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