In my Christian community, marriage meant wives stayed home while the husbands took home the bacon. If a woman felt slighted or discomfited by her role as a homemaker-only, patriarchal apologists pointed back to the curse: “Men received the curse of toiling in the fields. Women received the curse of pain in childbirth. Why would you want the double-curse of childbirth pain and working?”
Leaving aside the terrible theology and exegesis of that claim, this idea made for some pretty entitled women. I frequently heard of the relief of new wives finally getting to quit their jobs once they married, now that their husbands provided for them. They lauded the pleasures of having their husbands make hard decisions for them so that they didn’t have to worry about them. They enjoyed having doors opened for them, their seats pulled out and pushed in, their bags carried, etc. Men took out the trash, mowed the lawn, fixed the broken appliances, and did the dirty, hard things of life that women were too weak (or lazy) to do.
I am one such entitled woman. My father is an excellent, hardworking man. He would fill up my car with gas, take care of finances, run errands, and fix whatever I broke without me asking. I never took out the trash, mowed the lawn, fixed a broken doorknob, or checked my car oil. My dad mediated much of the stress of life for me as I transitioned into adulthood. And I’m not going to lie — I miss my dad’s mediation between me and the hard, dirty, frustrating things of life.
One of the things I miss the most is my dad’s legendary insistence that he drive. I hate driving in the city, whether it’s a tiny college town or a metropolitan area, but particularly a metropolitan area. Erich hates driving in the city. In both of our families, our dads do the driving. I grew up expecting my future husband to slay the dragon of city-driving for me. But here I am, married to a man with a hatred of city-driving that probably surpasses mine.
Erich and I just spent the entirety of yesterday visiting apartments, driving a car without air conditioning in the boiling summer sun, in the craziest traffic, and in some sketchy parts of the city. We were sweaty, cranky, discouraged, and exhausted. And we never wanted to venture into the city again.
As we lay in bed recovering from the insanity that was yesterday, Erich said, “Can you please drive tomorrow?” I said yes, but only because I loved him and knew it was only fair for me to shoulder an equal portion of that stress. And as I lay in bed dreading the coming apartment hunt and city driving of tomorrow, I thought about all the things I’ve had to do in my egalitarian marriage.
I work hard to provide for us. I take out the trash. I carry heavy boxes when we move and fit seven grocery bags over each arm after shopping. I troubleshoot my numerous car problems. I handle the finances. Erich expects me to know self-defense and city smarts to protect myself when he’s not around. He wants me to play hard and get dirty. He can’t/won’t solve all my problems or do all the things I don’t want to do. We make our decisions together. Neither one of us gets to quit and leave the other person to handle the hard things alone. We’re in this together.
That sounds cute: “We’re in this together.” But it’s hard. Life is hard, and yes, it feels like a curse sometimes. There have been numerous times when I’ve wanted to throw in the towel and say, “Erich, you make this decision. You do this thing. You drive the car. I can’t handle this anymore.”
But that’s not my natural feminine weakness demonstrating the God-given order of male leadership and relieved female submission. That’s my lazy, frustrated, quitter side popping up to remind me that I’m not perfect and I’ve got plenty of growing up left to do. That’s not femininity. That’s being a pansy.
In my egalitarian marriage, our union isn’t about Erich doing the hard things and slaying the dragons for me. We do the hard things together. We slay the dragons together. We lift each other up when the other one falls (or sits down and throws a tantrum). And I’m growing in my character because of it. Hard work is a good, needed thing in my life. As much as I hate it, it needs to be done.
I can’t play the gender trump card to get out of growing up and getting dirty, because I am a woman, made in the image of a strong God. Because I am a woman, a human, an ezer, a strength equal to my man, I can endure, conquer, and get over myself. City driving, here I come.