To celebrate the publication of our book, Sexy Feminism, we’ll be sharing some short excerpts of it with you, the readers who helped make this book possible! Here, a portion of our chapter, “Feminist Relationships: From Long-Term to Life-Long Partnership.”
I have some confessions: I make dinner for my husband, I added his name to mine (no hyphen), and I am the primary caregiver for our son. And, yes, I am a feminist in a feminist-leaning marriage. What does that mean? It means real life sometimes doesn’t allow for a perfect combination of empowerment and responsibility. It’s a relationship that requires compromise—sometimes more difficult than you’d ever imagined—to make things work. As is the case for so many heterosexual couples, my husband makes more money than I do, works in an industry that demands more of his time outside of the home, and carries fewer of the domestic responsibilities. But we make it work, feminism intact. Here’s what I learned from some of my own compromises:
Feminists make dinner too—even if we don’t like to. I am a domestic goddess of the most reluctant variety. When I lived alone, I used my refrigerator to store beauty products and never once turned on my oven. Now that I’m married and a mom, grabbing sushi and smoothies are not practical options. There are three of us who need to eat, and I have chosen to take on the responsibility of making sure we eat well.
My husband would never expect me to be a “dinner’s ready, honey” kind of woman, even if I liked to cook. He’s evolved like that. But he definitely prefers homemade food over taking a trip to Wienerschnitzel because I couldn’t get dinner together. That brings up another point: fucking Wienerschnitzel? Yeah, my dear man’s go-to self-fending food is often of the fast, greasy, and surely life-shortening kind. When he eats what I prepare, he gets leafy greens, organic meat, and whole grains. While I don’t know if I’ll ever love cooking, I will always be a food snob. I prefer—mandate, actually—healthy, unprocessed food. So I balance the burden of cooking with the joy I get from my weekly trips to the farmers’ market, watching my son devour organic avocados and knowing that I am helping my family lead a healthier life. But we order takeout at least once a week.
Cleaning sucks. No one likes washing dishes, scrubbing toilets, or emptying lint traps. My husband and I divide these chores between us the best we can, but because he works about twelve hours a day and I work from home (whether writing or baby-wrangling), the bulk of these tasks falls on my shoulders. This is crazy-making. Before we had a child, I used to spend entire Saturdays (when he worked weekends) cleaning the house and resenting the hell out of him when he got home because I’d spent a day off doing chores rather than with my friends or doing things for myself. Now that we have a kid, I have no days off, and the cleaning is constant. Solution: housekeeper! This is no longer an indulgence for the rich and famous. Friendly, reliable cleaning professionals are affordable and may be the investment that saves your marriage. During times when we couldn’t find or afford one, I asked any babysitters to also do some light cleaning and learned to live with a little bit more mess than I’d prefer. I’ll ignore that sink full of dirty dishes if it means I can have twenty minutes to myself with a book and some tea.
Money talks: Ugh. Some of us have our debt demons, and they come shrieking out of the closet when you get married. This is never easy, but one of the hardest lessons my husband and I both learned is that we have to come clean as soon as possible. We know what we have to work on together and have established a common savings goal. We have both joint and individual bank accounts and, by virtue of family budgeting sessions, hold each other accountable for expenditures that are a bit too frivolous or irresponsible. Neither of us likes to be told what to do, but this system of checks and balances is key to maintaining transparency (essential) in our marriage.
I have a new name, but I’m still the same person. He didn’t want me to change my name; I ultimately did. I understand the oppressive history of this custom, but I weighed it against the other priorities in my life and marriage. His name was given to him by an adoptive parent so he was never that attached to it; it wasn’t a bloodline to him, just a name. But from the time I met him, he expressed his desire to have his own biological family to feel the genetic connection he lacked growing up. I wanted to not only procreate with him but share an identity that means something as a family.