There are two things I’m really passionate about. One of them is sandwiches. The other is treating women as human beings. And that’s how my wife, Emily, pitched a conversation on Facebook to me: “it involves sandwiches AND the patriarchy.”
The conversation was about the New York Post article ‘I’m 124 sandwiches away from an engagement ring’. The premise of the piece is that the author has agreed to make her boyfriend 300 sandwiches on the promise that, upon the 300th sandwich, he will propose.
It started out from a place I could get behind.
“Sandwiches are love,” he says. “Especially when you make them. You can’t get a sandwich with love from the deli.”
Sandwiches are love. And cooking, an iteration of the Acts of Service Love Language, is how Emily both de-stresses and demonstrates her affection. I have no problem with a dichotomy in any relationship, because I don’t know what sort of arrangement that couple has worked out. Emily almost always cooks for me, not because of The Patriarchy, but because if she didn’t we’d die of both starvation and obesity, plus she loves doing it. It’s not a cute man/woman thing, it’s a practical skills+desire/no skills+no desire thing. I do other stuff (Emily, for example, is free from vacuuming and lawn mowing, because I enjoy them and she hates them) and we get to eat like we live in a restaurant.
But key difference: I never require it. Yeah, there are assumptions (from both of us) that Emily will be the one cooking. But you know what there’s not? Any sort of ultimatum.
The author makes an attempt at deflecting accusations of sexism by recounting cries of sexism from her friends (“‘How ‘Stepford Wives’ of you!’ said one single gal whose kitchen was used for shoe storage.” No condescending judgement about singlehood here!), because if she acknowledges that she realizes it looks sexist then it must really not be. It can’t be sexist if she’s into it. Nevermind that just a couple hundred words earlier she wrote:
Each morning, he would ask, “Honey, how long you have been awake?”
“About 15 minutes,” I’d reply.
“You’ve been up for 15 minutes and you haven’t made me a sandwich?”
I will admit to having made jokes like this to Emily, based on the premise that of course it’s a joke, why would anyone ever talk to another person like that? It’s hilariously disrespectful! Ironic misogyny!
Yyyyyyeahno. It was tone deaf and not funny when I did that shit, and Emily (and my mom, and my sister), to her great credit, rolled with it, and patiently explained why it’s actually not that funny, even though she knows I’m “really not like that.”
(Fellas only for a second! Guys, here’s something I learned: when you’re like that, even for pretend, it can and often does make the other person feel like you’re like that actually. Just a heads up.)
Here’s a helpful song to help you remember if you are being manipulative, misogynistic, or otherwise disrespectful to another human being:
Because I really love people and want to assume the best of everyone, I almost bought into the author’s narrative: I was charmed by how functional their relationship sounded. They live together, they have traveled together, they have met each other’s families, they go grocery shopping together, and they both have a passion for food. These are all really great things! Sounds like there’s a mutual respect!
But the one thing that I was waiting for, the one thing that would tell me this is all ok, never came. She never let us know that they grew closer than she ever realized they could over the shared experience of cooking, and he never let her know that the sandwich ultimatum wasn’t serious, that he’s excited to propose when the time is right.
This isn’t really about sandwiches. This is about putting conditions on your love. If you put a condition on your love, you are a dick.
Post script: I once saw a true crime TV show about a man who had, like, seven different families. In order to avoid calling one woman by another woman’s name, he referred to them all exclusively as “Princess.” I now assume anyone who only calls their girlfriend or wife by a pet name has six others somewhere else he’s trying not to bring up in conversation.