Nicholas Lezard: Breadwinners and losers

I thought I told you that I wanted you to leave this kitchen in as good a state as you found it

Share
Related Topics


An imaginary look at the home life of Dr Rebecca Meisenbach, whose research paper, 'The Female Breadwinner', will be published this week:



Dr Meisenbach came into the kitchen and sat down at the table. "Boy, what a day," she said. "I'm bushed." "Busy day at the University of Missouri?" asked Mr Meisenbach, drying up some dishes and checking the evening's casserole. "Exhausting," she said. "I've interviewed 15,000 women breadwinners and discovered that women seemed simultaneously to be expressing control and a lack of control over housework."

"How do you mean, sugar pie?" asked Mr Meisenbach, wiping the kitchen table with a cloth. "It turns out," said Rebecca Meisenbach, taking a bottle of Sauvignon from the fridge and pouring herself a glass, "that working women who provide the majority of the household's income to the family continue to articulate themselves as the ones who 'see' household messes and needs as a way to retain claims to an element of a traditional feminine identity."

"Oh dear," said Mr Meisenbach. "You missed a bit," she said. "How many times have I told you? You don't just wipe the bits of the table where you see crumbs, you wipe the whole table."

"Sorry, darling," said Mr Meisenbach. "Anyway, what about your research?"

"Well, women all gendered their partners' behaviour with comments like, 'He's a man, they don't see that there is a mess'. And 'My husband's a guy. He picks and chooses what chores he does'. But by gendering his behaviour, they were also gendering their own as women and mothers, instead of breadwinners. I thought I told you this morning that I wanted you to leave this kitchen in as good a state as you found it."

Mr Meisenbach looked about the room with a feeling of nebulous guilt. "Actually," he said nervously, "I think it's in something of a better state than I found it. You'd left all the breakfast things in the sink." Dr Meisenbach glared at him briefly and carried on.

"Now I've got to write this up in the research journal 'Sex Roles' by tomorrow. You'll have to sort out the kids' bath and bedtime. And I don't want you doing a half-assed job like you usually do."

"Well, you try looking after them all day AND cooking their meals AND cooking yours AND doing the laundry AND I had to do a big shop and you know what they're like in the supermarket." He poured himself a glass of wine.

"That had better be your first of the day," she said. "I don't think the children appreciate it when you've got alcohol on your breath when you read them their stories."

"So what you're saying," he said, not rising to the bait, "is that overturning millennia of social and selection pressure has resulted in a new generation of women who want to have their cake and eat it, see men as useless and are yet racked by guilt about the incompatibility between their roles as breadwinners and mothers?"

"That's about the size of it," she said, rising from the table. "The feminists are going to tear me a new asshole about this one. Still, work's work. Call me when dinner's ready. I'll be in my study."

Mr Meisenbach sat down and miserably poured himself another glass. Dammit, he thought to himself, I never get any thanks round here. And since when, he wondered idly as the wine slightly lifted his spirits, did "gender" become a verb?

n.lezard@independent.co.uk

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Analyst - 12 Month FTC - Entry Level

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Chefs - All Levels

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Engineer

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Day In a Page

Read Next
George Osborne appearing on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, 5 July 2015  

George Osborne says benefits should be capped at £20,000 to meet average earnings – but working families take home £31,500

Ellie Mae O'Hagan
The BBC has agreed to fund the £650m annual cost of providing free television licences for the over-75s  

Osborne’s assault on the BBC is doing Murdoch’s dirty work

James Cusick James Cusick
Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?