"Do you cook at home?" has become my second to least favorite question people ask me, next to "Where are you from?" Now that I'm married, often times the first thing I'm asked, particularly by women of my mother's generation, is "Do you cook at home?" Then of course, followed by "What do you cook?" It actually started when we moved in prior to marriage, but even more so now.
The question always baffles me, because I think how do they think I've been taking care of myself this whole time? How else do I nourish my body? Do they think I just eat instant ramen and mac 'n cheese out of a box all the time? I don't even like instant ramen.
What's worse is their reaction when I respond yes. "Oh really?? Wow, what do you cook?" When they ask what do I cook, I'm still more baffled, and really just offended, because it feels like they're implying they don't think I know how to cook. I cook food, that's what I cook. If they're asking what kinds of cuisines I cook, well, I'm an Angelena so I cook and eat everything--kale, quinoa, guac, and vegan cheese included! I know that no one truly means to be offensive, but it's really just so backwards, because when has anyone ever asked Chris if he cooks at home or what he cooks? Actually, someone did ask once if he ever makes me crepes, but that's just because he's French. However, it's not like they're asking because they want to trade recipes--I do make a pretty mean chorizo mac 'n cheese, but no, they're not asking for that.
The reason I find this question so offensive is because it assumes that I as the woman should be cooking for my husband, that I alone hold that responsibility. It assumes that my role as the woman is in the kitchen. It would be very different if they asked "what do you two cook at home?" That question I totally welcome and consider sweet, because it implies that we cook together, or that sometimes I cook and sometimes he cooks without assuming antiquated gender roles. It shows that us as a couple take care of each other and share in equal parts our responsibilities.
In truth, I do most of the cooking. As an only child whose mother pampered him to death, Chris has learned that I won't be his mother. I won't be my mother for that matter. My dad is actually a fantastic cook and does some of the cooking when he's actually home; but my mother comes from old world ways and is oft unintentionally an offender of gender inequality. It's just the way her brain has been wired and conditioned. You won't hear her yelling at my brother over chores the way she does with me, and I don't even live with her anymore. But my mother is 58 and I don't expect to make her see the light and change her ways--even though sometimes my mouth can't help itself and we try anyways.
Instead, I make sure that in my relationship with my husband, we are partners. The reason I knew Chris was the one in the first place, was because I knew I had a partner in life. He showed me early on I'd never be alone, and that I'd never have to carry the weight of the load on my own. Of course, it's not about equal weight and equal responsibility all of the time--if only life were that fair. I've learned from witnessing my parents' own marriage, that in relationships, sometimes one partner must pick up the slack of the other, because sometimes life gets a little heavier for the other, and vice versa. But that's why we're in this together, right? That is the beauty of marriage.
So, if you ever have the urge to ask a newly married woman if she cooks at home and what she cooks, please pause a moment and rephrase that question to "Do you two cook at home?" If we really want to achieve gender equality, we have to start with how we speak to each other and how we speak of women.
BIG LOVE & HUGS