This week, Jenée Desmond-Harris and Lauren Williams discuss a Prudie letter: “How Would This Work”
Jenée Desmond-Harris: I can’t believe this guy isn’t allowed to have a microwave. I’m on his side based on that alone … even though I suspect he might be lazy.
Lauren Williams: Haha I’m very confused about that throwaway line, that would be my whole letter. “Dear Prudence, my spouse refuses to let us get a microwave. Pls advise.”
Jenée: Like I thought she was going to say “If I wanted to eat ready-made meals I’d go to McDonalds every day!” But no … she said “I’d have a microwave.”
Lauren: I wanted to talk about this one because as you know I do like to cook elaborate meals on occasion.
Jenée: Yes, you do.
Lauren: I’m also not a very tidy cook, so I do leave the kitchen a mess. But where I lose this couple is here: My husband isn’t some weird robot who hates food, so he really appreciates my delicious meals and does not mind the extra clean up time they might require of him. I really don’t know what to do with someone who is with an excellent cook who wants to prepare him delicious things nightly, and he’s not into it because of the dishes and he would rather have a sandwich or like, a jar of Ragu. (Hi, I’m a food snob.)
Jenée: And your husband does take pride on his own cooking! Remember when he confused you by announcing that he’d sent my husband a picture of his [chicken] thighs and caused significant confusion? (Ok I just wanted to tell that story.)
Lauren: Hahaha yes. “Wait, you sent him a picture of your WHAT?”
Jenée: LOL. But back to this guy, I don’t think he would RATHER have a can of Ragu …
he would just be ok with it. And the question is, is his wife REALLY ok with what it takes to have a delicious fancy meal. Or I guess, taking a step back, should he just agree to clean up whatever she makes? Maybe a certain number of times per week?
Lauren: It seems like she would rather make the meals and clean up after herself as well than not make the meals, since that seems to be where they’ve settled. But that’s definitely not long-term sustainable, especially if they’re thinking about kids. The fact that she gets off work earlier is going to put more kid duties on her plate as it is, and that is going to kill the elaborate meals situation. So honestly, I kind of think this will end after they have a family, if LW can wait. But I can’t imagine her not feeling resentment. She is insisting on cooking because, I’m guessing, she actually wants to enjoy her dinner and because she has a genuine joy for cooking, so she doesn’t want to stop and doesn’t want to fight every night over dishes. But that doesn’t mean she’s not grumbling over the sink as he rubs his full belly in front of the TV or whatever.
Jenée: Right. That’s why I think it’s especially important for him to interrogate whether his “I’m fine with the bare minimum so I only do the bare minimum” attitude extends to other areas of life.
Lauren: I did think of a compromise though. The agreement to wash dishes a few times a week is a good one. Another is for her to improve upon her process a bit and do more cleaning as she goes. That way the kitchen isn’t quite as tragic at the end of LW’s long shift.
Jenée: I also noted that she will “jump in” to help him with his stuff. That kind of gave me pause. It might not be a big deal but it makes me wonder if he’s underperforming a bit. Like, he doesn’t have to jump in to stir the sauce, so she probably shouldn’t have to jump in to help with taking the trash out or whatever.
Lauren: Another flag was when he said it “wouldn’t occur to him” to cook dinner. Maybe it’s because she’s so particular but I thought that was weird as well! I do think the fact that he’s thinking about the sustainability of their division of labor is a good sign. But he’s framing it entirely around her choices.
Jenée: Yeah. So I think the prescription is a good honest talk (or premarital counseling) and letting go of the “the person who cares the most does the most work” mentality. If she wrote in I would also tell her to think about compromise. She won’t die if she eats chili once in a while.
Lauren: Yeah. She needs to chill out. And she’ll start to hate this thing that brings her joy one day if she doesn’t. Because when there’s a whole family to feed it can feel like a duty instead of an expression of your creativity if you don’t give yourself some space. Also, some kids only eat chicken fingers for four years so just be prepared for that.
Jenée: With a side of MICROWAVED cups of macaroni and cheese.
Lauren: For the love of God, get a microwave! Or at least an air fryer.
Jenée: Please. Good luck, letter writer!