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.