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Boxes

Over Thanksgiving, Andy, Caroline and I visited some old friends of the family, a mother and daughter and her husband. I've known them since childhood when I would stay over at their place and play with a special box of paper dolls that were just for me. That was many years ago, but we try to stay in touch, although it had been over a year since I'd seen them.

The daughter has been married for around 7 or 8 years. The couple has two elementary-aged children, a dog and they all live in a crazy, bustling house in the middle of a renovation enabling the mother to live with them. The daughter is a stay-at-home mom who babysits everybody else's kids and her husband works as a mechanic.

Now, a few things to keep in mind. This couple is about 10 years older than me and Andy and most of my relationship with them has been from a kid's perspective. We've fallen out of touch over the past five years, but maintain a connection because of our history and because they are like family.

As usual, Andy and I start some sort of banter after about 10 minutes of our meeting with them. Most people either look awkward while we do this or make some comment like, "now, now, let's be lovers and not fighters." Not this couple. She looks at him and holds her breath while I go on and on about Andy not feeding Caroline or his attachment to his computer and the TV, etc. etc.

She listens to me as she tears apart bread to make stuffing for the Thanksgiving meal and instructs the kids in their various tasks while yelling at the dog to stay away from Caroline, who scurries around her new surroundings. "And all I do is pick-up after him!" I rattle out my story, which flows off my tongue like the well memorized Pledge of Allegiance. "But, you're always moving my stuff!" Andy feels the need to chime in, after all, he doesn't even know these people and I'm stripping him of his dignity.

This sets the couple off. "She moves my stuff too!" The husband moves closer to Andy, "And I can never find anything! " Now, it's her turn. "Well, if you didn't leave your junk all over place, I wouldn't have to put it in a box! Don't even get me started on this!"

I feel an instant bond that goes farther back than paper dolls and other family-like ties. Her mom (divorced) chimes in and mouths to me, "Men are just D-U-M-B." The men smartly retreat to the renovation area while the black birds continue to peck. "I have to keep getting bigger boxes because he never goes through his stuff!" She squawks. "I KNOW!" I squeal in delight and revel in our new commonality.

What is this phenomenon of men and women and the roles we settle into? Is it innate that men will be dirty pigs who love to keep little pieces of folded paper in piles around the house? Are women born with the urge to vacuum and organize shoes in a nice, tidy line?

I'm not a scientist or a psychologist, so I don't really know what is nature and what is nurture but what I do know is that you can be 20 or you can be 70. You can be a working mother or stay-at-home mom, urban or rural, black or white, college education or not, but one thing is always going to be common. We will complain about our dirty husbands who lack compassion and a broad perspective on what a woman really wants. We don't want flowers and chocolates. We want you to put your wallet in the box we've placed, just for you, by the phone, along with your keys. We want you to go through your receipts, file them or throw them away. We want you to hang up your jacket and not throw your pants over a chair. You get the point.

Is that too much to ask?

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