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August 30, 2012 9:32 AM   Subscribe

From a January 26, 1947, contract between Kurt Vonnegut and his pregnant wife, Jane, to whom he had been married for sixteen months: "I, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., that is, do hereby swear that I will be faithful to the commitments hereunder listed..."
posted by daniel_charms (68 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite

 
Good man.
posted by stormpooper at 9:34 AM on August 30, 2012


Kurt Vonnegut is just so adorable. How old does someone have to be when they die before it becomes ridiculous to say they were taken from us too soon?
posted by phunniemee at 9:39 AM on August 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


What a mensch.
posted by mosk at 9:43 AM on August 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


phunniemee - I will say it, regardless of how ridiculous it may sound:

He was taken from us too soon. (To which Kurt would ask who did the taking, and note that a more accurate thing to say is that he left us before his welcome was worn out, which is likely a good thing, because staying past one's welcome is unpleasant for all involved.)
posted by never used baby shoes at 9:45 AM on August 30, 2012 [11 favorites]


That was great.
posted by entropyiswinning at 9:45 AM on August 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I really need to read some of his stuff...
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:48 AM on August 30, 2012


What a mensch.

Why?

I like the writing and all, and it's kind of cute in the abstract, but it seems clear that he needed a contract to do things that were just kind of decent things to do, and that otherwise he would not do them. Further, the penalty was simply that his wife got to nag him about them. I mean, I'm not all up in arms about this or anything, but it hardly seems laudatory, and it sure as shit is nowhere near progressive.
posted by OmieWise at 9:52 AM on August 30, 2012 [19 favorites]


Love it. Understand the reality of:
l. The terms of this contract are understood to be binding up until that time after the arrival of our child (to be specified by the doctor) when my wife will once again be in full possession of all her faculties, and able to undertake more arduous pursuits than are now advisable.
But he's gone, even with that, further than a lot of my friends' husbands do today.

Don't like the naggy bits. Of course, he didn't either, which is why he wrote that into her side of it ...
posted by tilde at 9:53 AM on August 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


I am terrified that me wife will read this.
posted by pickinganameismuchharderthanihadanticipated at 9:53 AM on August 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


I really need to read some of his stuff...

If you've never read anything by him, start with Mother Night. It's not the typical Vonnegut primer, but it's my favorite of his.

Or if you're into short stories, Bagombo Snuff Box has a lot of his earlier stuff.
posted by phunniemee at 9:54 AM on August 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


but it seems clear that he needed a contract to do things that were just kind of decent things to do

Are you even remotely familiar with the guy? Cheek, meet tongue.
posted by phunniemee at 9:55 AM on August 30, 2012 [12 favorites]


Not that it's not cute and charming, but it sure does sound like "while my wife is pregnant I will do three pieces of light housekeeping and refrain from making unnecessary mess, but once she has a baby to raise I go back to doing no light housekeeping and not really worrying about dropping bits of paper, because cleaning is women's work."

If I were a dude and had a wife and were afraid she'd read this, it would be because I would fear being summarily strangled out of history-based rage toward men.

As a non-dude who is defacto the primary cleaner at my group house because the other choice is non-stop nagging of my part-time-job-holding housemates despite the fact that they work part time and I work full-time, this frankly fills me with a kind of historical rage and despair.
posted by Frowner at 9:57 AM on August 30, 2012 [23 favorites]


Important fact: This letter was to his first wife.
posted by etc. at 10:00 AM on August 30, 2012 [41 favorites]


Yeah, I'm familiar with him. If he hadn't been so clear about the nagging I would be more likely to agree with you, but not as written. But I don't expect to convince you because in my experience people who love Vonnegut REALLY love Vonnegut.
posted by OmieWise at 10:00 AM on August 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Nagging AND heckling... she is invited to not only get on his case, but to ridicule him
posted by edgeways at 10:08 AM on August 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I thought I caught a bit of a subversive/patronizing tone in it as well.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:18 AM on August 30, 2012


I love Vonnegut but I also recognize that he's the opposite of a mensch. He'd be the first to agree with me.
posted by muddgirl at 10:19 AM on August 30, 2012


(One of the great things about secular heroes is we can accept that they're only human.)
posted by muddgirl at 10:19 AM on August 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


1947 was a different world.

In fact, 1968 was still a different world1.


1Personal communication, my mother.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:20 AM on August 30, 2012 [8 favorites]


By all accounts Vonnegut was a bit of a bastard to live with.
posted by yoink at 10:20 AM on August 30, 2012


Being accused of nagging is really super hyper unpleasant. I think I've made it clear to my boyfriend (god, I hope) that he is never ever ever ever again to use that word on me, especially since it's such a quick and easy way to get out of helping out.

I mean this was definitely cute! Admitting that it takes you three days to accomplish simple, necessary tasks takes... some degree of honesty.

But if this letter were delivered to me I would be saying "this is cute" through very thin lips.
posted by kavasa at 10:22 AM on August 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


I like the idea of making contracts in a partnership, but this one wouldn't be legally binding because it lacked the element of consideration... as did Vonnegut in this instance. Zing!
posted by wolfdreams01 at 10:33 AM on August 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, this will keep me warm on those long cold nights of BBC costume dramas that make me momentarily long for a simpler time.
posted by jph at 10:36 AM on August 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


It would be nice, however, if, upon observing the need for disposal with my own two eyes, I should perform this particular task upon my own initiative...

As much as I love and adore Vonnegut, it saddens me that he needed to have this reminder. This tiny and simple request needs to be burned into the brains of every human alive. If the trash can is full, empty it. Do not pile things near it. Do not stuff more crap into it, hoping that the bag doesn't break. Do not carefully balance used coffee grounds on the top so that when someone who is actually a responsible adult goes to empty the trash said coffee grounds spill all over the floor.
posted by teleri025 at 10:36 AM on August 30, 2012 [8 favorites]


It's really easy to forget how rough Kurt Vonnegut's life was before the success of Slaughter-House Five. ("In 1958 his sister died - and then her husband a few days later - and the 36-year-old would consider abandoning writing altogether....")

http://www.10zenmonkeys.com/2007/04/12/when-kurt-vonnegut-met-sammy-davis-jr/

So, basically, he was 25 when he wrote these commitments to his wife...
posted by destinyland at 10:45 AM on August 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


We have a system, if something will stink up the small abode of Mr. Roquette, onion peelings, meat or fish scraps, the horrid styrofoam trays meat or fish come in, if the trash is empty, I make a special trip to take them out.
We have what seems to me, a fair division of chores.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 10:48 AM on August 30, 2012


Vonnegut could smoke in the house?!
posted by goethean at 10:52 AM on August 30, 2012


I heard that the London Ecuadorian embassy staff just printed this out and magneted it conspicuously to the fridge.
posted by found missing at 10:56 AM on August 30, 2012 [8 favorites]


he was 25 when he wrote these commitments

And less than 24 months past a long, brutal stint as a guest of the Wehrmacht, and witnessing the firebombing of Dresden. He could very justifiably been spending his time locked in his room, polishing a weapon and muttering, and instead knocked out this very playful and human piece, probably as an exercise in procrastination. I like this guy.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 10:56 AM on August 30, 2012 [8 favorites]


I don't know how playful it was. As a married person, it sounds entirely earnest to me. I thought it was pretty cute until I got up to the part where it all stops when she has a baby. Because, like, what, then she has to take care of the baby and take out the garbage and not nag him about helping?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:08 AM on August 30, 2012 [7 favorites]


I mean, I'm not all up in arms about this or anything, but it hardly seems laudatory, and it sure as shit is nowhere near progressive.

In the literal sense of progressive as being a motion towards something better I think this probably qualifies as progressive for something written by a 25 year old in 1947. I've heard stories of when my grandfather had to do some domestic cleaning while my grandmother was ill - all the curtains had to be closed while he did it so that no-one would know. This was in the early 1960s, 20 years later.
posted by atrazine at 11:12 AM on August 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


Wow, my grandfather did plenty of cleaning around the house, including washing the floors, cleaning all the window screens, vacuuming, not dropping his shit around, all while working as a milkman. He was also a WWII vet with young children around that time. Guess he really was a mensch.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:15 AM on August 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Huh. I read this as him letting his wife know, in a tongue-in-cheek, writerly way, that he has heard her nagging and complaining, in detail, that he recognizes he needs to step it up, that he's going to step it up to a degree that fulfills her needs instead of half-assing everything, and that if he doesn't live up to his promises he totally understands why she'd feel the need to call him out for being a jerk. If I thought they'd sat down and hammered this out like a real contract, it wouldn't be interesting or funny.
posted by davejay at 11:16 AM on August 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


oh, and that he's letting her know that her previous nagging and complaining was totally justified because he was being a jerk
posted by davejay at 11:17 AM on August 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't know how playful it was. As a married person, it sounds entirely earnest to me. I thought it was pretty cute until I got up to the part where it all stops when she has a baby. Because, like, what, then she has to take care of the baby and take out the garbage and not nag him about helping?


Back in the day-and by the day I include the sixties as well-no selfrespecting man did anything much inside the home except take out the garbage. That's right; none of them helped with child care or any of the rest of it unless they were genuinely a nice guy and out of the ordinary. The division of labor back then was almost to the point of rule of law. I can imagine that young adults of today would find that incredibly hard to imagine.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:24 AM on August 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


I took paragraph (l) to be the most self-deprecating and tongue-in-cheek part of the whole piece. "yeah, I'm going to quit being a douche but as soon as that baby comes it's HELLO DOUCHEVILLE for me again, good luck wifey!"
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 11:27 AM on August 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I really need to read some of his stuff...

Yes, you do.

I'm really partial to Welcome to the Monkey House. (short stories)
posted by DigDoug at 11:27 AM on August 30, 2012


We're kind of straying into cultural relativism, which is a insidious trap. Things where not always they way they are and judging people 70 years later based on current norms is tenuous at best.
posted by edgeways at 11:29 AM on August 30, 2012


My reading was like davejay's.

I just can't fathom you folks who see things like this as serious, or as an honesttogod representation of the exact way life is, or who have no room in your personal philosophies to allow that maybe some folks like to make light of life's annoyances. It is just so inconsistent with my world view that I don't know how you guys manage to get by, day to day. Some people enjoy being playful and sarcastic, and some couples enjoy being playful and sarcastic with each other. Just because you're not doesn't mean that anyone who is is automatically a cretin. I just...I feel so sad for you all.
posted by phunniemee at 11:31 AM on August 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


Important fact: This letter was to his first wife.

Yes, but their marriage was fairly stable — they didn't separate until 1970, and they raised 6 children. I would bet money this was not the last contract they negotiated.
posted by ubiquity at 11:40 AM on August 30, 2012


I like to think my own contract would pretty much come down to "don't wash the French spring steel crepe pan that I've been carefully seasoning for twenty-three years with soap and a scrubby pad," but since I've lived alone for all but five months of the last twenty-four years, I suspect I'm so set in my ways that I may just have to be majestically solitary, slouching on a green velvet fainting couch with bon mot at the ready, from here till the end.

I do sort of wonder how people in mixed-gender relationships survive, living in a culture that, no matter how progressive and modern we want to believe we are, trains boys and girls from infancy to believe that such details are biological and irreconcileable by anything but quasi-legal means. If I was living with a dude again, most of the obvious stuff would either be taken care of by the dynamics of my chosen mode of same sex interaction (the Laurel/Hardy, Ernie/Bert, Laverne/Shirley, Jack/Rochester sort of delicious tension) or that fact that, with both of us being dudes, our gross habits are mutual, and therefore not entirely annoying.

Of course, I know these contracts well, from a different perspective, and have a number of them still in my possession that I've kept from the old days, and they usually are worded a bit like "Joseph Belknap Wall shall have access to the Apple ][ plus computer with dual disk drives, NEC amber monochrome video monitor, 16K Language Card, and Epson MX-100 printer for a period not to exceed one and one half hours per night in exchange for the completion of the following list of chores and a signed guarantee that he will not use the term 'fuck' or 'goddamn' in the presence of his mother in the day in which this equipment shall be employed in the service of said individual's computer projects." Had my father been a notary public, I'm certain they would have all been embossed, as well. These were half serious, half blowhard excess used because my father just enjoyed blowhard excess, and seasoned with a healthy sprinkling of wry.

In my last relationship, however, the occasional note written along these lines, like, say, a written admonishment with a potential punishment of death or dismemberment in the case of my discovering that my French spring steel crepe pan that I have been carefully seasoning for some number of years has been scrubbed down to bare metal with soap and a scrubby pad, generally just provoked a small fight and several months of lingering discontent.
posted by sonascope at 11:45 AM on August 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I do sort of wonder how people in mixed-gender relationships survive, living in a culture that, no matter how progressive and modern we want to believe we are, trains boys and girls from infancy to believe that such details are biological and irreconcileable by anything but quasi-legal means.

We seek mates who weren't or who are open to learn. I can't think of a household chore either of us really can't / won't do short of physical inability (reach tall things, open tight lids, power wash the second floor level of the roof with little fear, direct-from-the-breast-nursing). One of us is better at handling home repair/improvement contractors and repair shops, but that's from one of us growing up in each industry. He wasn't a fan of the laundring of cloth diapers, but changed them gamely and properly. I'm not a fan of his clothes washing method but I follow his instructions for his clothes and he mine.

Our parents were partly progressive in some ways, not so much in others, but we are expanding that to the next generation.
posted by tilde at 12:05 PM on August 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


and some couples enjoy being playful and sarcastic with each other. Just because you're not doesn't mean that anyone who is is automatically a cretin. I just...I feel so sad for you all.
Woah woah woah. Woah. Bring that truck on back to the loading dock, please. Just because I bristled at the way a private letter not meant for me was phrased does not mean boy + me sit in dour, glaring silence of an evening. It means that the means and subjects of playful teasing vary from couple to couple. It's not like we're unaware that there was a teasing, lighthearted element at play here. It's also possible to have that kind of thing happening at the same time as genuinely unpleasant things (see my remarks on "nag", supra).
with both of us being dudes, our gross habits are mutual, and therefore not entirely annoying.
Would that the simple expedient of gender circumvented these little mismatches in life. After living with my boyfriend for a little over five years, I have yet to find a straight couple's experience that is without mirrors in my own.
posted by kavasa at 12:10 PM on August 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


So it goes...

... to the curb.
posted by drlith at 12:14 PM on August 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


t I don't know how you guys manage to get by, day to day. Some people enjoy being playful and sarcastic, and some couples enjoy being playful and sarcastic with each other. Just because you're not doesn't mean that anyone who is is automatically a cretin. I just...I feel so sad for you all.

Oh Jesus, I think you need to get over yourself. For someone as comfortable as you claim to be with the vagaries of human nature, you seem unable to imagine that someone might disagree with you without that telegraphing all kinds of things you can judge them uncharitably on.
posted by OmieWise at 12:40 PM on August 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


MOST EXCELLENT.
posted by nataliepo at 12:44 PM on August 30, 2012


you seem unable to imagine that someone might disagree with you

Nope, not unable. Just so long as you know that you're wrong. HAMBURGER
posted by phunniemee at 12:46 PM on August 30, 2012


Pretty sure he was a keeper even without this oath.
posted by lkc at 12:54 PM on August 30, 2012


As much as I love and adore Vonnegut, it saddens me that he needed to have this reminder. This tiny and simple request needs to be burned into the brains of every human alive. If the trash can is full, empty it. Do not pile things near it. Do not stuff more crap into it, hoping that the bag doesn't break. Do not carefully balance used coffee grounds on the top so that when someone who is actually a responsible adult goes to empty the trash said coffee grounds spill all over the floor.

Really? You're saddened that a brilliant writer may have needed a reminder to take out the garbage--as if somehow this tarnishes his work, or makes him a bad or unkind person?
posted by inertia at 1:14 PM on August 30, 2012


Most brilliant writers are fucking slobs. It's ok.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:23 PM on August 30, 2012 [6 favorites]


Aw people, let's keep some historical perspective. Vonnegut wrote this in 1947, just 27 years after women gained the right to vote. This was an era in which he would have had the legal right to beat or rape his wife, and in which she wouldn't have been able to open a bank account or line of credit without his consent. There would have been absolutely no expectation of him contributing anything to the domestic realm, childcare included -- strict gender roles of the period would have dictated that he was the breadwinner and she was the housewife. Also, let's also consider they were a pretty young couple (he was 25) still working out how to live together, and he's all-in-all being quite graciously self-deprecating about his faults.

The letter is absolutely charming, undoubtedly tongue-in-cheek, and actually suggests they had a pretty great and surprisingly equal relationship for the day.
posted by susanvance at 1:33 PM on August 30, 2012


What I find ridiculous is sanctimony based on ignorance. This is a decades old note between 2 people intimate enough with each other to breed. No one knows why it was written, what led up to it being written, or in what spirit it was written. But some people are clearly better informed and can sit in judgement because they seem to *know* it was actually a formal contract.

Me? I think it was a private joke between the two of them.
posted by epo at 1:39 PM on August 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Really? You're saddened that a brilliant writer may have needed a reminder to take out the garbage--as if somehow this tarnishes his work, or makes him a bad or unkind person?


I was being hyperbolic. Because failing to take out the trash is a kicking offense in my house.

Only recently downgraded from hanging offense. And only because I was going to run out of people to hang. And take out the trash.
posted by teleri025 at 2:03 PM on August 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


He was in the Army. Soldiers are trained to within an inch of their lives to clean the hell out of everywhere they live. I think it has more to do with that than a progressive man living in the '40s.
posted by danl at 3:14 PM on August 30, 2012


That was fun, thanks for posting it.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:24 PM on August 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


I love Kurt Vonnegut. He was taken from us too soon, but in his last few years it was plainly apparent he'd had enough and was ready to go. I'm glad he didn't overstay his welcome and become as bitter and cynical as, say, Ray Bradbury.

I'm no Vonnegut, but I've been told I'm a pretty good writer, artist and creator of other creative things.

And I'm a terrible roommate. A total slob. Hey, I appreciate nice things and nice place, but honestly? Fastidiously clean places freak me right the fuck out. Perfectly clean, neat desks give me the willies.

A messy writer's home or artist's studio with piles of books everywhere? A couch covered in cat or dog hair? No, no, please don't apologize. It feels like home. My place is worse. Please allow me to slouch on your couch and make friends with your pet as my eyes take in what books are in your piles, and maybe even spill a little coffee. Yep, I managed to get some paint on my shoes - no bother, it's just something for me to remember my visit.

I seem to need some disarray and chaos. Unless there's a pile of laundry somewhere - it doesn't feel like home. One of the first things I did in my stay in a hotel room after my in-patient hospital stay two years ago was dump my laundry all over the spare bed. I even let the trash and recycling pile up until it's a couple of huge bags so I can lug it down four flights of stairs all at once.

I would even prefer to smoke inside. At my desk. But they banned it in my building at the start of the year, but previously it wasn't banned and boy howdy did I smoke inside. Right at my desk. Ashtrays overflowing like Hunter S. Thompson's kitchen nook after a particularly long breakfast.

And it's not some random affectation or emulation. It's just how it is. I've been this way since I was a kid, in fact, I used to be worse. My desk from grade school through high school looked like a landfill, a mountainous mulch of paperback books, model building supplies, spilled paint, torn apart electronics, broken cassette tapes yet to be fixed.

But these are all reasons why I savor and deeply appreciate living alone. When I come home I can strip off my shoes and throw my socks anywhere I like and be immediately naked and slouchy for as long as I like, and no one complains about the fact I just left all my clothes right in the middle of the floor of my entryway, waiting to be put back on if I step out again.

Please don't argue with me that I can be neat and tidy and creative at the same time. It's utterly futile and will only aggravate both of us, probably you more than me. And you probably don't understand or appreciate the serendipity of random, haphazard juxtapositions of things from where I've drawn inspiration from in the past. I have better things to do with my time like... daydreaming.

I've tried neat and tidy and I hate it. And don't you dare "tidy up" my desk, you heathen. I know exactly where everything is. If you so much as move a paper I'll notice it.

Now if I could just find where I put those clean socks.
posted by loquacious at 3:25 PM on August 30, 2012 [8 favorites]


....not to mention that probably he still heard the giants walking the earth

slack, I say. This was sweet.

Yeah, really really love Vonnegut's writing.
posted by mule98J at 4:54 PM on August 30, 2012


My Mom had five kids within 7 years. My Dad would come home to find her crying because she hadn't had time to vacuum the couch. It was ingrained in her that her self worth was dependent on a very clean home.

He'd take the boys out back and toss the ball with them so she could cook supper while my older sister was clinging to her leg. Then help get them ready for bed and read stories and make sure they stayed in bed to give her a break. Yes, he changed diapers too. This was after a full day's work of being a school teacher and coaching boys basketball. We had a perfect house when I was little, complete with Sunday roast and ice cream sundaes served in little crystal bowls with stems for dessert.

Later on, when we were teenagers, things were much more relaxed (Dad could pile his newspapers next to his chair all week and take them to the curb for recycling on Saturday).

I was rewarded for doing dishes as a little girl (25 cents, woo-hoo! Penny candy, here I come!). But I was also cajoled into making my grown brothers sandwiches all the time, cleaning both bathrooms when Mom was sick, ironing my Dad's clothes, including handkerchiefs, helping with shopping and cooking, and mowing the lawn. My brothers weren't allowed to use the washer after they wrecked it by overloading it, something I instinctively knew not to do, by dint of my femaleness, I suppose. I can't tell you how many times I was grossed out, having to clean their greasy fingerprints off the white door frame to our downstairs bathroom, after they touched it from doing car repair work.

I had to supervise my ex-husband and 10-year-old daughter into agreeing to wash dishes every night when I was exhausted from nursing my son as a newborn. So basically now, I don't care. As long as hoards of cockroaches aren't storming my house, by gum, it's clean. If company is coming, it will be neat and tidy. The rest of the time, my having female parts does not make me anyone's 24/7 maid, pregnant or not.

But I did enjoy this article, because I can see the time period, and relate. It's women's magazines and home cleaning products that gets this crap into our heads. I recall very vividly that when I was home with my son, every product that year was Ultra. Ultra laundry detergent, Ultra dish soap, Ultra, Ultra, Ultra! Then you let your kid bring in a kitten from an outside stray, it has fleas, and your whole Ozzie and Harriet life turns into a living hell. My 2nd husband married me because he thought I was a neat freak, because I cleaned for company. Turns out he had married Oscar and he was Felix. HA!
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 5:10 PM on August 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Stuff like this makes me want to smoke beer, drink cigarettes and write a novel.
posted by mmrtnt at 6:57 PM on August 30, 2012


> I do sort of wonder how people in mixed-gender relationships survive, living in a culture that, no matter how progressive and modern we want to believe we are, trains boys and girls from infancy to believe that such details are biological and irreconcileable by anything but quasi-legal means.

It was a total fucking dealbreaker for me for an able-bodied person to lack the common sense to be "able" to keep his home basically clean or make himself dinner. I got clucked at for years by women of all ages. My handsome, totally not-girly SO agrees that this "I'm too manly to understand how to wipe the counter or operate the washing machine" shit is stupid. /has cis- and non-cis girly exes, sooooo not girlyist.

posted by desuetude at 9:54 PM on August 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's not a contract. It's a love letter, of the 'Look, I know how much of my shit you put up with, and I know that soon you're going to be putting up with shit from two people, and I know I don't deserve you but I'm the single most grateful man in the fucking universe because you seem to think I do deserve you anyway and all my shit doesn't seem to enter into it' variety.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 3:09 AM on August 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


It does seem best if abled-bodied people with not enough sense to be able to keep their home clean and make dinner (like me!) pair up with someone who has enough sense to clean and cook (like MuddDude!) - otherwise a filth spiral develops and we're all eating lucky charms for dinner. But maybe worst if they pair up with a neat freak. It's a delicate balance.

I think the basic cultural difference between clean-apathetic men and clean-apathetic women is that men are taught to be almost proud of their filth, and women are taught to be ashamed of it. A basic acknowledgement that the bathroom floor needs to be cleaned - that there is no honor in urine splatter - is a good first step.

Personally, the 'Dude and I have been married for 4 years and I just recently realized that the rugs need to be vacuumed more often than "when we move in, and when we move out."
posted by muddgirl at 5:30 AM on August 31, 2012


muddgirl, for the record, I don't snark at people who don't care about keeping their house clean. It's the people who want a basically clean-ish house but accidentally-on-purpose "forget" how that "works" that tick me off.
posted by desuetude at 5:59 AM on August 31, 2012


I do want a basically clean-ish house - maybe clean-lazy is a better term. I shamefully take advantage of MuddDude if he lets me. I think the difference is that I'm not proud of it.
posted by muddgirl at 6:50 AM on August 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


(And also there's an extra zing of shame because I'm a woman and I should have, like, perfectly organized baskets under the sparkling clean sink... but... soooo... lazy)
posted by muddgirl at 7:23 AM on August 31, 2012


People don't have maids?
posted by Burhanistan at 7:23 AM on August 31, 2012


In John Medina's book Brain Rules for Baby, he talks about how one of the greatest things to do between a couple expecting a baby is for the husband/non-pregnant partner to take on more chores. Why? Because chores are a HUGE source of bickering and stress to the couple, especially to the pregnant woman who still spends, on average, 39 hours (compared to her husband's average of 22 hours) on household chores a week. And stress is bad bad bad for the fetus; a fraught household full of bickering can be very, very hard on the fetus, as the mother's stress hormones will force the baby's brain to re-wire itself in unhealthy ways. Meanwhile, studies show that happy and relaxed mothers give birth to babies with high cognitive functioning, better self soothing skills, larger birth weight and less health problems.

Medina tells the story of when he went on tour for this book, and men - it's always the dads, he says - would ask him how they can their kid into Harvard.

"You want your kids to go to Harvard?" he barks. "Go home and love your wife!"

Keep in mind that Brain Rules, with its exhortation for husbands to do more chores, was written in 2010. That chore list predates it by 63 years. Hats off to you, Kurt Vonnegut.
posted by zoomorphic at 8:36 AM on August 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wait, the average couple spends 61 hours a week on household chores?

How is that even possible? Are these couples who already have children?
posted by endless_forms at 12:07 PM on August 31, 2012


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