Feminist backlash and the food of marriage
When I was dating, I always paid half because I wanted to be able to walk away at the end of the date without feeling like the guy was going to think I owed him something. I would leave in my nightstand drawer all the info I had on the guy I was out with, for my sisters to go and get in case something happened. I would call them post date to let them know I was home. We had a code phrase so that if I felt unsafe at home & they called, they knew to come over immediately (we lived in the same condo building on different floors). Sad that women have to take so many precautions and do so much preplanning to ensure some modicum of safety. When I started dating my now husband, there were many signs he was a “grown-up” and an equal: he had furnished his apartment with tasteful furniture and it was immaculate (he even owned a vacuum!!!); he did his own laundry, his finances were in order, he was employed, had a car & insurance & knew how to cook. The first meal he made for me was chicken breasts pounded flat, rolled up in a lasagna noodle with spinach, ricotta & mozzarella, covered in a white sauce with a green salad & garlic bread. WOW. I was blown away. When we started talking marriage, it was to plan together: the ring, the engagement, his wedding ring, the wedding, kids or no kids. It was all done together as partners. I appreciate and value him so much. We are truly a team. It’s not the poor girl waits for Prince Charming scenario or a “The Bachelor” scenario with the woman striving to prove herself worthy of the swain who struts around.
'I joked that there was no equivalent for men. No, “End Male Loneliness Eggplant Parmesan.” No “Get the Girlfriend Gnocchi.”'
TOO RIGHT, and there damn well should be. There can be such satisfaction and joy in wooing someone through food; I would imagine this effect is exaggerated for men because we aren't socialized to feel the grim pressure of it. It seems to me that making food preparation a part of the courtship - and I mean the whole process, from acquisition to prep to cleanup - helps men rebalance their expectations for their primacy in a relationship; a regular act of quotidian service does a power of good in the lifelong process of getting over ourselves.
Wow, this article just stopped me in my tracks. I see so much of my experience in it. When I started dating in my early 40s, I was constantly exhausted from navigating between being a feminist and dating men. Even my feminist friends told me that he should be paying for meals, which made me deeply uncomfortable. No matter what I did, I was uncomfortable. If I went along with him paying for all the meals I felt uncomfortable. If I paid, I worried about his discomfort about my paying. Finally we talked about it, he expressed that he didn't care if I paid for meals and ever since then we've taken turns paying for dates.
I also recognize that I genuinely dislike cooking. I'm constantly trying to cook meals, which I tell myself is my way of contributing to the relationship (he cooks and enjoys doing it). But I think deep down, I'm concerned that by not liking cooking I am a. not feminine enough and therefore b. not marriageable. My cooking is trying to prove something about me, even though I truly don't like it. And even though there is no concern about men being marriageable if they don't cook.
I may need to read this article a few times to get at all my subconscious thoughts about food, feminism, gender roles and dating.
Boy are people gonna freak when they hear about "let's have a threesome baby back ribs," "please change your politics as they make you unsexy to me frittatas" and "we need to have a serious conversation about your spending habits chili."
One of the things I resent about patriarchy is the way that it not only consigns both caretaking and passivity to people identified as female or femme, but that it then devalues both caretaking and receiving care. The only thing that's valued is this mythological ability to be totally independent and completely self-sufficient. WHO THE FUCK REALLY IS THAT? And if they are, how fucking happy are they really?
I push back against all of this when I date by asking that when we eat out we take turns paying, so that everyone gets a chance to offer and receive care. Same goes for cooking for each other. I'm less strict about the back and forth of that, but I definitely keep a tally in my head and if I've been doing the labor for a bit I will absolutely ask that the person I'm dating make the meal. I'm a single mom of two children with a full-time job and a vocation. I am constantly under-nurtured, so fuck if I'm going to resist receiving care to prove something, while at the same time I am totally able to take care of other people and enjoy it when I love them. If taking turns giving and receiving care, particularly around food, is something they resist then that's a deal breaker.
Also, I don't think I've baked a chicken since my marriage ended. What an unnecessary and uninteresting PITA from a culinary standpoint.
I remember in high school, in the 1970s, I went on a date with some boy and I wanted to split the check. He got mad and said "I wouldn't have asked you out if I didn't like you!" and I thought, "what's that got to do with anything?" And I still don't know what that's got to do with anything, but I did come to learn that "who pays" is really fraught.
My daughter proposed to her husband. He said yes. Neither of them changed their names when they married. They had a baby and my son-in-law was overwhelmed and had no idea how to take care of his infant child. Neither did my daughter, really. They were learning together. One day I sat there and watched my son-in-law "get it." He said, "I don't know how to do this, could you..." Then he stopped and said, "No, I have to figure this out. It's not her job to teach me." That's when I was sure he was a good one.
Neither of them can cook.
Loved this post. I genuinely had to click on each link because I was in disbelief that these were real topics of recent “articles”. My partner cooks - because he likes cooking and I don’t- and all the women in my life can’t stop telling me how lucky I am and how he basically walks on water. It’s real cute. I’m not furious at all.
I saw that Marry Me Chicken, and thought I didn't know of one single woman who would be up for seducing a man with house work. Not one! And then, a few days later I was hit with this: I've been putting together a cookbook for my daughter who graduates this year, and my son who is a freshman in high school. It's mostly their favorite things I make with a few "impress your friends" recipes I know they can do with a little practice. I love to cook (unless it's expected of me cuz no one tells me what to do) and since I have to be gluten-free, I get to make what I really want, safely. I've also been teaching both kids to cook since they were tiny so they can feed themselves without resorting to fast food, though they will certainly do that as is their god given American right. So when I was writing out the recipe for parmesan risotto and I added the note, "This is what made me fall in love with your father" I promptly realized he was the cook during our courtship, and once the gender roles started to slip into traditional (after kids, when I was working part-time) I became the cook. As I said, I like to cook but I did not like that reminder that it's become my job. That night I asked him to cook dinner. He made that risotto. I love that risotto, but dude needs to step it up.
Women have Engagement Chicken, men have Sleep with Me Nachos
My wife and I have been married for forty-three years. The stay married chicken is the one you get at Costco for five bucks. BTW, I do almost all the cooking at our house.
The whole discourse about who asks out whom, who pays for dates, who proposes, etc., is really troubling/fascinating to me. It’s part of why I’ve always hated the whole wedding industrial complex (well, the patriarchy *and* the class dynamics). The history and symbolism of most American wedding traditions are rooted in male dominance, even though most of the legal elements of marriage have changed. Even as a 21-year-old ‘bride’, I hated it: we were married by a judge, in the same courtroom where he held traffic court, and only immediate family knew and were invited. And they were told the day before.
When I hear people talking about weddings and wedding planning these days, it seems younger people are more caught up in it than my generation ever was, which supports your point about the feminist backlash. Maybe (probably) I’m an outlier. We wanted to be married more than we wanted a wedding. Back then it came with a tax deduction! 😆
Maaaaaany, many years ago, I made a nice meal for someone's birthday. I would make it when we would have guests over for the first time. (Proof in old photos.) When we had kids, it became the go-to meal for special occasions (although, for the longest time, they preferred spaghetti over anything else). Then, about four years ago, after the ex had been love-bombing a new narcissistic supply for a couple of months, he asked one of my kids to get the recipe for him. I think it was February ... so, you know ... Valentine's Day was coming up. He KNEW the kid would have to ask me. Dunno whether he actually made the dish for her or if it was all just performative to let me know he was up to "special things" with his new victim. They were married three months later, so ... who knows. He can call it Marry Me with my Ex-Wife's Special Meal. Ah, food. It really IS about more than food.
I still wanna know what dish Travis plans to bring to the Swift Thanksgiving dinner, lol.
I find this so fascinating! My husband and I share the cooking labor pretty evenly, but even so I have feelings about my ability to feed him well that don’t total match my feminist beliefs. Something for me to unpack!
Also, on a semi-unrelated note, I love that there’s almost the opposite tradition or superstition in knitting where if you knit your partner a sweater you’ll break up. The prevailing thought is that no one can fully appreciate a hand knit sweater other than a knitter and it will sour your romantic relationship.
All my favorite cultural history elements! If you haven't read it, you might find Carol J. Adams' book The Sexual Politics of Meat interesting—it was written during the second wave & became a very important Animal Studies & feminist text.