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April 2, 2012

How Would You Grade Your Partner In The Kitchen?

by Anne Paddock

My husband often says “Honey, I emptied the dishwasher for youwhich really means that he took the dishes out of the dishwasher and piled them on the counter top for me to put away.  For years I thanked him although secretly I thought he was using the wrong pronoun in announcing he emptied the dishwasher for me because I never laid claim to the dishwasher.

Putting aside semantics, I realized his intentions were good – however misplaced – and didn’t say a word until he asked me what grade I would give him in the kitchen. I thought for a moment and considered 26 years of kitchen behavior (always does the dishes but leaves water everywhere, empties the dishwasher but piles the contents on the counter top, washes pots and pans but claims there is nothing a good dryer can’t fix, etc) and said  “B-” which judging from his response, was not what he was hoping to hear.

Every year or so, five of my girlfriends from college and I meet for a long weekend sans husbands and kids.  We review schedules 6-9 months in advance, negotiate with husbands, choose a location, divide up the travel tasks (i.e. secure the house, reserve the rental car, research local restaurants and activities, etc) and ultimately enjoy 3-4 days of girlfriend bliss: hiking, picnics, dinner out, late night chat sessions, and 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night.

From time to time, the weekend has been interrupted by pleading children or exhausted husbands but as the years have passed our families have fallen into a somewhat quiet resolve of “we’re on our own this weekend” with all rules and routines ignored in the name of surviving without Mom.  Most of us have come home to a kitchen sink filled with dirty dishes, bags of opened snacks all over the house, and our spawn telling us everything that “Dad” did wrong while we were gone. We, however disappointed with the kitchen mess, abandonment of routines, ignorance of bedtime and healthy meals, secretly feel relieved that no child has been lost and everyone is happy to have us home again.

On one of our girlfriend weekends, we were all sitting around the table talking about our husbands and kids, exchanging stories,and laughing over our shared experiences when the dishwasher came up.  One of us started talking about how her husband always emptied the dishwasher but only put away the plates, cups, and flatware. If any of the contents of the dishwasher did not fall into one of those three categories, the offending piece was placed on the counter top for her to put away.

Within minutes, we realized this emptying of the dishwasher was a universal behavior among husbands and there were bursts of laughter because each of us thought the behavior was unique to our marriage. Not to sound overly critical but I know my husband knows where the ice cream scoop and bowls belong because he scoops frozen yogurt into a bowl nearly every night. He just doesn’t want to put them away. So, when I explained this to him along with the fact that the dishwasher was “ours” and not “mine,” he reluctantly accepted his B- but said he was better in the bedroom and I agreed.

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