It is the end of a long and busy day, but you feel good. You got to the office before anybody else, spent another day in the professional jungle and survived with some grace, came home, fixed the leaky faucet, washed dishes and took out the garbage. Now it's time for bed.
You turn on the television set in the bedroom, hop under the covers and wait. Then you wait some more. Finally, you decide that you have waited long enough, because Mr. Happy is hungry and he could use a midnight snack.
"Honey," you call. "Time for bed."
You hear nothing.
You know that silence at this strategic moment is not a good sign. It usually means that there will be no nookie from your favorite cookie.
You get out of bed and shuffle down the hall. "Honey?" you call again.
She is not in the bathroom. She is not in the study. She is not in the linen closet. She is not in the laundry hamper. So where is she?
There she is. In the living room. Watching TV. With the lights out.
This, too, is not a good sign.
She is watching one of those daytime talk shows that she tapes and reruns late at night when she is pissed at you. It's called negative reinforcement.
You know that you will see Oprah or Phil or Geraldo or Sally or Jerry or Jenny or Regis or Kathy or Joan or Faith or Sonya on the screen, and that the subjects they discuss sometimes seem loaded against men.
You sit beside her and try to put your arm around her. She moves away from you quickly.
"Honey, what's wrong?" you ask.
"Don't call me honey," she says coldly. "I want to watch this."
"I thought we--"
"I know what you thought," she says. "Just let me watch this."
You know what that means. You are about to be told for the 10,000th time that men are fuck-ups and women are victims. You also know that there will be no attention for Mr. Happy.
The subject on the boob tube this evening is called the Chore Wars. It is about how useless men are around the house. Housewives and career women, professors and sociologists and lawyers, even the studio audience, lament the worthless American male.
They use fancy words, but their message is simple. The male is a lazy bum who never does his share of the housework. He ruins relationships through slothfulness and lack of concern.
Clichés dominate the discussion: It is claimed that only five to ten percent of men do any work at all around the house. Domestic labor is still supposedly women's work. Guys are described as incredible slobs who never clean a toilet or wash a dish. Men, it's said, don't see dirt. Men aren't trained to clean anything. Men couldn't fold a sheet if their lives depended on it. And it is all supported by official-sounding studies and doctoral dissertations and government statistics.
The deadly rhetoric about male ineffectiveness at home pours into your living room like a poisonous gas.
Your significant other gloats in triumph while she continues to stew in her anger. Once again, the gender gap runs like a fault line down the middle of your living-room floor.
At this unsettling moment in time, good reader, what can you say to defend yourself? As the earthquake rumbles and the evening crumbles, is there any argument in favor of the poor male in his own home? Or are we really as thoughtless as the experts portray us?
You might try making some of the following observations. I am not saying this approach will get you laid. I am saying that we need antidotes to the poison we are all being fed about ourselves:
Statistics suck. Statistics are no substitute for good judgment. And statistics can be easily manipulated to support any argument. When you are told, for example, that only five percent of the men in America do any significant work around the house, remember that most of our gender research today is in its infancy. It is also often in the hands of propagandists and intellectual lightweights. Don't let the pseudoscientists fool you. Our daily lives have not been accurately quantified or analyzed. There are lies, damned lies and statistics. We are surrounded by all three.
Definitions suck. Just listen to the bickering that goes on about men and women and housework. How do we define work? How do we define chore? How do we define leisure time? You would think that domestic life was nothing but a sociology seminar. So put it like this: If you rake leaves and clean gutters and mow the lawn and fix the car and order a computer for your home, you have done some domestic drudgery. You have paid some dues. And no Ph.D. or market researcher can erase that fact. The so-called experts will define your life out of existence if you let them. Don't let them.
Today's most erroneous assumption: "I have worked too hard and I am exhausted. This means that someone else in my home has not worked hard enough and is taking it easy." As I have said many times, we are now a nation of workaholics and debtors. We get less sleep, less peace and less recovery time than any generation in history. So let's lighten up and understand that everybody has too much to do.
I need a maid, you need a maid. I need a chauffeur and a masseuse and a butler and an office manager and a secretary and a bodyguard and a tax advisor and a court jester to brighten my day. So do you. But if I am living with you, I have no right to demand that you be all of those things for me. And vice versa.
Look, we're all fucked. Men and women. So let's work together to change things. If not for ourselves, then for Mr. and Ms. Happy's sake, Ok?