This morning I got an email from my wise-woman mother about my Jam post (she emailed me because – in her words – she wasn’t sure she ‘should be dominating the Comments on D&Z’. Bless her for her humble sensitivity. But on the other hand, I’m neither unaware nor ashamed that you make up a goodly portion of our daily hits, Mum – please comment! Others – please comment!)
She said that in contrast to my impressions of Jam‘s Castle household (in my bit I thoroughly lauded Mr Castle for being an ‘excellent house-father’ while Mrs Castle was off finding a cure for sun-spots) she’d always found Mr Castle’s ‘uncomplaining servitude’ creepy. She cited this article that’s been doing the rounds on the current dynamic between women who work and their male partners (hard to sum it up: I do recommend reading the whole piece; there’s a lot in it).
The article, which I read after doing my review, made me think … but it didn’t change my view of Mr Castle.
Mr Castle is not creepy to me at all – the vision Jam presents of someone who is not the mother taking care of everything in the household, PLUS keeping an eye on the family’s emotional welfare, PLUS taking on beyond-the-call of duty projects like planting cabbages and making pots of jam is to me rosy and beautiful.
Currently, I work. I am the sole family income-earner. Somehow I also am solely in charge of washing, drying and putting away the clothes, and making sure that Maja’s wardrobe is adequately stocked and looked after. I buy the groceries. I do most of the cleaning and most of the cooking (without exception, it’s me who cleans the toilet). I usually make the beds in the morning, and it’s always me who changes the sheets. Mostly, I tend the garden. I put the kid to bed. I do the dishes about 80 percent of the time. I put them away 100 percent of the time. Yesterday, I vacuumed and cleaned out the inside of the car. (This was the only time it has ever been cleaned since we bought it the middle of last year.) I make the jam. How can the Castle household not look like a utopia to me?
But Mum got me thinking – No, I would not like to marry Mr Castle – because he doesn’t really exist (the Atlantic article makes the point nicely), and on the whole I’d rather a real man than a fictional one.
The Castle household is a fantasy – a Pinterest for the intellect: it tricks me into thinking how beautiful that
craft project/fashion trend/use for recycled pallets/husband would look in MY humdrum life.
But men aren’t wired that way. They don’t generally look for the dishes to be done, the clothes to be washed. Or if they do, then they’re not doing other stuff: trouble-shooting a problem with the car, or tiling a bathroom, or sourcing/chopping/stacking firewood, or shooting a deer and getting it into the freezer – all of which manly business Mr A does beautifully.
Yes, yes, I make jam and Mr A fixes the car; you heard it here first. My point is that if our hardwiring (if you’re going to argue hardwiring) means that we mothers come home from a day of income-earning and feel compelled to do the dishes we see accumulating on the bench, then the hard-wiring sucks. Or at least, the hard-wiring is not compatible with the way society’s organised right now. What’s the solution?
Well, surely my fantasy (even if that’s all it’s destined to be) of a Mr-Castle-type figure conscientiously daily pegging out the dishes to be dried is allowable, for a start?