A few weeks ago I was visiting my parents in Scotland. My dad left his laundry in an IKEA bag in front of the washing machine, presumably intending to put it on once the current load of towels had been emptied. When my mum hung out the towels she put his washing on.
Later, I came downstairs to make some tea. My mum was working on her tapestry. She jumped up when she saw me and said, “If you make the tea, I’ll hang your dad’s washing out.”
I said, “Dad can do that himself.”
“But he’s busy writing.”
“So? Why’s that more important than you being busy doing your tapestry? You’ve just decided that it is. If you get up and hang out his washing then that will make you a very bad feminist role model. Sometimes women complain that men keep them trapped at home doing domestic chores, but you’re trapping yourself.”
“You’re right. I know you’re right.” She sat back down and continued working on her tapestry.
My dad came down to join us for tea. We got into a bit of a one sided discussion about what’s wrong with my generation and what we have to do to change things. (Revolution! is my dad’s answer). While that was going on, my mum excused herself to go and get some coat hangers for my dad. Apparently they agreed at some point to experiment with hanging his shirts on coat hangers on the line instead of clipping them on with clothes pegs so that they dry more neatly.
Next thing I knew, my dad had finished outlining his three point plan for revolution and my mum was coming back into the kitchen from the garden where she had just hung all of my dad’s shirts up on the washing line.
“Tell me you didn’t just hang Dad’s shirts up!” I cried with exasperation, although the evidence was plain to see through the window.
“Well, your dad’s never hung his shirts up on clothes hangers before.”
I started to have some kind of apoplectic fit that involved a lot of wild hand waving and head slapping. “Oh my god! I can’t believe what I’m hearing. I wish you could hear yourself! Did you seriously just say that?”
My mum blushed furiously. “I mean your dad doesn’t know to use a clothes peg to secure the coat hangers to the clothes line.”
“What? And you think he’s too dumb to figure that out? You could have just told him that’s what he’s supposed to do. You didn’t have to do it for him!” I shook my head and tsked. “You’re a very poor feminist role model, Mum.”
“Oh look,” she said, “That’s one o’clock. “Would you like me to make your lunch now?”
“Yes please,” I said, fully and guiltily aware of the irony.