A casual remark of mine at dinner a few days ago: „Me? I`d never leave the country for a man to live abroad with him without having a job first.” and the answer I got “Welcome to 21st century emancipation”(or something like that) provoked this blog post. All mistakes are mine.
Emancipation or self-reliance?
Emancipaton is a word I hate and that always sounds negative to me; however, there is no real substitute. I am no feminist, but the casual exchange mentioned above made me think.
What I associate with emancipation, sadly, are chores. I was in a relationship for quite some time in which my only emancipation consisted of me deciding what kind of groceries to buy and cook. I studied, he studied, I did all the chores – even the ones we had agreed on being “his” when moving in together. He dealt with paperwork, which I have hated and still do.
To be honest, I have no idea why my 22-year-old-self assumed this role as if it were the most natural thing in the world. Having grown up in a household where both parents worked and my dad cooks better than my mum (sorry, Mum!), my role models were equal partners and I have certainly not been brought up to be a man`s keeper. Sure, my mum never paid the bills and my dad never cleaned a bathroom, but apart from these exceptions, both were responsible for chores, or outsourced them to my sister and me, if convenient! 😉
Luckily, after the breakup, I shared a flat with three men. Some of my friends declared me insane: bad break-up, share flat with three more or less unknown men (we had worked together, but were never close), seems like jumping out of the frying pan into the fire. Yet it turned out to be healing for me in a way I had never imagined. In the months I lived there, I never brought down the trash or hovered. My flatmates knew how to cook more than pasta al pesto and even buy groceries (not: groceries = beer + crisps, but real ingredients for home-cooked meals).
To cut a long story short, I owe them my view of men in the 21st century and I am deeply grateful that they showed me that living together as friends is in fact possible without arguments about stupid chores. We never had a plan, btw; that was not necessary since everybody just contributed something. And even better, I learned how to be friends with the other gender: cooking together and dancing sillily around in the kitchen, barbecues on the balcony because we could, beer and music as an evening plan, mulled wine in abundance on a workday and in general just having a good time.
When looking at my female friends, we are all pretty self-reliant in both, typically female and male chores or things to do. Most of them might not know how to change their tyres, are however aware of the necessity and know the next mechanic to call for an appointment. The others pay their bills mostly on time (not me, I hate paperwork, that hasn`t changed), rent or even buy flats alone and organize them and their everyday life independently.
Yet does that mean we are emancipated? Those of us who are in a relationship are hard to put in one category or the other. There are some that choose traditional roles, especially once they`ve become a Mum. I have a friend who is more chaotic than her boyfriend – her clothes are all over their flat and she usually forgets where to put her things, like keys, and he is the one that is organized and sometimes, I feel, organizes her. Whenever I think of them, I always feel they are one of the best-suited couples I know, independent and totally in sync, despite the lack of clear roles, or maybe because of it? Another friend left her boyfriend because she felt it was not enough to live an “ok” life with a lack of emotional wellbeing – imagine the bravery, it is inspiring – and is currently facing the challenge of living alone. Still I have never seen her more real than in this phase. Which of these is the most emancipated one?
Me, I`m just a woman. Thinking about emancipation to me means more thinking about independence and self-reliance than about chores and roles. This blog post, and don`t ask me why this came over me this morning cruising around in my convertible, must be the wind, is the most I have thought about chores and roles in years. I mean, I`m just me. I am able to live alone, but I don`t always like to. I like cleaning the bathrooms and listening to Bon Jovi and singing along, and is has happened I cooked for others, it`s relaxing. I like men in general to open doors for me, especially if I feel it is due to old-fashioned chivalry, or pay the cheque at a date – even if I am capable of doing both, too, thank you very much. I also like it if the man drives the car or carries my heavy suitcase. I like it even more if that suitcase is packed for our next adventure together.
What seems important to me, though, is that I learned (thanks, guys!) that my relationships with the people that matter are not defined by what chores I do or don`t do, or how well I fit in a traditional role. For this, I am eternally grateful to my friends and family.
PS: Just to be clear, I really would not move abroad with anyone without having a job to be financially independent. All I would do is shop or stroll around town and read books or cruise around in my convertible, which I probably couldn`t take with me, now that I think about it, but hey, there are rentals…