Lost Journal: Marriage Contract Amended Through Labor Negotiations

Journal entry:  July 31, 2007 (age 38) – Marriage Contract

Marriage is, among many other things, a division of labor within a household.  Over the years, each mundane task of home life becomes the exclusive domain of one partner or the other.  This divvying up of who does what is an ongoing, cumulative negotiation, but as often as not, whichever person is the first to perform a task ends up doing it forever.  For this reason, I advise newlyweds to have a therapist-guided discussion before anyone picks up a toilet brush.

Amanda and I have been married for eight years.  She has an eight-to-five job as an administrative assistant.  Most days I work from home as a freelance writer, with theatre work (acting, directing or teaching) at night, in various locations.  By now, we have created a well-oiled machine of domesticity.  Each of us knows what are “Timtasks” and what are “Amandamatters.”

I make most of our lunches, and some of our dinners.  She makes most of the money that pays for them.  Keeping all household surfaces clear of clutter is a Timtask.  Actually cleaning those same surfaces is an Amandamatter. Maintaining a rigorous filing system for our 1400 music CDs, wherein the CDs are in alphabetical order, and then (within each artist) in chronological order, is a Timtask.  Being forced to suffer through 80 minutes of the Starland Vocal Band’s greatest hits is an Amandamatter.  For the care of our three cats, Amanda handles the food, or the “front end” of their digestive processes.  I dutifully wait at the other end, scoop in hand.  Outside, I mow the lawn, and she weeds and gardens.  During the winter, we go by the old maxim:  the family that shovels together, stays together.

Amanda is blessed with perfect vision, fine navigational skills, and a gentle demeanor.  I am not.  Therefore, she does the lion’s share of the driving.  I am blessed with an inferior grasp of spatial relations, a lack of coordination, and a power-tool allergy.  Amanda is not.  Therefore, she does a lot of the fix-it jobs.  To compensate for my loss of dominance in these typically male arenas, I have assumed absolute, autocratic control of the television remote.  She may tell me we are most definitely going to watch “America’s Next Top Model.”  But I alone punch in the digits that make it so, and I alone determine how loudly we will hear Tyra Banks describe a “fierce walk.”

Perhaps the most important differentiation in our marriage is in our business dealings with the outside world.  I handle most of these, from doing our taxes to getting the car serviced.  But when a soft touch is required, Amanda steps in.  As the “good cop,” she assuages creditors, pleads with customer service representatives, and compliments returns-counter staff on their necklaces.  However, if the situation turns ugly, I am always there to act as the “bad cop.”  This comes in handy when we need to say no to a social invitation, when a telemarketer calls, or when a suspicious “late fee” appears on a bill.

Vive la difference!

Tim Mollen
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