Do­mes­tic Un­rest

What hap­pens when a play­ful haiku trig­gers a de­bate about gen­der roles—and stray ba­nana peels

Reader's Digest (Canada) - - Contents - DAVID ED­DIE

What hap­pens when a play­ful haiku trig­gers a de­bate about gen­der roles—and stray ba­nana peels.

THE PHRASE “con­tro­ver­sial haiku” has likely never oc­curred to you, but a friend of mine, who has a hus­band and a 12-year-old boy, re­cently posted one on Face­book that un­leashed a tsunami of re­sponse: “Empty bowl in fridge / Boys and men are use­less at house­work / Tears are wet.”

The un­apolo­getic sex­ism of the poem drew howls of out­rage—mostly from men, it’s true. One guy pointed out that her syl­labic struc­ture was all wrong for a haiku, adding, “I vac­uum like a boss.”

To which one wag­gish woman won­dered aloud, “What is it with men and their pen­chant for vac­u­ums?” She spec­u­lated that it was be­cause a ma­chine is in­volved: “It’s like in­door mow­ing.”

The de­bate raged on. One woman ar­gued that even when men do things

around the house, it’s women who make the to-do list and who are the “project man­agers.”

In gen­eral, I’m un­com­fort­able with gen­er­al­iza­tions—es­pe­cially gen­der­based ones. And I was about to post a com­ment to that ef­fect when I re­al­ized, man, is what th­ese women are say­ing ever true of me.

Even dur­ing the years I was a stayat-home dad—when I changed a lot of stink­ing, steam­ing di­a­pers—my wife, Pam, was al­ways the one who no­ticed when we needed more, de­cided what type to buy and put them on my list.

I was lucky if I re­mem­bered to bring an ex­tra di­a­per to the park. I’d for­get snacks and juice boxes, too, and send one of my kids to wad­dle off with his brick-heavy shorts prac­ti­cally around his an­kles to cadge crack­ers off one of the ul­tra­or­ga­nized moth­ers.

By the way, in case you’ve been won­der­ing why there would be an empty bowl in my friend’s fridge, I asked her and she said, “I think there used to be hard-boiled eggs in it.”

And also, for any­one who is of­fended by my lack of ef­fort, don’t worry: I’m be­ing well pun­ished for my sins. I have three boys—two teenagers and one who’s 21.

Ba­nana peel on the cof­fee ta­ble? Check. Shoes in the hall­way, right where you will trip over them? Daily. Even, more of­ten than I’d care to think—hmm, how shall I put this for a fam­ily mag­a­zine—un­flushed “of­fer­ings” in the toi­let bowl when I come in to brush my teeth.

Nei­ther my wife nor I even think about it any­more as we pa­trol the house on a near-con­stant ba­sis, pick­ing things up, put­ting them back. But from time to time we will at­tempt to muster the en­ergy to “make some changes around here.”

Take the other day, for ex­am­ple, when a sweat­shirt was ca­su­ally, neg­li­gently, tossed over a chair—my favourite to sit in.

I said to my sec­ond-el­dest: “What do you plan to do with that?”

Him: “I dunno, Dad. I thought I’d take it out for din­ner and a movie.”

Me: “The point is, you can’t leave it there. You’re a funny guy, though.”

We both shared a laugh over my son’s scin­til­lat­ing wit. It was less a laugh, how­ever, than a heavy sigh, when I came across the same sweat­shirt flung across the same chair two days later.

Back to Face­book. As my friend’s thread went on, many moth­ers weighed in on their own do­mes­tic dis­ap­point­ments, in haiku form, in­clud­ing this one:

“All Mom wants is cof­fee / Empty milk car­ton in fridge / She drinks it black.”

Fi­nally, I added one of my own as well: “Stuff strewn ev­ery­where / When will my boys re­al­ize / There’s no cham­ber­maid?”

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