When it comes to being a mother, I’ve noted my mediocre status, but the truth of it is that I’m really mediocre across the board, which includes my status as wife.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Vacuuming the Lawn
When my husband married me, I think he had little idea of how deep my feministic tendencies ran, and I sometimes believe he’s spent the last 11 years of our marriage continually being blown away by all the things that I don’t or won’t do. It’s not because I can’t do them, just because I don’t want to do them. Or if you start expecting me to do something. Woe to the person who expects me to perform a duty simply because it’s viewed as women’s work. One thing I do not do is iron his clothes. On occasion (to be nice) I will press a shirt or pair of slacks, but 90% of the time, his wardrobe is up to him. I buy his clothes. I wash and dry his clothes. I fold and put away his clothes. He can iron them.
Another thing I did not do (up until three weeks ago) was mow the lawn. My feminism may run deep, but it also runs along my well-worn mental paths, namely, that women do not a) mow the lawn b) take out the trash c) fix anything that flushes or has a drain clogged with hairy debris. Those are men’s jobs. In addition to being mediocre, I understand this makes me a slight hypocrite. I’m okay with that.
The idea of females mowing the lawn wasn’t even on the radar until we moved back East, where plenty of women can lay witness to pushing a mower, their hair pulled up in a pony-bun. Back in Arizona, women do not mow the lawn. Heck, most men don’t mow the lawn, preferring to hire a landscaping crew who may or may not have correct documentation, and I can tell you not many people care, as long as they aren’t the ones cutting their grass in 110-degree weather. The exception to this is my brother-in-law who not only mows his lawn, but frequently enough that my nephew’s favorite toys are kid sized “mow-ahs and trim-ahs.” (The accent giving testimony to his four-year-old-age, not any East Coast dialects). He’s even been known to use empty wrapping paper tubes, the vacuum hose, and other long objects to pretend he’s mowing and trimming things in the house. (My nephew, not my brother-in-law.)
Another reason people don’t mow in Arizona, is that most front and back yard areas have gone the way of xeriscaping, in order to save precious water in the land of desert drought. If grass does make an appearance, it’s usually a pubic-sized patch of green surrounded by thighs of flesh toned rocks, just so you can claim you have a “lawn,” which could easily be maintained with a good sharp beard trimmer. No large lawn mowers necessary.
My husband will not admit this, but there is a little part of him that coveted those mower-pushing women, if only for the idea of how much time it would free up for him to do other items on my list. Three or four weeks ago, the to-do list was long and in my usual Controlling Woman state, I was eager to have the items crossed off. I offered to mow the lawn for the first time.
I realize now what a mistake this was, and am reminded of the time I was five and my mother asked me with bubbly excitement, “Do you want to help me do the dishes!?” in her sing-songy voice. What? Is my mother inviting me to do the dishes with her? Finally?
“Yes, Yes!” I cried with glee. “I bet I can do them all by myself!”
Well, you know the rest of the story. That one brief moment of virgin excitement has been followed by a lifetime of mundane dish washing, all because I thought I was being invited to do something cool. After about twice, you realize what an idiot you were and the next time someone asks you if you want to learn how to do something else (cook scrambled eggs, run the washer, hem some pants) it’s best to say no thanks and get the hell out of there.
My husband was outside while I mowed the lawn for the first time which I was grateful for, namely because I am slightly afraid of the lawn mower. This may stem from the fact that as a kid I wasn’t allowed to be outside while my father mowed the lawn in case he hit a rock, and that rock went smashing into my head, took out my shins, or worse yet, sucked up one of my appendages. Mowers are scary business, don’t you realize, and I never understood why things like these never happened to my father, but apparently it was an adult thing. I could play outside when he finished.
You can imagine my apprehension then, at finally using a Husqvarna 6.5 horsepower bright orange mower, that could in theory, eat me. Or send rocks flying at my dry, hairy legs, or chew my hand off. But I sucked it up in true I-am-woman-hear-me-roar-fashion and mowed the entire lawn, which is no small feat. How hard could it be really? If I can push a vacuum (however infrequently) surely I can push a mower. They can’t be that different.
My husband said I did a fabulous job. What’s he going to say? That I missed a spot? Because he knows, just like my mother knew when I was five, that when you want people to add some skill to their repertoire that invariably benefits you, you do not criticize on the first go-round. Or the fifth. You do not point out where they f’ed up the lawn, the spots they missed, or the ridiculous mow patterns in the grass. You pat that person on the back, give them a big hug and kiss, and say, “Damn the yard looks great!”
Today I mowed the lawn for the second time by myself, my husband being at work. The grass was really long, and since he started a new job yesterday, I’m trying to make his week as easy for him as I can. I actually had to pull-start it by myself this time, which is another thing to check off my list of “man jobs that I can perform.” It’s clear I’m still an amateur grass mower, because I haven’t figured out an efficient route around our yard. I start off at the outside, mowing along the border, figuring I’ll loop the whole thing, but then our trees and bushes get in the way, and I start cutting down the middle. In inevitably this leaves me walking back and forth in a two foot square once I get to the middle of the section, which is difficult since I’m pushing a mower twice that size. So I figure that I’ll try to use the mower like a vacuum, pushing it back and forth to get the last few long grass hairs. Or to get under the bushes and around trees. Or to mow beneath the slide and ladder on the playset.
I have come to realize that mowing is like vacuuming only when you look at it from a pushing perspective; a lawn mower doesn’t pull back very easily, (unlike the vacuum) and even less easily when you keep forgetting to ungrip the forward moving wheels. I’m sure my neighbors looked out the window at me today and had a hearty laugh. “Look honey, there’s Rachel. Trying to vacuum the grass again. She’s such an idiot.” And though I finished mowing the front and back lawn in two hours, when I looked at my handiwork from the porch and front window, the yard leaves a little to be desired. Many homeowners on our street mow their lawn in pretty diagonal stripes, reminiscent of ball fields and golf courses. But one side of my lawn looks like the Mother Ship landed; concentric circles leading to nowhere, and the other side reflects curvy lines and stripes, looking like I chased a rabid animal across the lawn. I also avoided the close edges of all the mulch beds and didn’t even go near the rock path in the backyard because I’m scared of the blades cutting out or braking altogether. Just last week my husband bent the mower blade after running over a rock from the path…and while it’s only a $20 fix, the cost to counsel me from the resulting post traumatic stress just wouldn’t be worth it.
My husband came home from work tonight with a big grin on his face, muttering thanks and words like “Mom’s the best.” Honestly, heat notwithstanding today, I didn't really mind mowing the lawn. I’d rather do that than clean toilets, pick up the house, or wash laundry. (Which is evidenced by how my house looks today.) Just as long as my husband doesn’t start expecting it. He needs to have a few things to do around here just so he feels needed and useful. But if he ever asks me in a sing-songy voice if I want to help him change the oil, just in case, you know, the oil needs to be changed and he’s out of town, I’m going to say no thanks, and get the hell out of there. Changing the oil is a man’s job.