In Which My Husband Discovers His Sexism…

I hate holidays.

There! I said it!  I said it out loud for the entire world to hear!

Of course, when I was a kid, I loved holidays like Christmas and Easter and Valentine’s Day (which is still my favorite, by the way!).  I loved the decorations, the presents, the family gatherings, the anticipation of what would be waiting in the morning.

As I got older, though, and especially after I had kids, all I felt from these holidays was the pressure to give my family a “perfect memory.”  Cook an amazing meal, give the kids a fabulous tree, make sure the house was spotless to host a party or gathering–or worse, travel up to 12 hours to attend a party or gathering, with however many small children I had in tow.

For reasons I’ll explain later, I’ve usually worked retail or sales jobs throughout our marriage, so the most stressful holidays usually coincided with the worst work season.  I’d work 60-80 hours a week, then have to put on a perfect smiling face at my in-laws’ house.

I. Hate. Holidays.

However, this past fourth of July was going to be different.  We were going to go up to the lake, spend the day playing in the sand and in the sun, then watch fireworks over the water.

Of course it rained.

With no plans, no family close by to feel obligated to visit, and no desire to crash any friends’ parties, my husband and I sat in our living room with three disappointed kids, and tried to figure out what to do instead.

“Hey,” I said, “We could paint the desk!”   We’d scored a fabulous $10 thrift-store desk, and made cool plans to paint it white and cover certain sections of it with chalkboard surface.  We just hadn’t had any time to work on it.  Hubby was agreeable, and the kids thought the idea of getting messy with paint was just great.

For the first hour, they even helped us sand.  It was a long, dusty process that they eventually tired of, and they later occupied themselves by building stick-and-towel forts with a neighbor kid.

I’d never had a happier Independence Day.  I was covered in sawdust, working on something I loved, making plans to beautify my home in my own style.  My husband was working with me, my kids were happy…..

….and THAT’s when I said it.  “This is the way I’d love to spend every holiday.  I hate feeling like I’m working so hard to cook or clean or travel or do presents, and then the next day it’s just gone.  It feels like such a waste of time.  This is spending a holiday working on something that will last, and I love that.”

Hubby’s face turned dark.

I didn’t understand why.  I thought I’d just shared a piece of my heart with him.  I thought I’d shared something that made me feel alive and satisfied, but he was obviously upset.  “I’m hungry,” he said.  “I think it’s time to do some of that domestic work that you hate so much.”

Whoa!!!! What???

“You keep saying over and over again that you hate cooking, that you only learned it because you wanted to serve me.”

Well, yes, that’s true.  Fundamentally true.  Before we married, I had no desire to cook. Anything.  Ever.  I spent too much time absorbing the heretical teachings of the Christian Patriarchy Movement, which basically told me I’d ruin my family, become divorced from my husband, and spend the rest of my life eeking out a subsidized living in a dumpy duplex if I didn’t become the best cook & housekeeper ever.  However, despite what Fascinating Womanhood and Created to Be His Helpmeet said, my husband never saw my learning to cook as a gift I continually tried to give him.  It just seemed….expected.

Plus, we also tried to follow the teachings of Dave Ramsey, and cut out prepared foods and restaurants to save money.    Then, to add insult to injury, I developed food allergies that would make your skin crawl.  Suddenly I *had* to prepare most of my food from scratch.

I became pretty damn good at it.  I became a fantastic baker.  I learned to make Chinese and Cajun food.

The problem is that I was literally spending all of my time cooking, washing dishes, and cooking some more.  I felt like I either had to let the kitchen get dirty, or spend my life as a scullery maid.

I started making simpler meals.  I started voicing my opinion: “I’m not a cook; I’m a songwriter.  I need to spend my time working on what I love, and not what I simply have to do to squeeze by.  This is not a life.”

My husband could not process that someone would become so skilled at something she didn’t *want* to do.  I don’t think he’s ever really thought about how much work cooking was.

Before we got married, he bought me a set of pots and pans.  An expensive, copper-bottomed, high-quality set.

So, I asked him, “Why does my not enjoying cooking bother you?  Why do you think this is so bad?”

“Well, I consider cooking to be a skill that a responsible adult simply has to learn.  Living off microwave meals and takeout [which is how I’d lived as a single girl!] is just childish, and is not good for your body.”

“So, you’re telling me you want to learn to cook then?” I asked.

He stopped.

He looked at me like I’d just spoken to him in Klingon.

We’ve been married almost ten years, and known about my food allergies for almost three, and he has never learned to cook.

“Well…” he considered his words very carefully. “…I’d always assumed that, if I’m the one providing, then your role would be cooking.”

“That would be understandable, if I wasn’t also expected to bring in an income.  Except for the year after Shy Violet was born, and this past year, I’ve worked too.  And cooked.”

He stood in front of the garage door and looked at me.  Really looked at me, as though he was seeing me for the first time.  I remember the expression on his face when I first realized he was attracted to me—a mix of wonder and confusion.  I was seeing the same thing now.

“Um…I want to live in a consistent way. And…um…I certainly want to move into a place where we’re sharing more of the housework.”

That is the man I married: when confronted with facts that show a belief of his is fundamentally wrong, he changes it.  He changes it almost whiplash-fast.  Apparently this is a trait he shares with many other INTJ’s , but I always view it with awe and thankfulness.

“So, do you see now why I don’t like holidays?”

“Well, I’d always thought that holiday cooking was just three days out of the year.  I didn’t think about the fact that you were cooking every other day of the year too.”

THANK YOU.

We came to an agreement that we both had things we wanted to do on holidays: I wanted something that would last, like a craft project or a fun vacation.  He did want a memorable meal and traditional family time.   However, he would take steps to realize exactly how much work I was doing, help when I requested it, and realize that we have to make our own traditions.

He made dinner tonight. 🙂 Having three daughters gives him a new hate for sexism.  He’s just starting to see that I should be free from it as well.

I’m just starting to see it too.

With Love,

Taylor Joy

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Recovering My Right To Think

I truly have the right to think for myself.

I know that sounds odd coming from a woman in the 21st century, but it’s a truth that I have to constantly remember.  One of the unfortunate results of being raised by a Borderline mother and a Narcissistic father is that I was considered an “extension” of them.  I wasn’t a person with a set of thoughts, feelings, preferences, and dreams.  I was an extra arm or leg that was supposed to obey their every brainwave automatically.

A lot of their control looked completely normal from the outside.  “Don’t get the pink shirt; get the blue one, because it’s more fashionable.”  Or, “Why on earth would you consider being a singer when you should be a brilliant doctor?”  My favorite was when I was in the fourth or fifth grade, I asked for a watch that had the rotating gears visible.  I thought it was so neat to be able to see the mechanisms of time-keeping while it happened.  I watched the minute and second hands tick by with utter delight while we were at the store jewelry counter.

They got me a lunar calendar watch instead, because it wasn’t a “piece of shit watch like that one you wanted.”  It was better quality.  It was the right kind of watch.  Since they knew so much better than me, I was supposed to be thankful.  And I was!  “Oh, thank you for getting me the right kind of watch!  I didn’t know that the one I wanted was wrong.

And on it went. “Silver jewelry?  No, that’s low-class trash.  Get gold instead.  What do you mean gold makes you itch?  Quit complaining!  Stop listening to that ni***r rap.  You’re a white girl, and you should act like one.  You are so fat, you need to get rid of that belly.  Why do you keep wearing clothes that cover you up all the time?  You’re beautiful!  I don’t understand why you don’t have a boyfriend.  You should be hanging out with the popular crowd, not those losers.  Why aren’t you a cheerleader?”

Any preference, for skirts, for pants, for long hair, for career goals, for hobbies, for trips, for friends, for school, for working, for not-working—any single opinion that wasn’t theirs simply didn’t exist.

That was one of the beautiful things that drew me to Christ–He supposedly loved me for who I was, because heck, He created me.  He loved me unconditionally.  He loved me fully.  Loving Him would allow me to be *more* of myself, because He fundamentally knew my inmost being.

His was the most attractive Love I’d ever known.  I felt like, after a lifetime of wandering in the desert, thankful for even a drop of love and acceptance from my parents, I found a never-ending spring of water that satisfied a deep desire for love.  As a fourteen year old girl, I spent hours reading the Bible alone in my room.

I didn’t find a church for about six months after I got saved (a story I’ll tell later) so I had absolutely no influence from teachers, pastors, or even my parents on how I was reading the Bible.  I consistently tested at the top of my classes on reading and comprehension, so no one was worried that I’d misunderstand.  My only influence was the local Christian Book Store, which was close enough to bike to.  They had every single denomination in my county represented.  It was like taking a girl who’d only ever eaten cornmeal to an all-you-can-eat buffet and saying, “Have at it!”

Suddenly, I discovered new tastes.

I couldn’t enjoy  electric guitars before, because only one style of music was allowed in my house.  I suddenly LOVED the sound of distortion when it was connected to the passion of worship music.  I couldn’t enjoy teaching, because only my mother’s ideas were allowed to filter through my mouth, but suddenly I discovered a gift for explaining the Bible in common language. I couldn’t enjoy clothes, because I either felt fat, exposed, or out-of-date.  Suddenly, I felt like I was a daughter of a King, and outward appearances didn’t matter.  I had a new confidence, a new strength in my gaze, and a new gait to my walk.  I was His, and He was my covering.

How did I ever allow myself to fall into a heresy that took my freedom in Christ away?  It’s a long story, which I’ll cover here in depth.  Now, after emerging from an eight-year-mental-nap induced by the heretical Patriarchy movement, I’m discovering that wonder and beauty of gazing directly at Christ again.  My Father created me.  He alone knows what I’m capable of, and what I’m called to do.  I’m allowed to think.  I’m allowed to feel.  I’m allowed to like guacamole and layered haircuts and soft cotton shirts.  I’m feeling the beauty of a guitar in my hands again.  I can make decisions for my own life, as an initiator, without constantly feeling like a victim.  It’s almost like a second conversion experience.

I’m His, and He created me.

With Love,

Taylor Joy