About 3 years ago, I moved from a big, liberal city to a small city in a mostly conservative area.  Aside from the obvious changes in political atmosphere (and the sad paucity of yummy food of the non-fried variety) there have been numerous social ramifications.  Most of the time, I socialize with other ex-pats, i.e., other people who did not grow up around here.  We ex-pats have our various theories about how and why we bond together, but that is a subject for another post.

The subject of this post is the delicate issue of acquaintances I have, people I meet at work, at the kids’ school, etc., with whom I have casual conversations about family that I find mildly disturbing.  Specifically, this woman I know that I see frequently often chats with me about her family.  Her family is structured very traditionally in that, while she works outside the home, she does, as far as I can tell,  every damn bit of housework & childcare in her house and elsewhere that falls within her jurisdiction.  I never really know how to respond to her various comments about her husband, which paint a picture of a mostly immature, self-centered, manly dude. 

I can’t laugh at her comments, which sometimes appears to be what she’s looking for, in the “aren’t men irritating” kind of way because I am, quite frankly, appalled.  And I’m not willing to slam mr. jolt just to share in the casual, conversational male-bashing.  (Not that he doesn’t have his faults, but he is a great guy).  Now, to be clear, there does not appear to be anything at all abusive in her relationship, but sheesh, I just can’t figure out why this smart, nice woman is married to such a doofus.

When I find myself befuddled after conversations with her I try to remind myself that we never can truly know another couple’s relationship and what goes on inside of it. But.   The problem I have is that I don’t find his idiocies funny, but pathetic.  I think it’s sad that she has to do all the heavy lifting in the relationship.  I think the view of men as bumbling idiots is demeaning to them and to the women in relationships who put up with it – whether it be real ignorance (hah!) or the willful blindness variety.  And part of me wishes she would see how pathetic it is & do something. The other part of me wants to show her how pathetic it is, but I don’t really know her well enough to engage on that level.  So I sort of just say, “Uh, geez. Um, how frustrating for you.”

But the willful ignorance that some men profess in connection to housework and childcare in order to avoid responsibility does strike me as mirror image, of sorts, of the willing relinquishment of important decision-making made in the “male is god/head of family” type marriages found in certain evangelical christian communities. Only, of course, women get the short end of the stick on both sides.