This was another thing I thought was obvious, but when I searched for it came up with a lot of crap about changing gender roles which is utterly false. I will begin with a generalization which, like all generalizations, is completely true, and fair to all parties. Men are biologically, not culturally, straightforward and direct. We see things in black-and-white; there are never any shades of grey–the primary reason we don’t read that book. The mindset has its advantages in dealing with things that follow a law of excluded middle such as: this rocket will fly or it will crash into the ground in a fiery explosion that looks awesome. We understand a situation of that kind and are able to plan to have our cameras ready. Women on the other hand are inherently better at situations where the antecedent and the event lie somewhere on a continuum, the exact position differing in the opinion of each observer. These are often the circumstances of human interaction making men with their on/off perspective look like bumbling idiots in various social relationships.

The topic in question is cleaning duties and how they are split according to gender. Let us consider the task of cleaning a bathroom. First one must determine the bathroom is in need of cleaning, then what should be done to clean it, and when it can be considered clean again. It’s clearly one of those sliding scale things that men are uneasy with and would prefer to avoid whenever possible. “If it’s dirty today, was it clean yesterday? If so, can I wipe a paper towel around at random and bring it back to the cleanliness of yesterday and be done? If not, then it was dirty yesterday, but she didn’t make a fuss about it then so why the fuss now? It’s PMS again isn’t it . . .” This is how a man thinks about the clean/unclean dichotomy. So the female ends up cleaning the bathroom and grumbling. They grumble louder if it’s that time of the month and even louder if you try to imply that it’s because it’s that time of the month. If grumbling could scrub grout they might not have such a tough time of it. I’m just saying. Men dodge chores not because they are lazy or chauvinistic, but because an ill-defined impetus and goal give them a vague sense of malaise they’d rather ignore. So what does that leave the men in a household to do? Consider the chore of taking out the trash. There is a clear threshold for action (can full), a clear course of action (empty can), and a clear metric for completion (can empty). Few people would think a half-full garbage can needs emptying so the potential ambiguity is eliminated. The trash is taken out regularly and the man feels that he has contributed in some significant way to the running of the home, though it’s mostly a lie. This also works with changing lightbulbs (dark/light), microwaving burritos (frozen/edible), and the buying of basic necessities (no beer/beer). Watching the kids poses something of a problem as the alive/dead metric lacks the sort of nuanced refinement most women desire in the childcare realm.

Sadly this leaves women doing the majority of housework which is patently unfair. Here’s my advice to women to get their male housemates–boyfriend, roommate, husband, son–to do more. Have the need for a task to be accomplished be triggered by an event calling for immediate action like reminding him of laundry day by using his socks to set off the smoke detector. You could also toss a match into three months of accumulated stumble decorating the vanity plate. And the smoke detector would go off reminding him to change his socks too. That’s efficiency! Telling him the kitchen floor is dirty is pointless because being dirty is not an event. Refrigerator mold growing eye stalks and growling at the dog is an event, but you won’t elicit a response from him before then no matter how meaningfully you roll your eyes. Women, you’ll never get men to see the world in anything other than binary opposites; it’s not in their chromosomes, stop trying. If all else fails you can fall back on the age-old paradigm: chores/no sex.

Photo Credit: Fellowship of the Rich

I recently had the pleasure of spending some time with an acquaintance named Eric. He has a cheerful disposition and somewhat erratic personality. It wasn’t until someone pointed out the resemblance that I finally realized why I was so amused when hanging out with him. Eric was Charlie Kelly from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, minus the selfish disregard for other people. He had some odd convictions and was ready to argue very loudly to defend them. The comparison was made apparent when he argued that it should be perfectly acceptable to eat food from the trash bin provided it was on top of the garbage rather than in it. Following his premise and argument, I have named this The Trash Boundary and will lay it out here.

Eric was adamant that there really was no magical line created by the rim of a trash can. Trash on a table top doesn’t change in character once it enters the trash can, yet we treat it so differently. You would eat leftover pizza that was on the table right? Well why wouldn’t you eat the same pizza that is in the trash, especially if the pizza was hermetically sealed in its box? For the sake of this argument, put aside possible contamination and assume that the trash can is clean, which is very likely to be the case with a new trash bag. Yet once the pizza passes this Trash Boundary, people hesitate to retrieve anything and are even chastised for going through garbage.

There was one concession Eric was willing to make–food that is “in” the trash, as opposed to “on“ the trash shouldn’t be eaten. That’s the line he’s unwilling to cross. Somewhat arbitrarily, as soon as there is additional trash on top of the target food item, it then becomes trash and inedible. I’ll admit this line is just as frivolous as the line that any food, once it goes into the trash, is off-limits, but it makes a little more sense. There is much more of chance of dangerous contamination once refuse has been piled on top of food, rather than when food is simply the last thing thrown out and sitting comfortable on top of the mountain of garbage.

Unlike Eric, I hesitate to make any brightline rule at all. His Trash Boundary is not much more logical than the one which most people respect. I would say that eating food out of the garbage should be determined on a factual, case-by-case basis. A sealed Hostess Twinkie under crumbled papers? That’s fair game. A half-eaten hot dog on top of a pile of diapers, surely not. Yet I suppose to some people, dumpster diving for food is a principled matter and should be forbidden under any circumstances. As one guy put it upon hearing Eric’s rant, “That’s a line you just don’t cross.” In some ways I can respect that conviction, as if your humanity is threatened by your baser instincts of hunt and gather. But I won’t judge anyone if their Trash Boundary is just a little further than someone else’s.