Woman helping woman

rosieIt’s been a busy weekmonthyearfive years around here.  Dishes don’t get done every night in this house.  So when I finally do get to them, my garbage disposal gets some action.  Tonight, I turned it on and heard the dreaded crunch-clackity-clack…the sound that indicates a measuring spoon is down there getting chopped up.  Before I could reach for the off switch, the disposal groaned, whined, and came to a reproachful stop.

Crap.  And this is the new disposal my landlords just put in.

Thus began a scene that I imagine happens often in single women’s houses.  It’s the “Ok, my grandmother is up in heaven wringing her hands that there isn’t a guy around to fix this for me” scene.  After studying the problem for a few moments, that familiar wave of something – call it pride, stubbornness, bitchiness – comes over the single woman and she sets to work, thinking:  “Whatever, Gammy, I’ve got this.”

In my case, it only took a flashlight and remembered lessons about leverage to fix the problem, and when I removed the tail end of the spoon from under the disposal chopping thingy (with a screwdriver, folks, my fingers were nowhere near those sharp things), flipped the switch and heard that sweet hum of a working disposal, I’m not ashamed to admit I pumped my fist a-la-Tiger Woods and said a little “F___ yeah!” to my dog.

And then I resumed cleaning, but I needed to break off to write this little entry, because something has been gnawing at me lately.

Recently, I’ve found myself talking/reading a lot about women’s issues, including work-life balance.  Today I had brunch with a colleague and we spent a good amount of time talking about how we can’t keep up with anything in our lives: not our work, not our home life.  This is the same conversation I hear and read about every day.

But here’s the thing; neither of us have kids.  And if I’m honestly with myself, I often feel like I, as a single woman, have no right to complain.  After all, “working” women are defined as those with kids, and I don’t have them, so it should be easier for me, shouldn’t it?  I should be able to do it all: work, take care of my dog, travel, lose weight, serve on boards, date, read the New York Times every Sunday while eating a perfectly crafted omelet that I made, blog, eat locally grown food, do the dishes, save for retirement, fix my disposal, knit, and whatever the hell else I’m supposed to do, right?  And when I can’t, I should keep my mouth shut, because I’ve got it easy, right?

This kind of thinking gets me grumpy, and I start to feel put upon and defensive.  But somehow, tonight, fixing my disposal gave me some clarity, and more than a little shame.  Here’s the thing.  Pitting different groups against each other in a competition over who has the busiest life is a bunch of crap.  It doesn’t matter.  The reality is that no one feels like he/she has it all under control.  If they do, they are either lying or enjoying a brief respite from the real world.

Madeleine Albright, the first female Secretary of State, and a personal idol of mine (meeting her is a highlight of my college years) once said “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”  I agree with her 100%, but I also think we all could do better with helping each other, regardless of gender.  I’m proud that I was able to fix my disposal by myself, but I think I would have gratefully accepted help if it had been available.  I feel the same way about work-life balance in general.  I’ll take whatever I can get.  I imagine we all would.

I’m not sure this entry makes any sense to anyone but me, but it felt good to write it. And now, I must return to my dirty kitchen, since I have vowed not to watch the new Walking Dead episode until it’s clean.  If anyone wants to come over and help, I wouldn’t say no. 🙂

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One thought on “Woman helping woman

  1. You should not feel guilty. Everyone’s situation is different. It is difficult to compare. I was a single mom who had to focus on managing the imbalance because I never felt I mastered work/life balance. But, my stay at home mom friends also had to manage an imbalance. People expected them to volunteer and do everything because they didn’t “work” outside the home. My friends that work from home also have different struggles than I do working out of an office. Each situation is unique and should be free of judgment. And I agree with Madeline!

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