I’m a progressive wife, even more so a progressive woman, but… I like to shop, and when I do, I prefer to do it without my husband, which makes me just like my mother, who is Sicilian, was born during WW2, and believes that men should never wash dishes.
Let me explain.
I was born in 1969, pretty much the best year of the 20th century. It was the final year of the era, when people still wore minis and bell bottoms and smoked weed on the streets of Haight Ashbury, and the Beatles were still a band.
I mean, in the 80s I spelled women womyn. And I was so progressive that I didn’t think the university needed a womyn’s room and was happy to piss in the boys toilets. How’s that for forward-thinking, gender-cracking neutrality?
Skip forward to the 90s and I got engaged. It may sound like a backwards step, but refused to be tied down by the title fiancée. I could barely say the word girlfriend or boyfriend.
When Jeff and I got married, he became “the man I married”. I never considered changing my name, and still haven’t. In fact, I was still so progressive that I didn’t have a bridal shower or hen’s night, and I’m pretty sure I forbade a cock’s night, too.
Skip forward some 48 years and I’m as progressive as a lady preying mantis. But after 23 years with the man I married, I need to understand: when the fuck did I turn into my parents?
You see, despite their unholy lack of touching emotions, I stoke the embers of nostalgia for some elements of their marriage. Like how back in the 80s, when Highpoint became the shopping Mecca in Melbourne’s western suburbs, we used to head over on a Friday night and mum and I would do the rounds of Target, Big W and, hot damn, Myer. We would dump dad the moment we fell under the buzzing fluorescent lights, and we knew exactly where to meet him, and roughly what time to be there. We used our spidey sense back then – no phones, just our spidey sense – and met dad around the main mezzanine of the shopping centre where some kid would be entertaining the masses on the main stage downstairs.
It mostly worked like a charm, and it avoided the aggro of having the old man waiting impatiently outside the shops while mum and I tried on clothes and perfumes.
So to this day I just don’t understand why, WHY women take their partners (and let’s not talk about their children) when they go out shopping.
Grocery shopping, I get. Even targeted shopping – for a birthday present, for example. But for a Friday night browse, there’s nothing quite as sad as seeing a man sitting outside a change room or leaning out the front of a shop for their missus. It’s sad for everyone.
I used to think it was so nice to have Jeff come with me when I was hunting for clothes or shoes. I mean, we’re besties, we’re soulmates, he’s SUPER PROGRESSIVE so he must naturally enjoy it as much as I did, right?
No. Wrong. For three reasons.
- They really don’t want to be there.
- Most men (like 99% of straight men) have the shittiest judgment. They’ll tell you that you look great in lycra when you clearly don’t.
- They’ll guilt you into NOT buying things because you don’t NEED them. They say things like:
“The spices are already in little bags. Why do you need a spice rack?”
“What’s wrong with the kitchen tap? It works.”
“Don’t you have a black dress?”
“Do they dogs really need denim jackets?”
So at the age of 48, I really have come to envy my parents’ shopping habits. Like mum, I don’t want to explain why I need a new spice rack or kitchen tap, or the dozenth black dress or why the dogs need denim jackets to go over their hoodies.
Does this mean I’m, like, an average middle class picket fence woman?
Give me a second to think about it. It only occurred to me as I parked the car outside the Sunshine Plaza a few minutes ago.
What I do know is: Jeff isn’t like my dad. Phew – that’s something I won’t have to deal with at therapy next week. Jeff is also not a typical dude. I mean, he wears feathers in his beautiful beard, and recently glittered it for a drag show he went to.
But in other ways, the dude’s a dude. He hates the suggestion of a suggestion. Takes it as a personal affront. He doesn’t like change (like my dad).
He says things like:
“What’s wrong with the spice rack we have at home? It’s perfectly fine.”
“What’s wrong with the kitchen tap? It works.”
“The dogs need new denim jackets? Do they?”
“You look great in Lorna Jane leggings.”
So I’ve taken to just doing things I need without asking. New spice rack (on its way), new kitchen tap (done), new denim jackets for the dogs (done), new cat(s) (done), new bathtub (coming), landscaped garden (booked).
Growing up, my mother’s biggest complaint about dad was that he never wanted to get anything new done to the house. So if she’d had her way, the kitchen would have more bench space, the front veranda would be tiled, not just a slab of concrete for 30 years. But she never did have her way, despite having full control of the purse strings. She thought it improper to get things done around the house, because THAT was a husband’s duty. You asked your husband to get the plumber in to fix the shower. And if he didn’t, well, it just didn’t get fixed.
Even today, though, among us progressives, why do we still feel the need to ask them for agreement from our boyfriends/girlfriends/partners/husbands/wives when it comes to making a decision (like picking a new spice rack, cat, dog, kitchen tap, bathtub, garden). In the end, do we really want their opinion if it’s going to oppose ours? Because, just like when you have to go to a party and you really don’t want to go but you know when you get there you’ll have fun and you really do (have fun, that is), making a decision about a thing your partner might say no to just means more angst before you go ahead and do it anyway because you know that after a week, s/he’ll be fine with it.
Mum never did this. Even though she controlled the purse strings. She wouldn’t dare.
But I dare. Because in a world of quadruple mortgages, businesses, no fixed income and no savings, there’s no such thing as money, anyway. So I have vowed to stop arguing over things that I’ve decided I need. I mean, I’m not out there buying a new house on the Amex, or hiring a private jet to take us to the Maldives, am I?
Unless you’re a millionaire, you should totes discuss those things with your partner. But if the decision won’t break the bank or the relationship, I have decided to go forth. Alone. Be warned, Jeff, a new spice rack is on its way.