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Gill and I have a long-standing disagreement about men. No, not THAT kind of argument…

Being of an older generation, I am stunned, to the point of passing out, when I see a man cooking and taking charge of the kitchen — and I refer here to the domestic kitchen. I realize men are generally considered to be the best professional chefs. (In a fair and unbiased ranking done by other men.) And a sidebar: please explain to me how Gordon Ramsey’s ranting expletives don’t  curdle his Hollandaise and twist his curly fries.)

But I digress. Gill, as a member of the younger generation, expects that a man will cook and help in the kitchen–if not take charge. I was raised in the Stone Age when people like my father and ex-husband barely knew what a stove WAS, let alone how to use it. These days, cooking is an expected life skill and that’s a good thing. But sometimes it’s hard to change one’s mindset. Gill is quick to remind me to get with the program.

When I told her about a recent party I’d been to, and added in amazement, “The host cooked it all himself! And it was good!” she admonished me: “Ma, knock it off with the surprised voice! You’re being sexist. Most men DO know how to cook.”

“Excuse me…have you met your father? He cooked (after taking emergency lessons) for all of a few months after the divorce — until he decided it was easier to get remarried.”

Gill laughed this off: “I dare say a lot of my male friends are much better cooks than I am. You’ve got to let go of your dated attitude. Your own son is a great cook.”

“Oh, I know. I just think back to my era. Men were expected to bring home the bacon, not cook it. If my dad had a party, he ordered food in or, more likely, watched my mom slave for days in the kitchen. Of course, since he wouldn’t allow her to work outside the home, I assume he thought it was a good ‘make work’ project. It was the least he could do to keep her busy…”

“Really? I had no idea Grampy was so sexist.”

“Oh, in many ways he wasn’t. He admired smart women…smart enough to keep quiet and stay in the kitchen. But times were different. When my dad was forced into the bachelor life each summer when Mom and I went to the cottage, I worried that he’d starve to death. He made do by cooking eggs in a big pan and eating right out of the same pan. And the things he did to Spam…I shudder! He got tired of that after three days and survived on takeout and stinky gorgonzola cheese  (it didn’t have to be cooked–although he took great care to ‘ripen’ it in the back seat of the car). He washed his clothes by wearing them into the shower. I’ll tell you, by the end of the summer, there were some funky things in that house…Dad included.”

Change has been a long time coming. Back then, a woman was good for making babies, looking after the house, and looking pretty so as not to reflect poorly on her man. Now, women have careers, make babies, look after most of the household duties, spend inordinate amounts of time at the gym trying to look good…I love it when the younger generation (including Gill) tries to argue that we’ve made so much progress.

It has been said that there is nothing sexier to a woman than a man with a vacuum in his hand. That particular image gives me unpleasant flashbacks, again to my dad. He did help with the vacuuming. He loved doing the living room broadloom. But it turned quickly into a compulsion. He had to make sure the vacuum tracks on the carpet were all going in the same direction. Do you have any idea of the gyrations and acrobatic moves necessary to make that happen? It was not pretty. I half expected him to go over the tracks later with a hairbrush to erase the marks entirely. If he was trying to win points with my mom, it didn’t work.

No, give me a man dressed in a well-tailored suit — with cuffed shirts, cufflinks, the whole nine yards…with his credit card whipped out to spend at a nice restaurant. OR give me a man with an apron and a pair of oven mitts at the ready.

Whispering sweet nothings in my ear certainly gets my attention. But so does a suggestive, “I’m going to turn these beef bones into a scrumptious, creamy, full-bodied soup. Like to stay and taste?” Let the licking and tasting begin. Of the food.

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