A recent study published in the February issue of the American Sociological Review raised a whole lot of discussion last week. The study has been all over the Internet, where I found it (I canceled my subscription to the American Sociological Review years ago when I realized I didn't know what sociology was). The study showed that husbands who help out with traditionally "wifely" chores have sex less often than more manly guys who stick to more traditional guy pursuits such as cutting the grass, fixing the car and hammering away at stuff. The study has men all over this country throwing down their dish towels in frustration.
I am not going to comment on the study itself. I have children who read this column (not very often, sometimes not even when I cut it out and put it in front of them), and I'm pretty sure that opening up the paper to see a story where your dad talks about his sex life would result in years of psychotherapy and probably a serious drop in Father's Day cards. I will, however, address the topic of men and "wifely" chores. Everywhere you look these days, you see dads doing dishes, cleaning, interacting with their kids and changing diapers. It raises a serious question: Guys, how the heck did this happen? What went wrong?
Our fathers' generation had it great, at least from what I see on "Mad Men." They worked all day, but let's face it: It couldn't have been all that hard. If you worked in an office you weren't expected to type. You had a secretary take dictation, then bring you a rough copy, which you marked up (while smoking a cigarette) and had her correct it for you. Everybody seemed to have a couch in his office (heck, everybody seemed to have a real live office, with walls and everything) and could often take naps in the afternoon (take a moment to think about that ... pretty good, huh?)
My father was an icon of the "Mad Men" era. He didn't work in advertising, but he wore a nice suit to work, threw off more smoke than a steam engine on a steep hill and drank scotch on the rocks, but with as few rocks as possible.
Our fathers went to work on a smoky train, where they got to read the paper in the morning and talk about sports with their fellow guys. In the evenings, they rode trains with actual bars (not the kind in a prison, the kind with bow-tied bartenders), and their wives were waiting at the train station to drive them home.
Mad Men spent time with their kids -- about four minutes per night. I remember being under strict instructions to greet my father at the door, ask him how he was and then get out of the room because Pop had a "hard day at work." Looking back, I think my relationship with my father was almost exactly like the one I had with the mailman. It wasn't the closest bond in the world, but it was pretty easy to maintain and involved very few arguments.
I know the wives out there cringe when they think back on those days, but as a man, I have to say, it seemed like Mad Men had it pretty good. And from what the people at the American Sociological Review have found from their extensive study, the wives of Mad Men probably liked men who didn't help out around the house. Somehow, through either laziness or simply not paying attention, we've let it all slip away. Modern men aren't Mad Men, they're just something less than that ... Slightly Piqued Men.
So guys out there, I'm appealing to you. We have to set the universe right. Our generation of men has to step up to the plate by stepping away from the dishes. We have to start staying "late" at work, coming home with hard liquor on our breaths and complaining about how hard we slaved at our desks. We have to spend less time helping kids with homework, and more time out in the garage, using power tools and puttering with engines. If your wife asks you to come in and do some vacuuming, look at her as if she's gone bonkers and pour yourself a really dry martini. Your life will be more exciting, and evidently, your wife will find you more exciting.
I would volunteer to personally lead this movement, to be the Maddest of the Mad Men, but I have a pretty busy schedule. Today is the day I iron my shirts.homemaking
Homemaking is a column about the people, projects and pride that make a house a home. Peter McKay, a Ben Avon resident, is a nationally syndicated columnist with Creators Syndicate. To see past columns, go to www.post-gazette.com. Contact him at www.peter-mckay.com.