IN the same week that we learn Hillary Clinton has declared her intention to run for US President and a German primary school teacher of 65 has announced she is expecting quadruplets, I’d like to tell you we’ve had a similar breakthrough for womankind here at Hill Towers.
I’d like to say that Geoff has released me from my shackles by cooking supper – but sadly I can’t. The thundering advance of women, the smashing of glass ceilings, the breaking down of barriers – that all marches magnificently on, I very much hope, in the outside world, but here we have a situation of Emancipation Lite.
I read recently that what poor Geoff suffers from – actually, let’s be honest, I’m the one who suffers, he is quite unscathed – is a condition called learned helplessness.
Geoff and his ilk, his equally undomesticated brethren who keep their distance from what was once, and never, ever again, referred to so damningly as ‘women’s work’, are nothing short of dinosaurs in the 21st century. Dignifying their complete and utter lack of independence and competence with a trendy term doesn’t make it any more acceptable, or excusable.
To give him his due, Geoff can peel a banana, make toast (as long as the bread has been sliced for him), heat soup, peel a boiled egg and, come suppertime if he’s home alone, follow the instructions on a ready meal, so he is never going to starve.
I inherited him with even fewer skills than these, believe it or not, so we are making progress. When we’re both in our 180s he should be able to add changing the bedlinen and scrambling an egg to that impressive list. I live in hope.
I know plenty of others who are afflicted with learned helplessness, to a greater or lesser degree. Few of them are of a younger vintage than my beloved because it does seem to be an older generation thing. There is one, though, in his twenties, who scores poorly on the scale of domestic competence, but he is in rigorous training at the hands of his newly acquired and very no-nonsense partner. She has my whole-hearted encouragement.
In contrast, here’s a picture of perfection, and it’s one I created myself because it’s our son: he shops, cooks, deals with nappies, soothes his fretful baby and toddler through the night, makes bread, landscapes gardens, mends cars and renovates houses. He does all of that with one hand while with the other hand he is busy being a doctor.
Considering he is on the path to becoming a surgeon, it is just as well that when he was eight I also taught him to sew – though I hope his stitching is a little less haphazard now than it was then.
I’m often in the company of women who tell me their husbands do all the cooking. Before I burst into tears, I wait for them, because I know it’s coming, to add that it almost always drives them nuts. Their husbands use every pan and plate, they suck the life out of the fridge and use up ingredients kept for special occasions before leaving the kitchen in an unholy mess. They also get all sanctimonious about it and expect a round of applause.
Nah, that’s not for me. I’d far rather have my bumbling, unreconstructed six feet of learned helplessness. At least I know that all domestic shortcomings – and there are plenty of those at Hill Towers – are down to me to sort and, as with the state I find myself in, I have only myself to blame.