From Humans of New York by Brandon Stanton
I saw this post on Brandon Stanton’s Instagram page (if you don’t already follow him, I recommend you do), and it cemented a resolve I had made from childhood and an experience (shared farther down) relayed by a lady from work, let’s say, further carpeted this resolve: I refuse to live for a man, I refuse to aspire to marriage as a culmination of my life and when I do marry, I refuse to use it as a guise to adopt a grown man-child. I refuse to selflessly give without receiving as much in return.
I have watched many women throw away their dreams, toil in and out of the kitchen. I have heard my mum say, upon quitting her job to meet with the demands of my dad’s job so she could raise the kids and tend to domestic chores, “if my children are happy, I am happy”. Only to later watch her almost slip into depression. I have heard my aunty say “there is no rest for a woman” as she rushed from work to look after her hospitalised son. Sat by the hospital bed brow furrowed in worry, she asked if I had cooked anything for her husband to eat when he comes back from work. She also wanted to know if I dished it and put it in the microwave as “you know he won’t eat if his food hasn’t already been dished.”
In fact, I refuse to rejoice at the prospect of a man who will cook when his wife is sick or heavily pregnant, and I find it appalling that some still won’t (I’ll save you from the story of a man who waits expectantly for his pregnant wife to come back from work so he can usher her straight to the kitchen. Ladle in one hand, vomit bag in the other). There is a list of things I can tolerate and a man who thinks the kitchen is a woman’s only territory just doesn’t make the cut.
Let’s take a few steps back.To cook, you need;
- Hands (not a necessary tool. See this amazing chef )
- Ability to follow a recipe (from memory or a cook book)
- Ingredients (believe it or not: sold in the market to every gender)
- A functional kitchen
Now, looking at the above list you must see why I am lost with the “a woman should cook” mantra.
For those who are quick to throw the Proverbs 31 woman at arguments like this, let me remind you that the same book you’re quoting from also asked you to “love your woman as Christ loves the Church”. I’ll also remind you that this is a charge you can only aspire to, you can’t attain it. After all, Christ lived solely for and died for the church. So even after you’ve loved your wife so much so she looks at you alarmingly and says “baby you love me too much I can’t take any more love, not an ounce more!” You’d know you still haven’t done enough.
For those of you who are painstakingly obedient to tradition, irrespective of how irrelevant they become, let me remind you that women didn’t use to work and as partners (key word: partners), it was only reasonable for them to do the house chores and cook for a tired husband who had gone out to earn a living.
Now, why would you wait for your wife A.K.A Magic Fingers to come back from work, presumably tired, to prepare you dinner? Let me guess, because you lose an inch every time you cook? Isn’t it caring if whoever got home first made sure the other person has something to eat?
So back to the grandmother from work. After a long day at work of running to and back from the kitchen trying to please sometimes fussy customers, she excused herself to go to McDonald before going home “because I am sure my husband is sat at home waiting for me to come cook him dinner after work.” With mouth aghast in shock, I asked;
“Really? You also think it’s unfair for women to cook all the time?”
“Of course! I did it when we had our kids at home, but now that they’ve moved out, I don’t any more.”
(something like that, I didn’t memorise the conversation)
You see this lady encouraged me as I sometimes panic that I’ll never find a man to marry, and wonder if I should just give in to a life of servitude. As a Caribbean lady in her late sixties, she grew up in an era and place where women predominantly embraced house chores. She went on to tell me how she sometimes feel she wasted her life caring for her first husband; cooking, cleaning, picking up after him and the kids and vowed not to do it with her second husband, advising me likewise.
Like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said, women are brought up to aspire to marriage. I realised that most women never loved it, I mean its tiring and boring, they only did it because it was expected of them and discussions like this wouldn’t have garnered any weight at the time. Growing up, I remember my mum backed up almost every chiding with “when you get married-” whenever I was negligent with house chores.
Now, don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong with cooking for or cleaning after someone you love, some women even love it. My friend for instance says while she would want to do most of the chores, she won’t want a husband who requires it of her. Neither do I expect a chart that says who cooks on Wednesday or does the laundry on Friday, but surely as a responsible man you won’t watch your woman labour so much without helping. Even though she barely slept during the day looking after the baby, you won’t expect her to wake up at night when it starts crying. A relative I know even asked his wife to stay in the guest room with the baby so they don’t keep him awake at night. How is this love?
There is nothing unmanly about cooking, after all most world class chefs are men. It’s also the height of ignorance when a man assumes that cleaning and cooking are intrinsic to women. Cooking is an essential survival skill and everyone who feels hunger pangs should learn how to.
Read: 5 Things my vagina doesn’t make me here by Doreen Akiyo Yomoah on the blog, MsAfropolitan.