As I said on Friday, rogue forces are taking over the blog this week.
The gateway piece is by Swapnil Shah, who lives in Oakland, California with his wife Shilpa and their 6 month old son Amani. He is a 32 year old Orthopaedic Surgery resident and an active member of the hip-hop group Karmacy.
When I was originally asked to write a little something for this blog, I was honored and extremely excited to create a cheesy piece about how my 6 month old son Amani is my hero. Or about how when I think of my father and Amani I feel stuck in the middle of greatness. However, I saw some of the posts and comments about the whole “man week” thing and my mind began racing.
I could not stop thinking about some of the comments that quite frankly were insulting to my fellow men. I asked my wife if I am that bad and if our relationship makes her that unhappy. She smiled and replied, “Of course not. But I do agree that most of the time it is the woman who has to keep track of the day-to-day functions of a household. For example, how much milk do we have in the fridge right now?”
I gave her some half-assed answer and because I am a horrible liar and was clearly ignorant about the milk quantity in our household, she smugly laughed and said, “It’s OK, I just wanted to prove a point.”
I thought to myself, who the hell cares about how much milk is in the fridge right now? If you need me to get some, I always will. We continued watching TV and I could not stop searching for a way to defend menfolk and blame their crazy wives for all the drama they cause. I told my wife I feel that everyone has roles in a relationship and it is up to the individuals to decide which roles they play. If someone is unhappy, he or she should simply communicate this instead of expecting the other person to mind read.
I woke up the next day and still could not shake the aggressive thoughts I kept having about how men are not as bad as women think they are. I went to work and worked an entire day with these little instigators brewing inside me.
Then when I was driving home from work the entire thing just made sense: I am massively insecure about being a lazy, disappointing husband.
I am not saying that I am one of these hated beasts but I often worry about the possibility of becoming the ogre many wives complain about. You may say, oh the simple fact that you are concerned about these issues means that you will avoid falling into that trap. Wrong. That is exactly what the problem is. Thinking about being a good husband or wife does not mean you are one.
I think I’ve figured out why men and women have such a divide between them. It is all about history. We contemporary Obama lovers claim to thoroughly reject traditional stereotypes and anthropological norms--but they still exist and we have to know what they are to understand them. So my brief lesson: Back in the day men did all the hunting, gathering, and protecting, while women did everything else. We modern types clearly snub the negative aspects of these barbaric roles, but it can be hard to deny the potential advantages of falling into this social “trap.”
Men get to do nothing once they get home from work because without them there would be no food on the table. Women get to smugly hold everything else over their husbands because they make the family actually function.
Clearly, things have changed and most people, including me and my wife, do not live this way. But, we constantly try to prove to ourselves that we are not like other couples and we have a special relationship that outshines everyone else’s. The truth is that my wife and I have to continually and actively work at being good to each other. There is nothing wrong with that. However, the problem arises when the struggle itself gets to you. When you are tired and hungry and pissed off that no one really understands how your day went; that’s when you can fall into the “trap.”
A bill gets overlooked. The bathroom gets dirtier. A weekend ends up being tiring instead of relaxing. Family is in town and you can’t spend time alone together. Someone finally cracks and makes a comment or fails to help out. The shit officially hits the fan and we devolve into our new version of traditional roles. The women claim that they are normally so understanding and only ask their husbands to carry out a few small tasks. The men remind their wives how much better they are than most husbands and how they work so hard to help out around the house most of the time.
The bottom line, it is a regression towards the old school and we all need to step up and take action. Not just words and promises, but action. It is the only savior of the contemporary marriage. Both men and women need to realize they must do the little things that make each other happy in order to keep things moving smoothly, not just think about doing them.
If your husband likes hanging out with his friends and going “streaking in the quad” then don’t just tolerate it, understand and encourage it. Facilitate it. If your wife tries on five outfits before going to a simple house party, don’t just go downstairs and watch TV till she is done getting ready. Help her make her decision and encourage her the whole way. Be truthful, but positive.
I know all the guys are going to say, “Man, you are giving in to the pressure.” The women may say, “I don’t want my husband streaking.” The truth is that you knew he liked to streak before you married him and you knew how many outfits she had before you married her. Remember? You were modern and lived together before you got married? That stuff does not change when you have a kid. We all just need to grow up and help each other keep our personalities and our passions alive. If you can’t do that alone, then get some help from a counselor. If you don’t want to do that, then get a divorce.
I know all of this is easier said than done, but so far, from my perspective, it seems to be very worth it. Big shout out to my family, my wife and the joy of my life, Amani Dharma Shah!