Recently, I was over at my sister's house, and her husband was feverishly running around before heading out to drive the kids to a hockey game. "Where's my jacket?" he yelled from the mudroom. "If you hung it up, that's where you'd find it!" my sister barked back.
I stood there replaying the many times this very scenario had happened with my husband, and told my brother-in-law, that at my house blowjobs are given out for hung-up jackets. Without even lifting his head, he scoffed, "Oh, if that were only true!"
He was right. Sadly, it is not true. It doesn't matter though, because my husband doesn't hang up his jacket. When he gets home, he takes off his shoes right at the front door (if you were to come in later, you might trip and break your neck on them), then he removes his shirt and pants and drops them right on top of the shoes.
He saunters in, underwear still intact, with a big smile on his charming face. I pick these items up later while mumbling something embarrassingly irrational and deal with it. I've tried asking him in all seriousness just to put these things where they belong. I've offered a boob flash, my undying love and bribes. I've yelled, gotten mad and even cried once when I was severely hormonal in my ninth month of pregnancy.
One time, I just threw his big, ugly parka jacket down the basement stairs. When he called out asking me where it was one morning, I replied, "It's down the stairs. You have to go down there to get it now. So the energy it takes to go down the stairs and come back up is a hell of a lot more than just hanging it up in the closet."
I thought I was so clever. I had cracked the code of his stubbornness. The next day, he came in from work, kissed us all hello, opened the door to the basement and chucked the jacket down the stairs himself. I stood there, trying desperately not to laugh as he shrugged his shoulders and claimed, "I like throwing the jacket down there. It's fun."
I began to try other methods. I left his clothes on the ground; I ignored the random sock that was crumpled up in a ball on the table; I didn't use the dryer for a few days, leaving his load there. But his clothes just gathered dog hair on the floor; the sock started to smell, and every day, I'd see him walk up from the laundry room holding a shirt in his hand and a pair of underwear.
A wise person once said (I think it was me) that you can't change a man, but you can train him. However, what we women think of as helpful reminders on how to contribute to equality in the home, men see it as nagging.
I have to say that my husband has no problem helping around the house and doing any requested jobs. It is not the 'jobs' that are given to him that fall under the nag category -- it is the hints, the complaints and the spotlight on what's not happening, versus what is happening, that produce a negative result. He is the most amazing dad and takes care of our children every minute he's at home. He is home every night for dinner. He can't wait to watch The Bachelor on Monday nights, he tells me I look hot and he massages my feet. I seriously won the lottery with this one. So shouldn't I just pick up after him? Well, that would be easier than fighting about it. The thing is though, beyond being a married couple, parents, friends, and lovers, we are also roommates sharing space.
We live in a very confusing modern day society. Gone are the days when men came home to the waft of beef stew on the table and a manicured hand taking their jacket for them. Not gone, however, is the desire for this fictional scenario to exist in some way, shape or form. Whether or not men want to admit it, don't they want their woman to have the good parts of modern (strong, financially and emotionally independent) but still possess that eagerness for laundry, cooking, cleaning and general domestic duties? Or maybe they simply don't care. Which is the camp, I fear, where my husband resides.
Recently he spent a week alone in the house after the kids and I had headed for a family vacation early. Leading up to our departure, he told people how excited he was to walk the dog, sleep in and just be a bachelor again, if only for a week. I totally understood and didn't take any of it to heart. But upon my return and finding cups with unknown liquids left, clothes strewn everywhere, socks peppered throughout the house -- I realized that he actually loved this relaxed lifestyle (in my words, slobbery). He didn't need me to pick up his suit jacket and hang it up because he'd just bend over and grab it in the morning. He likes his stuff out in the open so that if in the very far future he may need it, it's right there in front of him. The cleaner, more organized world I have created for him and my family, is irrelevant to him.
This leaves me with very little motivational ammunition. Would BJs be enough to train his brain to think, "Hmmm, this jacket doesn't go on the floor, maybe I'll put it in the closet"? I don't know. But I guess it's worth a try.
By Trish Bentley