Not long after my boyfriend Sean and I moved in together, I discovered an unexpected bonus: our house was much cleaner. Then I discovered something even better: if the place wasn't spotless when people popped in, they'd lock eyes with me sympathetically, and say 'welcome to living with a man', with a knowing wink. And I never quite managed to explain that actually, the tangle of electrical cables draped over the sofa was my doing, as was the sink-full of unwashed dishes, and the pile of records on the floor I'd been 'sorting out' for two weeks.
We've come to a pretty good understanding, Sean and I. He now knows that I simply don't see grime that he does; it pretty much takes a footlong smear of Thai green curry on the wall before I think, "Hmm, might give the place a wipe', whereas he does a forensic scrub-down after making a sandwich.
I also have far too much stuff, and go into enthusiastic but fatally short-lived flurries of 'organising' or 'clearing out' that result in an obstacle course of piles of books/clothing/CDs that remain untouched for weeks before Sean resignedly shoves it all back where it was in the first place. He's also a better cook, and one who enjoys the culinary process, whereas for me cooking will only ever be the annoying chore you have to do before you get to the fun bit: eating.
I'm not lazy or useless; I take out the bins, and I do other life-admin stuff like planning all our holidays and travel arrangements. I shop for most of Sean's clothes (as an eBay addict, this is no chore) and singlehandedly sort out our social life to the point where his friends text me to ask, 'Does Sean fancy a pint tonight?' Sometimes I feel a little bit like Naomi Campbell's PA, but it's worth it, to not have to scrub limescale off the shower door or make dinner when I get home knackered at 8pm.
I'd say we both contribute equally to our shared life, but my contribution to our shared life is very visible. On Facebook I get all the glory for organising our incredible trips to Thailand, friends tell Sean he's lucky to have someone to sort out his weekends, and if someone compliments Sean on his amazing new vintage shirt, the credit gets immediately passed on to me.
Sean, on the other hand, never really gets the credit for being 'the clean one'; his hours of scrubbing and scouring go unappreciated by everyone except me. Because even in 2014, in a relationship as fastidiously egalitarian as ours, people tend to assume that men are the lazy slobs and women are the multi-tasking household whizzes. The domestic sphere remains a domain rife with sexist assumptions, and to challenge this, BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour are devoting an entire week of programming (staring October 6th) to Chore Wars, asking if men or women work harder around the house in modern Britain.
I know who does more chores in our household, but will we ever shake off the idea that a tidy house is automatically a woman's achievement? We really need to - because if we assume that tidiness is a woman's achievement, we're also saying that it's her job.
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