If I Cook, Clean And Bear Children, What Is He Expected To Do?
Ever since I was young, I’ve always had an interest in cooking and baking. Blame it on my mom. Knowing how to cook was always something she pressed my sisters and I to take seriously. She cooks very well, and my grandmother could cook even better. These days, if I’m not helping my mom on Thanksgiving, I’m baking carrot cake cupcakes just for the hell of it. Since I’ve moved out on my own, I’ve found that knowing how to throw down in the kitchen is a necessity, because a girl can’t live off of Ramen…forever that is. My co-worker will often ask, “What you got for lunch? You always bring something that smells good” when I bring my Tupperware to my desk straight out the microwave. And if it isn’t rice, it’s pasta, if it isn’t pasta, it’s stew, and if I get really lazy, I’ll pimp the hell out of a turkey sandwich and tortilla chips.
But in all honesty, the motivation to get really good at grilling, baking, parboiling, frying, sautéing, broiling and more came from the persistent bug in my ear that kept saying, “How are you going to have a husband and a family if you don’t know how to make anything?” That bug was moms. I love my mom something serious, but let’s keep it real, as a teen she made it seem like I would be doomed to a life of singlehood if I couldn’t at least fry some chicken. Of course, now that I’m grown, this isn’t my motivation to cook anymore, but it definitely seems like something many other people are being told and are overcooking and panicking about in the quest for love.
I had a conversation with my colleagues one day about the “You better learn to cook to keep a man” mentality and they thought it was compete bull. One of my more easily irritated co-workers said, “That’s bulls**t! It’s like, I have to learn how to cook, but what is expected of men??”
And then I thought about it. That’s a good question…
Despite the amount of women out here getting degrees and making more money and reaching higher positions than some men, we’re still supposed to be working on the side to keep up old gender roles. We’re expected to cook, and clean, and pop out kids (and take damn good care of them), which is fine if that’s what you so choose to do. But what exactly do we ask of men these days?
When I was younger, my father could build huge shelves that spanned our garage. To this day he still trims the hedges and chops down huge branches from meddling trees. He can go in the attic and trap squirrels and a crazy a** raccoon. He can fix a car. And when he had to, as a kid, he put a pretty mean twist in my hair for school when my mom wasn’t available (the part wasn’t all that straight though…). But my colleague said that when she asked her married friend if he even mows the lawn, his response was “Hell naw, we pay somebody for that.” Aside from cooking some rice and stew, I’m not sure my boyfriend gets the gist of unclogging a kitchen sink with chemicals. And don’t get me started on the guys who barely hold the door open for you anymore, and the few who scream just as loud as I do when a rat runs out of nowhere down the subway platform.
I’m not here to push that idea that some have that we’ve weakened our men, but it’s clear that we just don’t expect all that much from very many of them anymore the way we expect the most of ourselves. Yet we, mothers, daughters, sistas and friends often look at each other like we have an eye on our foreheads when some of us say we say we cook. You might deserve a side-eye for not knowing how to cook in general, but only because it’s an essential thing, not because it’s guaranteed to keep you on a fella’s good side. Cook for a man because you want to and enjoy doing so, but it shouldn’t be the sole reason to invest in a Crock pot. Clean his drawls if it turns you on, and pop out 15 kids if you’re down, but do these things because you want to, not because it’s expected of you. Especially when nobody’s helping you with your groceries, fixing things in your house, building you something useful, or at least getting that dead mouse from underneath your fridge. That’s my kind of man!