Life Cleanup On Aisle 4

Try not to cry.

Try not to cry.

Maybe it’s just me.  But I suspect I’m not the only woman who’s merely one bag of beef jerky away from a total meltdown.

I was fresh out of inspiration for dinner when I stopped by the grocery store on the way home from work the other day.   It had been a long and difficult day; every cranky, rude and clueless person within a 25-mile radius made it a point to cross my path.  I didn’t really need food since our freezer is so loaded it would take a Shackleton expedition to explore its depths, but I didn’t want to work that hard.  I was looking for the Abominable Snowman of dinner options; something tasty, easy, fast and healthy. You hear that combo talked about a lot but, like the Yeti, confirmed sightings are rare. I also wanted to stock up on low-cal snacks to combat my Little Debbie addiction.

I don’t do all the cooking at our house; my husband often fixes dinner.  That may be primarily because he doesn’t like what I make, but it still helps.  I’m not a bad cook so much as uninspired.  Nonetheless, I am still the chief cook, bottle washer, laundress and general maid-of-all-work around our place.

Most of the other shoppers in the store that evening were women and, judging by their clothes and attitudes, most were also on their way home from work.  Some had small children in tow. We had all stopped to pick up some get-me-the-hell-out-of-here-so-I-can-go-home-and-put-up-my-feet.

A young mom in the dairy aisle had a cart full of crying toddler. They were both staring down at the puddle spreading out from a milk carton I assume the child had tossed onto the floor.  From the look on Mommy’s face, she was an inch away from flailing around in the puddle in a screaming, kicking tantrum that would put her child’s to shame.

An acquaintance in the produce aisle said she had dashed in to buy cauliflower to go with the pot roast she had in the oven.  She had already prepared peas and potatoes, which her husband insisted on, but her grown son was coming over for dinner and he was on a no-carb diet.  She was going to mash the cauliflower to tempt his palate with faux-mashed potatoes.  The key point here is that this woman, who works out of her home, was making her family a pot roast dinner with a full menu of side dish options and it wasn’t even a special occasion.  It was a Wednesday.

I also knew the woman in front of me in the checkout line.  She unloaded 10 cartons of chicken stock onto the conveyor belt.  She said it was to go with her homemade ravioli and added, apologetically, that she knew this was terrible.  She looked as guilty as if she had been caught coming out of the back room at the video rental store with her arms full of porno DVDs.

I was so lost in wonder at the concept that all ravioli didn’t come in a can labeled “Chef Boyardee” it took me a minute to figure out what was so terrible.  This woman (who works full time in her family’s business, has a teenager still at home and is helping raise her twenty-something’s baby) was afraid of being labeled a slacker for using store-bought chicken stock.

I solemnly promised under pain of torture to swear she had personally wrung the chicken’s neck for the broth.

After checking out I trudged to my car with turkey burgers and salad for dinner, and beef jerky for a snack. I was starving so I tore into the jerky as soon as I got in the car.

Correction: I tried to tear into it.

The jerky was in a thick, plastic bag heat-sealed above a resealable zipper.  There was a little notch cut out of each side for opening and that’s where I ripped across.  It removed a triangular piece of bag.   I turned the bag over and tore at the notch on the other side with the same result.  I now had a hill of fused plastic above the zipper part.  The bag remained sealed.

I pulled at the sides in the middle of the bag, hoping to force the top apart.  I pulled with all my strength but no go.

I gnawed at the side of the plastic triangle like a desperate beaver, hoping to get a new tooth-hold to grab and rip across. No help.

Apparently I had selected an Armageddon-proof jerky package.  The bag itself was a test of survival fitness; if you couldn’t manage the simple task of opening this little, plastic bag, dammit, you did not deserve to survive.  It would be the snack of choice come The Rapture.

I gave up on preserving the zip lock feature and dug around in my purse for a sharp object to use as a bayonet.   The best I could find were house keys.  There was a mere half-inch of product in the bottom of the bag so I stabbed into the big, empty space above it (contents may settle during shipment) and twisted madly.  Turns out my keys aren’t very sharp.  Note to self; sharpen keys.

No dice.

No opening.

No jerky.

That was when I lost it.

Guttural sounds rose from deep within me and erupted as I beat the bag against the dashboard. Some sounds were actual words which would have caused 9 out of 10 moms surveyed to wash my mouth out with soap.  I retained enough self-control not to scream at the top of my lungs.  I was parked at the edge of the lot, but a full-throttle scream might be overheard by the shopping public.  It was more a hoarse whisper accompanied by tears of rage. I was utterly defeated.

Jerky – 1
Peg – 0

Obviously the jerky wasn’t the main issue; it was just the tip of the frustration iceberg.

For most women the end of the workday in the outside world marks the start of their other full-time job: caring for children, cooking, cleaning and running a household.

I know there are exceptions; there are stay-at-home dads and men who help out a lot – I get that.  I’m not saying this is strictly a woman thing, but the fact is, it mainly IS a woman thing.   Even the words we use illuminate a basic difference in attitude about household tasks –  he’s babysitting or helping out; she’s living.

I grew up at the end of the modern women’s movement.  Older women, fresh from the trenches, handed the new mandates to my generation when we came of age, like a shining gift on a silver platter.

“See what we did for you?  You can have it all,” they said.

But they didn’t really mean “all.”  They meant big, new, exciting experiences in the work and wider world.  Hillary Clinton’s sneering comments about staying home and baking cookies were typical of the condescending attitude many women had at that time toward their stay-at-home sisters. The message underlying all of that empowerment was that you were a traitor to your sex and their sacrifices if you chose to be a homemaker.  At least that’s the message I heard.  It never occurred to me that raising children could be a serious career option for a serious, modern woman.  I regret that.

They said we could now have it all, but at what cost?

Our new expectations were perfectly summed up by a perfume commercial that aired while I was in college.  A seductress in a business-suit strutted across the screen brandishing a frying pan, and as she vamped she warbled:

“I can bring home the bacon,
Fry it up in a pan,
And never, ever let you forget you’re a man,
‘Cuz I’m a woman!”

It was always a woman’s job to fry up the bacon.  That part wasn’t new. And heaven forbid we let him forget he’s a man; that was a given.  But that wasn’t enough anymore.  Oh, no.   Thanks to the women’s movement, now we also had to go out and earn the money to buy the goddamn bacon before we cooked it.

This is a great advancement for women how, exactly?

I’m not blaming men for piling the load of new expectations upon us.  We wanted to be able to do meaningful work, and rightly so.  But we didn’t give anything up in our zeal to be Superwomen.  The flip side of our great expectations was the lowering of expectations for men.  The society-destroying concept that it was OK for a man to be merely the sperm donor and (I hate this term) baby daddy was still relatively foreign to us 35 years ago, but it gained traction with lighting speed.

I see young moms juggling jobs, home and kids (each of whom have their own Outlook calendar full of activities) and I wonder how they do it all.  I wonder how I did it all. Why did I HAVE to do it all?

Life is much easier to manage now that my kids are grown, which is great because my energy level has sagged along with my body parts. But after 35 years I still ain’t doing so hot at living up to any of the great expectations that Enjoli woman seemed to have mastered.  I’m not a gourmet chef, a captain of industry or a seductive sexpot.  Never have been.  The best I could ever manage in those subjects was a C+, and that’s only if we’re being graded on a curve.  I feel like a failure, and I’m sick and tired of feeling that way.

Here’s hoping that things are better for the next generation.

I hope my daughters and their someday-partners will feel they have a real choice whether to parent or work or any combination thereof.

I hope they will truly share the joys and burdens of those choices.

I hope they will feel whole and worthy regardless of what they choose.

And I pray that, unlike many women of my generation, they cut themselves a hell of a lot of slack because they did their best.

 

 

 

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About pegoleg

R-A-M-B-L-I-N-G-S, Ram...Blin!
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62 Responses to Life Cleanup On Aisle 4

  1. Yes, yes, yes, and so much more yes to all of this.

    Also, ♥

    Like

  2. macmsue says:

    You’ve hit the spot! I also feel that “Women’s Liberation” was a con, we just ended up with double the responsibilities. From what I’ve seen of my kids though the tide has turned, my son changes nappies and my daughter wields a drill but it seems to me that when relationships break down it’s usually the woman who ends up with the heaviest load.

    Like

    • franhunne4u says:

      That is just because she is claiming the kids – if she wasn’t it would have to be the man …

      Like

      • pegoleg says:

        The kids do usually go with Mom, and that probably usually makes the most sense. Again, all generalities are subject to individual differences.

        Liked by 1 person

        • franhunne4u says:

          Of course little ones, who are still breastfed NEED to go with mommy. But any child that is not breastfed anymore?

          Like

          • pegoleg says:

            I do think, for the most part, that the mom is the most vital person in a young child’s life – breastfed or not. When they’re older it is more a question of which parent/child combo works best.

            But all of this supposes we don’t have the option of the ideal situation – two parents working together like tag-team wrestlers to help and complement one another’s strengths and weaknesses.

            Liked by 1 person

  3. Bernadette says:

    Women’s liberation was good for the workplace but still hasn’t changed the cultural attitudes in most marriages.
    Wednesday is Senior Salon day. Come an share your post.

    Like

  4. Spot on observations dear Peg. I wish I could take a leave from work to build our house and deal with all that requires but can’t afford that plan. So, it’s more unending stress. We were sold a bill of goods, that’s for sure. And the whole packaging thing? Almost have to carry scissors wherever you go to open the darn package. Grumble….

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Elyse says:

    Yup. You’re not alone.

    I once burst into hysterical tears when I couldn’t reach the half gallon of milk way back of the top shelf. We’ve all been there more often than we’d like to admit.

    I blame my job for the fact that I am forced — FORCED — to eat pasta — quick, easy, good — far more than my waistline accepts gracefully.

    Like

  6. been there with you, on all levels

    Like

  7. Mary K. says:

    I thought you were going to nail the packaging boys but you didn’t so thank you for that. I hear you on the working women hassles. We all are trying to figure out dinner-worse as I get older. Just don’t want to cook anymore. Cereal anyone.

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      I was going to. Damn bag – I had less trouble getting into my lock-box at the bank!

      Cereal seems to be a common dinner option. Carolyn said she often has that. To which I replied, “yuck.” Good think Pat always makes soup on Sunday, right?

      Like

  8. I decided…waaaay back in my early 30’s – to hell with this superwoman crap…I’m gonna be COMFY. The house never looked worse, I dumped all the make-up/war paint in the trash, sat with the kids and watched insane amounts of cartoons, and we ate out of the freezer.

    It was the most glorious 3 minutes of my life…

    Liked by 3 people

  9. I always hated that song, even though I was only in my 20s when it came out. My first thought was always, “Why can’t the man fry up the damn bacon?” Guess that’s why I ultimately chose a guy who likes to cook and was willing to take care of the kids while I worked my ass off to keep everything together. Not sure I got the best deal there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • pegoleg says:

      Me too with that commercial – always hated it. Good for you for striking a balance. There’s probably no perfect answer. Every couple needs to figure out what works for both of them, don’t they?

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Blogdramedy says:

    Nicely done, Peg. Could I add they should always make sure they leave the house with a sharp implement of jerky destruction. *grin*

    Like

  11. Well I’ve never seen that Enjoli commercial before (hardly surprising) but that perfect woman makes me sick (well not her personally, she’s just a paid model, but who she represents). That was probably meant to be empowering to women at the time, but it’s amongst the least empowering things I’ve ever seen, all it does is make the 99.9% of women who aren’t like that feel like failures. I continue to aspire to have it all and do it all, but like most people, I have to end up settling for having some of it sometimes, and doing some of it sometimes. Sigh.

    Like

  12. Al says:

    I remember that commercial. I never could get her name and address.

    Like

  13. Have you been spying on me? And here…I have a big opened bag of beef jerky we can share and scream together all we want.

    Like

  14. Sandy Sue says:

    I highly recommend “Bad Moms” as a palliative measure. It’s not the best movie out there, but laughing at all of this feels so much better than crying.

    Like

  15. Margie says:

    Excellent Post!
    As I watch my own children balance career and kids, I wonder what choices their generation will make that are different than my generations. One thing I have seen so far is their ability (or maybe the forced decision) to end one career track, and take off on another one. They seem to have more options, or maybe they are brave enough, to put their skills to work in totally different fields. I also see more sharing of at-home work – men who take a nearly equal share of child-care, chores, procurement (hubbies description of shopping) and cooking. Good stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Thanks for the laugh.

    As much as I adore cooking, I never make pastry or stock. What’s the point? If someone has spent their time manufacturing it, then I’m happy to pay the grocery store to take it off their hands.

    We are all more alike than we like to admit aren’t we? I guess that’s why people love browsing through gossip mags looking at pictures of the usually immaculate celebrity showing half a ton of cellulite up her thigh 😊

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      It does seem to be a common failing that we love to see the mighty brought low, doesn’t it? I’m so ashamed….and yet still eager to see that the latest famous beauty looks like a troll without her makeup.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Go Jules Go says:

    Sorry it took me so long to get to this — I was busy trying to read 10 other blogs at once whilst running a load of laundry, doing dishes, walking the dog, and taking a conference call. But I couldn’t miss the opportunity to tell you that you ARE suuuuch a failure. You have, to this day, failed to keep me wearing a straight face for more than two minutes. What. A. Disappointment.

    Like

  18. Peg, sit down. Are you sitting down? Are you sure? Okay. I’m going to trust you. What I’m about to say might be a little…um…unsettling. I know you had a REALLY bad day and that REALLY bad day is symptomatic of way more than one REALLY bad day. (Can you feel my empathy? I hope so.)

    I’ve got some news for you. I think it’s REALLY good news. You might not. But here goes. Those little bags of baby carrots are REALLY easy to open.

    Hey! That was totally uncalled for! Is shooting the messenger against the law? 😉

    Like

  19. susielindau says:

    We all deserve a meltdown once in a while. I hope you throw a jackknife in your car for that jerky next time. I don’t forget to scream, “I am woman hear me roar!!”

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Loved this story! My mom was a single working Mother, I used to work nights and days, but am now a stay-at home Mom. I truly have so much respect for working mothers! After a long hard day of work, you still come home to another job…..being a mom! And know, that for our family, we did finally have a choice for me to be home with the kids, and I am so thankful, and I don’t ever regret a minute of it. Thank you so much for sharing your perspective! You are a wonderful person and writer!

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      Thanks so much for the kind words. I am delighted that you felt free to make the decision that works best for your family. In hindsight, I really regret that I didn’t stay home – parenting is the most important job a person will ever have.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Mary K. says:

    You raised 2 beautiful daughters, have a lovely home, work with your husband in a thriving insurance office(that alone dominates you for sainthood) and help with soooo many family issues-don’t beat yourself up-we love and appreciate it all and YOU!

    Liked by 1 person

  22. YES! So much so well said, it’s impossible to pick out favorite highlights. All I can say is to each their own – and find your own and don’t let anyone tell you what that is. (Does that make sense?) People lie – especially if they are miserable and can’t bear you escaping that fate..
    Thanks (and 10 cartons? Geesch.) Hilarious among the hard truths and solid obserations

    Like

    • pegoleg says:

      That’s an interesting comment: that people lie about how happy they are. I hadn’t thought of it that way, but I suspect you’re right. Most of us don’t wear our discontent on our sleeves. Think about famous actors and comedians who have committed suicide. We can never look inside someone’s heart to see what they REALLY feel.

      Liked by 1 person

  23. Vinny Idol says:

    Great Post.I like your humorous and descriptive writing style. Its also a bit sad, that americans get so caught up in the matrix, that something simple like opening a snack; will cause us to lose it. Finally, your message about the downside to feminism is very telling. I tell my sisters that theyre going to regret being feminists, but my message falls on deaf ears.

    Like

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