Happily Neanderthal

Have you ever done something that seems completely ordinary to you, only to find people looking at you as if you were an apparition from Neptune? A few months ago, my husband and I were Shabbat guests of a synagogue far from our home. We were graciously befriended and hosted by a couple in the synagogue. (For info on why strangers would welcome us into their lives, see Strangers and Friends.) My husband was scheduled to speak at the buffet lunch after prayer services on Saturday. But the odd reaction was not to his words. It came about because of the buffet.  Rather than expecting my husband to line up with everybody else, I filled a plate and brought it to him.

That small gesture inspired quite a bit of comment. I regularly serve my husband at this type of event. Yes, that scenario does fit into stereotypical male/female roles and Gloria Steinem would disapprove. Nevertheless, in my opinion, it is also silly to pretend that stereotypical roles were randomly imposed rather than acknowledging that they just might match how we are created. Certainly, God made each of us unique and each marriage has its individual rhythms and rhymes. However, it was hard to ignore how  most of the men in our vicinity at the luncheon buffet were vocally envious while many of their wives were a tad uncomfortable.

Since I have joined my husband working full-time in our ministry, and since our work hours often extend way beyond an eight-hour day, cooking supper has become more difficult for me. Some of my tasks cluster in the late afternoon and early evening, frequently without warning.  On those nights, my husband cheerfully prepares dinner. I appreciate the thoughtfulness and welcome the food, but I would be just as fine if he ordered in pizza rather than cooking. This is not true in the reverse. When I cook for him, it nurtures his soul, not just his body. Similarly, when we are at a buffet, he enjoys the food more when I hand it to him. Even if he passionately loved cooking, I don’t think I would have the same emotional response to his feeding me as he has to my feeding him.

There are other routines of our marriage where the reverse model reigns. My husband does various things for me, not because I can’t do them myself, but because his doing it expresses devotion. When I take out the garbage, the garbage is taken out; when he takes it out (without being asked), I perceive it as a token of affection.

Feminism has implanted itself so sturdily in our society that we often don’t even realize that what we have come to see as normal, very well may not be. I know any number of couples who divide economic and home duties without any recognition that, generally, men and women value things differently.  When babies come along, these couples meticulously strive for each adult to be half mother/half father rather than challenging the latest politically correct dogma by recognizing that mothers and fathers are actually two different creatures.

As a guest at the buffet luncheon, I didn’t turn cartwheels on the tables or snatch other diners’ desserts. Yet by serving my husband, I seemed to breach the decorum and acceptable behavior pattern in perhaps an even more disquieting way.

12 thoughts on “Happily Neanderthal”

  1. My mother-in-law did this for my father-in-law and my wife started doing this when we were first married. My mother did this for my father at times also. My wife would get up in the morning and fix my breakfast before I went to work. I was always a very independent person and had lived alone for quite some time before marrying and did not eat breakfast even though my job was physically demanding. I asked her to not get up to do this and not serve me as I felt I was taking advantage of her hospitality.
    I never thought about it quite this way before. It has been almost 30 years now and I have prepared more plates for her than she has for me and probably cooked more meals. I enjoy this and never thought about actually taking something from her that she may have enjoyed also. I might ask her if she wants to start that up again, LOL!
    I think it is pretty cool how you explained it and appreciate your wisdom.

  2. Dearest Susan,
    I was very delighted to read this post. Truly, if I had a husband as wonderful as yours, I would consider it an honor to serve him. Thank you for speaking so passionately on this point, and on your every message.

  3. Sadly, this is the culture I was brought up in- the culture where marriage vows only mean something while you’re in the honeymoon period. Filth and low morals are considered ‘female empowerment’ and husbands are for nothing more than ‘the guy who takes out the garbage and lifts heavy things.’
    I will be 40 this year and have been single for quite a while- as I have raised my standards and expectations of what an appropriate relationship should be. I spent my 20’s & 30’s focused on the shallow and romantic, wondering why it felt so banal, lackluster and fizzled so quickly.
    When I finally do settle down, I will follow yours & the Rabbi’s sterling example how to behave in a real, proper and loving relationship- and expect the same in return.
    Thanks you Mrs. Lapin, I really enjoy your weekly musings.

  4. Elinor Ann Lacy

    I am happy to say that I am also a Neanderthal! I was born in 1940 and am proud to say I was taught to honor my husband by my mother’s actions towards my father. It is such an easy way to make a man happy. Modern girls and woman don’t know what they are missing!
    Thanks for your always amusing and enlightened comments.

  5. That observers would be surprised by your bringing food to your husband is a disappointing surprise in itself to me. But perhaps I simply surround myself with friends whose values are similar to mine. The small gestures I make for my husband are returned several-fold by him; neither of us take each other’s efforts for granted, and likewise, both of us take delight in pleasing the other. That, in sum, is the key to a blissful marriage. Thanks for pointing this out; every bride should read your post.

  6. It is clear to me as a viewer of TCT and an avid reader of Thought Tools and of your Musings that you and the Rabbi have a model marriage. Your devotion to each other serves as an example to us all. You should put up a picture window as far as modesty permits!
    Your observations as to the raised eyebrows or even public disapproval of your demonstrated devotion to your husband (and he to you) are not surprising. As C.S. Lewis pointed out, we must be equal in the eyes of the Law, but we are by no means equal before God. The feminist movement must have been founded by women who have cast off their moorings from Biblical precedent, and float adrift on the wanton tide of ‘equality’ as enshrined as tin god by the Left. These women by adhering blindly to the feminist party line have actually shot themselves in the foot, forfeiting manifold feminine privilege without winning the coveted happiness, and clamoring obsessively for more and more equality. They want to have their cake and eat it, too, but you cannot have it both ways. Equality is just another false god that demands without measure more than we can give.
    As a malignant by-product of the HE-cession, many men have been cast out of the workplace forever while women retain job security. When that happened to us, I readily assumed so-called ‘women’s work’ with a vengeance, to save my wife from burn-out. When she must work 55 hours a week, I will not have her come home to spend her precious free hours cooking dinner or shopping or mopping. I became a passionate cook. I buy the groceries and when she arrives a meal of stir-fried vegetables or stuffed peppers or Züricher Geschnetzeltes awaits her.

  7. Mrs. Lapin – what a refreshing post! I totally relate to what you shared. I have been preparing my husband’s coffee and breakfast and taking it up to him when I hear the water running for 29 years. I like the thought that I am beginning his day in a peaceful way that highlights he is loved and appreciated. I always run down to the garage to open it when he comes home from work as well. He’s told me that he’s mentioned this to several of the men he works with and they voiced the feeling that they wished their wives did that. Being politically correct and everything that comes with “feminism” truly leaves out the beauty God created each of us to have. I don’t believe I have to be treated like a man to have equality. In fact I don’t want to. There’s a difference between being treated fairly in the workplace and being treated like a man. God created me as a woman and I enjoy being one and being treated as one-especially by my husband.

  8. Susan, I often think about this as I pack my husband’s breakfast and lunch the night before he starts another long work day. I am happy to be able to do these small things that will ensure that he gets enough food to last him through the day, since I left it to him to pack it himself, his focus on work would make him take only scant provisions.
    Women who have been indoctrinated by feminism or have done time in Women’s Studies’ departments would be outraged by this, yet I suspect that if I were in a same-sex couple, doing the exact same thing, my actions would be considered as small acts of kindness, and not Stepford Wife behavior.

  9. Not only are you giving him an extra bit of sleep, but 2 nutritious economical meals and a concrete expression of your love and respect. You are most certainly not crazy!

  10. Deborah Seneca

    I also have always served my husband his meals. I enjoy the fact that we have different roles in our relationship, and I recognize that I am a natural caregiver. I think it’s a very sad thing that a woman would allow herself to feel demeaned by nurturing her husband in this way.

  11. Anastasia Mather

    I can relate to this. My husband works crazy hours, six days a week. So in order for him to get an extra half hour of sleep, I will get up at 4:30 am and prepare his breakfast and lunch. Yes, it interrupts my sleep, but since he does physical work in harsh conditions, that extra half hour of sleep can make a huge difference to him.
    I have been told numerous times that it’s a crazy thing to do, that they would never do it. So I’ve stopped talking about it and do it anyway. It’s a small way to appreciate the work he does for us, his family. And I don’t think I’m the crazy one.

  12. kpherrmann@att.net

    I think bringing food to your husband is a wonderful thing to do!
    Keep it up!

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