When you hear the phrase “relationship inequality” your first reaction is to envisage some put-upon house wife. A slide show of images of women bent over pots, pans, children or the end of the bed flickers through my mind in glorious 1950s technicolour.
It is certainly true that in some, if not all, relationships there is a tendency towards the stereotyping of the woman’s role. Whether its gentle mockery as he nods towards the contents of your kitchen, overflowing unwashed from the sink or his genuinely out-dated beliefs about where you belong at home. The cook in the kitchen/whore in the bedroom cliche will rear it’s head at some point.
But as I find myself in a serious, ring wearing relationship I have noticed that there is one element that shifts our inequality enormously in my favour. Although I have to put up with “put the kettle on love” or texts from the living room asking me to put a pizza in the oven, or sulky huffs about having bought the wrong type of cola home from the corner shop (that he’s perfectly capable of visiting himself ) there is one thing that I will always make him do that he would never dream of asking me to do.
My other half can go to the shops, he can cook and often does, he is relatively tidy and doesn’t turn his nose up at salad. For that, by some standards, he is a modern and equal male partner. I, on the other hand, let down the non-gender specific role taking. I will not, under any circumstances, get up in the middle of the night to deal with nerve jangling noises or social disturbances.
We spent last week apart and being alone in our flat became an almost harrowing experience. Every noise was someone trying to break in or something integral to my life breaking down. The students who live above us seemed to be reenacting Woodstock on a nightly basis and I convinced myself of the building’s imminent and total destruction by fire.
When he returned home I welcomed him with such gusto that he remarked: “I’m just a body to you aren’t I? Just a great mass of man to keep you safe.” And though he is obviously a lot more, there is a huge man-sized amount of truth in what he says. If I go away for the week he is quite capable of carrying out my “women’s work”. He won’t starve and his clothes will be clean. But if he goes away I’m at a loss. There is no way I would jump out into the hall to confront a felon, nor will I go upstairs and knock on the door of people keeping me awake.
I am lucky to have a partner who, usually without me asking, will get up out of bed and deal with any issue that befalls us during the night. The boys upstairs will become church mice with just the utterance of a “keep it down” from him and any clank, crunch or crack will immediately be identified and fixed.
So next time you get a bit irked by some bum-slapping comment remember the time he leaped out of bed when you thought you heard “something downstairs” and stalked down to confront and vanquish whatever it was in nothing but his boxer shorts. He may ask for the odd cup of tea occasionally as he hogs the remote, but he would never send you into the unknown and for that he can slap my bum anytime.