"And what do you do?"
"I'm a househusband."
"Oh. Uh, whatdo you really do?"
I do just what a housewife really does.
Except answer questions like that, since no one ever asks a housewife what she really does. I'll tell you what I really do—and it has nothing to do with washing dishes or doing the laundry. What has hap pened to me since I became a houseperson shouldn't happen to a woman or a man.
Jan and I have always been several serrations back on the cutting edge of the human liberation movement, but we do have a marriage contract. Even so, we began to realize that the ultimate decisions were still revolving around me and what I wanted to do. We wanted to be equal, but I kept turning out to be more equal than Jan.
Jan had been trying for two years to get a broadcasting job in Cleveland. She couldn't get one here and she wanted to look elsewhere. Walt had been teaching in Cleveland for four years and wanted to stay. Guess who stayed in Cleveland.
Finally we switched. Two months ago Jan became breadwinner and I became houseperson. I quit my job on the assump tion that we would move somewhere else. But Jan has still not found a job in radio or television. There just aren't a lot of jobs around for women. I can't get a job until she gets one because I don't even know where to apply until she is located some where. I am also a doctoral student, but my thesis is the developmentof an alterna tive school—which of course I can't begin setting up until 1 know where I'm going to live.
Jan is now freelancing for several radio stations to bring in money. I am writing this to bring in a little more.
Strange things have happened to me as a househusband. Jan came home from her freelance work a couple of times tofind me doing nothing—reading a book or lis tening to a record. She asked why I hadn't changed the bed or mowed the lawn since I had nothing to do. So I started getting
busy—especially about the time she came home. Actually I have a lot of time, but not enough time to do anything. I don't know how long we will live here so I can't get involved in anything for fear I'll have to pull out right away. I do feel a need to be busy. I mow the lawn often because it keeps me busy and the noise of the mower keeps me from thinking too much.
Last week I managed to spend a large part of each day trying to get a garage to fix our car. I couldn't overwhelm the ser vice manager with my important duties anymore; since I could take the car back the next day instead of demanding that it be fixed right then, I backed down. When the work was not done correctly, I lacked
the old confidence to complain. I just accepted it. When Jan came home and got mad at me about it, I suggested that she do it. Slowly and patronizingly, the bread winner explained to me that she had to
work and didn't have the time. What about my time? Why should I work more than eight hours being a househusband when she only works eight hours at being a breadwinner? Well, it seems that her work is more important since she gets paid for it.
I lie awake at night aching to use my power in some kind of meaningful job: fighting a pointless policy or helping some one in trouble. I eventually use up the energy by bitching my way into an argu
ment about the checkbook.
Since I have nothing to do myself I call
Jan at work to see what she is doing. I get up lateand don't bothergetting washed or dressed properly until just before she comes home.
I didn't realize that all this was happen ing until a few days ago when I slipped into the shower with Jan and promptly destroyed the sexiness of the situation by bitching about how much soap she was using.
At that point I began listing the charac teristics of the houseperson syndrome. I need to look busy, I need to feel busy, I depend on the breadwinner for where I live and how long I live there, I lack confidence in my own judgment, I don't feel that my time is worth anything, I feel that what the breadwinner is doing is more important than what I am doing, and I need to use up my energy somehow so I bitch.
I used to think that a housewife acts like this because she is a woman. Not so. A woman or a man acts like this because she or he is a houseperson. If it were a better world, equality might work. But in a rotten economy and in a mobile society, one per
son will get the job she or he wants; the other will get whatever is available nearby. There is no doubt that it is woman's turn to be more equal than others and there is no doubt that a man can learn a lot by being a houseperson. But that statement
applies only to other men. Me, I know enough and I want out.