’s my rant now I’d better go and throw dinner together.
    Best wishes,
    Rowena

  23. I can relate to this perfectly concerning that I am more masculine in nature than feminine and though I do not mind chores of the household I’m more efficient in a business oriented environment and that’s the way I am at this point. I might get a balance later on in life but right now I am like this.

  24. I think a good wife loves the husband she has with a love that has very little to do with herself. It is that way for parenthood and friendship. I do not think there are “roles” as much as loving the other person for who they intrinsically are – the rest falls into place. The less I focus on myself and the more I look at others, the easier life is.

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