This weekend, The Man came down to visit, bringing boxes of much-needed extra pottery, lentil pies and – most importantly – his Man Skills.
While he fixed the shower rail, sorted the shed, dug, sawed and lugged things about, I cleaned up and made stuff to eat. He sweated a lot. I proffered insincere offers of help. Over a cup of tea, we discussed the division of labour.
Well, says The Man, I guess it’s fair if I do Man’s Work and you do Women’s Work, isn’t it.
Er…are you saying I have to do Women’s Work? And here I was thinking all I had to do was look cute and do arty things up in the studio!
I know, this is not so much reinforcing gender stereotypes as buttressing them with solid concrete blocks, but…Even I (as a feminist) have to admit that The Man makes himself extremely useful, from his mystic knowledge of the habits of fruit trees to his winning ways with PVC pipe, ancient manual gearboxes and recalcitrant firewood. He combines a talent (almost equalling my own) for thrift-shop interior design with the muscular development of a gay pin-up. If I didn’t love him for his own sweet self, I would probably marry him for these manly attributes (making me not so much a gold digger as a sweat digger…or something).
To be honest, I don’t like physical labour, much. Man’s Work, Woman’s Work – any work that makes you perspire. If I have to put my book down and actually do something, I would rather make muffins than dig trenches. This doesn’t mean that I’m a girly girl, figuratively spitting in the eye of a century of women’s liberation. Instead, I’m using the nut I was born with. I CAN do this stuff (I spose). I just don’t want to.
Whereas my colleague Barb can do anything The Man can do – plus cook, clean and do one-handed push ups (probably). Which makes her a 21st century feminist role model, and me, a bit pathetic. I had to laugh when I confided recently to a client’s husband that I hadn’t ironed anything since about 1990. ‘Yes,’ says he, ‘The last lot you did, my wife said you wouldn’t win any awards.’
How very dare you! I said, and flounced out. I’m kidding – actually their punishment was me spending the entire session making sure his pants had creases down the middle, never mind the rest of the housework.
But, on the bright side, I have turned our carport into a ‘Frieda Kahlo’ room (see cactus), and learned to rope dance (see rope) – so nobody can say I’m entirely useless on a farm.
Recipe for Anything Muffins: Take some self raising flour, melted butter, and 2 eggs. Mix into it Anything You Like – dried fruit, fresh fruit, spices, cheese, sand – and add enough liquid (milk, pretend milk, vegan milk, water, petrol) to make it stirrable but only just. Stick it in a muffin tray and ten minutes later, Anything Muffins!
Petrol and sand not recommended ingredients but hey, whatever floats your boat (or powers your mower).