Some couples fight about money. Some couples fight about sex, how often their-in-laws should visit and other mundane things.
My wife and I fight about more important things. For example, the other night we were unloading the dishwasher and..
Wait. Slight correction there. I was unloading the dishwasher. My wife was standing nearby supervising. I picked some seldom used piece of crockery from the dishwasher and asked her where it belonged. It is some sort of thingy for cooking potatoes. I don't know what you call it. She made some caustic comment about my failing memory.
Yeah, right. We've been in this home for a little less than five years. I know EXACTLY where that thing belonged in our old kitchen, but we've never used it here until this week so I do not know where she put it when we first moved in. I stated as much.
"We have used it since we moved here", she retorted.
OK. Maybe so. But who says I put it away last time? She might have unloaded the dishwasher that time. I reminded her of that. She shrugged and said "So you decide where to put it."
Okey dokey. I opened a cabinet and put it on top of another dish. My wife looked at me with that special look reserved for unspeakable acts. "It doesn't go there", she stated.
Excuse me? I informed her of her mistake. "It goes where I say it goes. After all, I am the Chief Booperator".
That is a matter of record, by the way. I established my title many years ago. Yes, it is primarily a honorific which carries little real authority. But in this case, I felt that as she had directly told me I should make the decision, she had effectively ceded power in this matter to me. So I was really only reminding her of my status.
She looked at me, plainly choosing her words carefully.
"That is true", she allowed. "However, I am the Dali Booperator."
Now, I am not one who subscribes to the notion of Male Dominance. Nor do I insist upon equal power in a marriage. In many areas, I am quite willing to surrender power to my wife. But there are limits. She certainly cannot claim that title. I protested instantly.
"The hell you are!"
Admittedly, that was not a well reasoned argument. In retrospect, I could have provided evidence to refute her claim. For one, I am not certain that there is such a title. Even if provenance can be established, does it outrank Chief Booperator? Frankly, I was shocked at her boldness and - yes - at her insolence.
She turned her back on me. "The Dali Booperator has spoken. Deal with it."
I am usually quick witted. When it comes to a battle of words, I am well equipped. Yet, I found myself speechless. I think it was the sheer effrontery of it - how could she diminish me so?
I sulked for days and honestly I am not sure our marriage can survive this. As a symbolic rejection of her claim, I left the item (I still have no idea what it is) where I had placed it. However, when I checked yesterday, she had moved it. I searched, intending to move it back, but I could not find it.
She is NOT the Dali Booperator! This shall not be!
Yes. But, believe it or not, this was real. My wife and I actually had this conversation. It was actually about something else that I cannot remember, but the rest is real. We were just in a silly mood and goofing around; we do that kind of thing sometimes. We have real fights too, but a mock fight can actually relieve some minor tensions and provide a little laughter.
As it happened, the very next morning I read a hub here about "How a man can gain the male dominance back in his marriage" (no longer available). Quite honestly, that article disturbed me. I do not feel "dominant". Nor do I feel "dominated". I feel that my wife is my partner and my friend.
The writer's argument that male dominance is necessary is based on biology. She says:
What exactly is male dominance in terms of a man and a woman? A man with male dominance would be the hunter in the marriage, the provider and the protector. This may seem like a far fetched cry from what our world looks like today in modern times, but the underling essence of our DNA is still there. A man when married to a woman still needs to feel his male dominance and woman needs to feel it as well.
I suppose that's a little better than asserting that men have dominance because the Bible says they should, but I don't like it any better. Apparently, I'm not alone.
Wikipedia's entry on Patriarchy states:
Most sociologists reject predominantly biological explanations of patriarchy and contend that social and cultural conditioning is primarily responsible for establishing male and female gender roles. According to standard sociological theory, patriarchy is the result of sociological constructions that are passed down from generation to generation. These constructions are most pronounced in societies with traditional cultures and less economic development. Even in modern developed societies, however, gender messages conveyed by family, mass media, and other institutions largely favor males having a dominant status.
Coincidentally, I had also recently read the Newsweek article on "Men's Lib - Why we need to re- imagine masculinity" and was fascinated by some of the comments there. Some defend male dominance and some do not, but it is plain that this is a subject under examination today.
Culture is still important, isn't it?
Historically, women seem to have less rights than men. They did not own property; in many ways they themselves were property, either in reality or effectively so. We know that the concepts of woman as property still exist today.
Men are physically stronger than women (in general, of course). In most of today's occupations, that's either unimportant or the importance is much diminished (power tools in construction work, for example), but the difference is still there and the equality has not been present long enough to drive it out of our collective psyche.
It's possible to argue that if someone is raised in a culture that expects male dominance, they will not be happy in a marriage that does not exhibit that dynamic. I guess I'm even willing to stipulate that this may be true: if you are unable to escape your conditioning, perhaps you will have prejudices of that kind. But is that absolute? Are we doomed to forever repeat the social norms of the past?
My wife experienced such a culture. Early on, she lived with her Italian grandparents, adult immigrants who arrived here with her father, then seven, in the early 1900's. In their home, the men were undisputed masters and reacted to any challenge of authority with physical violence or at least the threat of that.
My upbringing was different. All my male role models worked with their minds rather than their hands and not even a hint of physical dominance was ever present. Nor was their any clear demarcation as to who was in charge - my parents and grandparents seemed to be equals, at least to my young eyes. I'm not saying they never disagreed, but I never had a sense that either was dominant.
By that other writer's arguments, and by the arguments of other traditionalists, that should make for a bad marriage. My wife should expect dominance; not being shoved around physically - she hated seeing that with her grandparents - but some would insist that her "DNA" or her cultural conditioning predisposes her to expect a "take charge" man.
Yet, the dynamics of our marriage are not that at all. As I said before, we are partners and friends. When we disagree, we talk it out or fight it out or pout or laugh or ignore it or whatever circumstances and conditions cause us to do. Nobody "puts their foot down" because nobody has those symbolic feet.
I do not mean to describe some idyllic marriage. We aren't perfect people. We have stupid fights at times. But none of that has any roots in dominance.
My wife just woke up a few minutes ago and wandered in to where I am typing this. I stood up and greeted her with a long hug and a kiss as we have done almost every morning for decades. I whispered a question in her ear.
"Are you still the Dali Booperator?"
She laughed. "Yes, I am", she answered, "but you can be the Dali tomorrow".
Yeah. That's what I'm talking about!