Monday, December 1, 2008

I married my father

He could also be your father...or any middle-aged Caribbean man.

When my husband and I started dating as teenagers, my mother regularly reminded him that I hated housework. He, being a man of the 1990s, espoused equality among the sexes and his mother's domestic training. I was grateful for that since I would never have married a man who expected me to cook and clean while he put up his feet in front of the television. Imagine my horror when I realized that I, in fact, hold almost sole responsibility for taking care of our home and children. I certainly believe my husband meant well, but alas it seems genetics and cultural conditioning are winning.

My opinions about Jamaican men were formed pretty early and I still can find no reason to object to the 'whe mi dinna deh?' jokes or stereotypes. I grew up with a caricature of the 'typical' Jamaican man just across the street from my house. My neighbor - aptly named for the ill-tempered Sesame Street character - lived in a house full of women who he required - often loudly - to wait on him hand and foot. My father, then step-father, were never as demanding or as dependent; but neither of them tripped over themselves to wash dishes or hold a broom.

As I talk to my girlfriends about their West Indian parents I realize that while things have gotten better with later generations, there are more than a few husbands/boyfriends who are throwbacks of their fathers and grandfathers. Despite higher education and the airs of sophistication, these 30-something and 40-something men still live oblivious to dishes in the sink, laundry needing to be folded, and dirty floors. My husband will fly into rage of righteous indignation if I suggested he does not help around the house. He will quickly point to the last time he loaded or unloaded the dishwasher, even as he ignored the dirty stove and the sticky floors. Friends leave their husbands at home with children, fully expecting that the house or the children will be in dire need of cleaning when they return. Doctors' appointments, teacher conferences, project due dates - few seem to register with men as part of their responsibilities.

I say all the time that I should be able to sue my husband for breech of contract - but then again I probably wouldn't win. He is after all, really not responsible for his lack of is just the West Indian way.


  1. I'm not sure you are being entirely fair in this description of the West Indian male...

    I am Jamaican, born and raised, and I don't think I fit into the stereotype that you have portrayed in your piece. However, well described, I do believe there are a lot more 30- or 40-something Jamaican men out there that are willing and compassionately do dote on their women.

    As for myself, I tend to feel that not many women of today have a passion or capability of cooking or cleaning. I love to cook and I do it well. I also love a clean house and I am a slight "germ-a-phobe", so I take the time to bleach down the place to be on the safe side. I think the argument can be made for both sides lacking domestication I need a vintage-type women with old school values.

  2. When men start breast-feeding, then we will take over those duties. It's called NURTURING!

    -Your old friend