In Praise of Doing “Women’s Work”

At five years old I once refused to help load the dish washer, on account of it being “women’s work.” I’m sure I picked that up from dad, who might have been joking but certainly shouldn’t have been. And now? I’m the one who usually washes the dishes. And cleans the counter and the kitchen table, too. That’s not to say that Melissa is lazy or I’m Super Duper Domestic Guy — far from it. It’s just how I like it now.


With baby, wife and pets, there’s not much time left for the luxury of being alone and maybe getting a chance to listen to my own music. I don’t have enough knowhow or patience to work on my own truck, and modern vehicles are too reliable now for weekly maintenance, anyway. And how many shelves can you build for just one house? So much for hiding out in the garage. And I refuse — absolutely and utterly refuse — to take any pleasure, ever, in yard work. I’d rather do my own dental work, with aluminum tools, than mow a lawn or rake any leaves.

But you know what’s great? Household cleaning. Ironing, especially. I wish I were making this up.

Can’t iron with a two-year-old anywhere near — they’ll grab a good hold of that power cord and give it a solid jerk. And ironing shirts requires too much attention to carry on an adult conversation. Not the way I do it anyway.

I’m not kidding about that attention thing. When I iron, I’m ironing. I used to be so bad that I’d crease and iron the back box pleat, all the way down to the shirttail. At some point around 30, I decided maybe that was taking things a little too far, at least on sport shirts. Dress shirts? Next time you see me in a suit, wait’ll I take off the jacket and check for yourself. Until then, I ain’t sayin’ nothin’.


But give me the bathroom to myself, one of the many For Steve Only playlists on the iPod nestled in its Bose dock speakers, and half a dozen shirts to iron… and for the next hour, I could be 23 for all I care. It’s the same music, the same alone time, and the same (completely anal retentive, perfectionist asshole) activity as I enjoyed those 15 [cough, 16, cough . -ed.] years ago. Ironing is even better than vacuuming, which makes too much noise for a good iPod jam session. (If you prefer a loud stereo to wearing headphones, that is.) Though being all domestic now, I do get to chase the dog around with the damn noisy thing, which is a bit of a plus.

Oh, and, yeah, it really does take me close to an hour to iron six or eight shirts. 40 minutes if I rush. It’s not just because of the box pleats. Take the cuffs, for example. I don’t like to have creases in my cuffs, but I also don’t want the cuffs to wear out prematurely. So — the cuffs get buttoned before they go into the wash, then unbuttoned on the ironing board so I can iron them out flat. Then they get buttoned back up before the shirt goes on the hanger. The sad part is, when I put on a shirt, the first thing I almost always do is… you guessed it: Roll up the cuffs.


Washing dishes rocks, too, it really does. If you’re getting married or already there, buy yourself some Calphalon or other high-quality cookware. The brand name isn’t important. What is important is that you own a lot of stuff you’ll need to hand-wash. A two year old can’t help you with that, and believe me your wife will be happy to leave you be for a while if you’re washing dishes. Is that water too loud to hear the music? Then turn it up! Again, odds are you’ll get no complaints from the missus. I even get away with listening to Steely Dan or Bauhaus real loud when I’m tackling domestic chores. And unlike raking leaves, I don’t have to rake any leaves.

Guys, there’s nothing wrong with doing so-called women’s work. It’s one of your last chances to be a man.



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