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Rhythms of a Household

by The Next Family March 03, 2011

By: Shannon Ralph

lesbians and household duties

In a gay or lesbian household, there is no “woman’s” work or “man’s” work. There is simply work that must be done.  People will absurdly ask who the man is and who the woman is in our relationships. Such an asinine question. What does it mean to “be the man” when we are both quite obviously women? That has never made sense to me. If I mow the lawn, am I the man? If I bake a cake, am I the woman? If I know how to wield a hammer, am I the man? If I cry, am I the woman?  Such idiocy. I am fairly certain that it would take a little more than a short haircut to make a man out of me. So why do people feel the need to pigeonhole us? Why must one of us be the man in order for our relationship to make sense?

Around my house, there are jobs I do that may have been historically relegated to men. But I also do quite a bit of work that has been considered “woman’s work” for years. I guess you could say that Ruanita and I are both butches. And we’re both fems.  Actually, I would say that we are neither, really. I once had a coworker ask me point-blank if I considered myself a butch or a fem. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but it struck me as the weirdest question I have ever been asked. I don’t really consider myself either one. I don’t see much of a need for labels for myself or for my relationship. Why can’t I just be Shannon? I am Shannon, plain and simple. And I love Ruanita, plain and simple. We are two women who fell in love and chose to make a life together. Plain. And. Simple.

I was marveling just yesterday at the patterns and rhythms Ruanita and I have developed after thirteen years of living together. Not having traditional gender roles to guide us, we had to figure out our own delegation of chores. Our own roles in this relationship. Through the past thirteen years, we have managed to do just that. There are no questions anymore. We each have our jobs we are responsible for completing. Perhaps we chose these jobs. Perhaps they chose us. Perhaps they were thrust upon us against our will, kicking and screaming the entire way. However it happened, we each know what it is we do. And we have becomes experts at the tasks we handle. Here is a sampling of the rhythm of our household:

I drive everywhere we go, in part due to my (borderline) control-freak nature. Ruanita is the ever-present, ever-vocal, ever-critical passenger.

I cook. Ruanita washes the dishes. Sometimes I will linger in the kitchen after dinner, attempting to appear as though I might help. In the end, however, we both know that I will retire to my favorite chair in the living room and surf the web while she cleans up.

I pay the bills. Ruanita prefers to be obliviously ignorant of our money situation.

Ruanita kills all bugs. I handle any and all hairy critters.

I buy all of the kids’ clothes. Ruanita (the fun mom) buys most of the kids’ toys. Oh how they love when I come home from Target with nothing in my bags for them but new underwear!

Ruanita washes all of our laundry. I fold it and put it away (after it sits in a basket for a few days, developing deep wrinkles that can’t merely be “shaken” out).

On a related note, I do not not iron. Nor does Ruanita. We simply walk around in wrinkled clothes, looking like vagrants. We rock the vagabond couture.

She mows the lawn. I plant and tend to all of the flowers and other “pretties” in the yard.

I am responsible for anything that requires assembly. Ruanita, wisely, leaves the room and stays out of my way, lest she be bludgeoned to death with a hammer.

She takes care of all repairs and maintenance on the cars. I turn up the radio when I hear an ominous-sounding noise.

I handle anything and everything remotely electronic. Ruanita asks our eight-year-old son how to use the television remote.

She plays My Little Ponies with Sophie. I play Mario Kart with the boys. She tends to encourage imagination-building games. I stare mindlessly at beeping dots on the television screen with my sons while drool forms at the corners of our mouths.

I schedule and attend almost all doctor/dentist appointments with the kids. Ruanita, somehow, gets to avoid holding the kids down for immunizations and strep tests. I’m not sure how that happened, but it may be a chore-delegation discussion I will want to revisit in the very near future.

Ruanita cleans the toilets. I do not.  Nor do I do windows. Nor empty the dishwasher. Nor dust. (Okay…I readily admit that I suck in the area of domesticity.)

I do Lucas’s homework with him. Ruanita mostly gets to avoid the hell on Earth that is reading with my barely literate (and literature-loathing) second grader.

Ruanita plays Play-Doh with the kids. For the most part, I find Play-Doh and the unavoidable mess it creates to be affronts to my anal nature, and I refuse.

Ruanita makes the beds. I don’t see the point since we are just going to climb back in them in a few short hours. (Yes, Play-Doh mess bothers me. Unkempt beds do not. What can I say? I am a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma…or something equally annoying.)

I do any and all painting in the house. Ruanita is not allowed to go near a paint can. Monet, she is not.

I open all beer bottles for Ruanita. She opens all jelly jars for me. I prefer not to venture a guess as to why I can open a beer bottle like a veteran bartender, but do not have the dexterity to open a jelly jar.

I do all of our grocery shopping. Ruanita stays home with the kids so I can sip my latte and shop in peace.

I plan all of our social events and force them upon Ruanita. She begrudgingly complies. Sometimes.

Ruanita works full-time and makes more money than I. I work part-time and spend more money than she.

Ruanita vacuums. I forget how to turn the vacuum cleaner on. Honestly, I have no freaking clue where the “on” button is.

I bake cookies, cakes, and pies. Ruanita eats cookies, cakes, and pies.

Ruanita knows where every single thing in the house goes and has an item put back in its place before I am even finished using it. I, on the other hand, know where nothing is and constantly have to ask Ruanita to help me find things. Her catchphrase when I can’t find something: You. Have. To. Look. My response: Shut the hell up and tell me where it is!

These are the rhythms of our household. These are the patterns we have constructed that have, in turn, created the home we dearly love. It’s amazing to me how we have worked this all out. Through years of trial and error—lessons learned and barriers overcome—we have become a cohesive unit. Everything gets handled. Every task gets accomplished. Neither one of us is “the man,” but our grass still gets mowed and our cars get serviced and our beer bottles get opened. Perhaps there is no need for one of us to be the man, after all? Perhaps—and I may be getting a little crazy here—two women can do just fine on their own. Two women can love one another and create a home together. Two women can start a family together. Two women can live happily ever after.

I am proof positive.



[Photo credit: Muyfifi]

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