I've been stewing about this for a very long time. When we moved into our neighborhood 5 years ago, I was pregnant and I hoped there would be a lot of kids around for my kids to play with--like I had growing up. Well, there are a TON, but we were kind of blindsided by the fact that we apparently bought in a very conservative location (which is odd because this is apparently the most liberal, sinniest city of the entire state). So, there are a bunch of kids, and I'm virtually the only full-time working mother.
I guess the people are nice about it. I get the usual lip service/concern trolling of, "Oh it must be so HARD for you.", "I'm sorry you HAVE to work" (N.B. I don't, I clearly choose to and I'm grateful for that choice) etc. Generally, we're just left alone, and my son is at an age where he doesn't notice that everyone else is having a playdate and he's in his backyard alone.
However, there is one dad who is just getting the better of me, and I need some OS therapy. Let's call him Bill. Bill and my husband became fairly good friends quickly. He is a constant tinkerer and my husband went over to his house a lot to help. Their family is picture perfect. All three children are always perfectly coiffed, never throw a tantrum, they are all potty trained by 2 and follow mom around and always heed her word. I've never seen anything like it. Comparatively my kid comes off as a monster and they smugly know it. They are very religious, I probably should have known I'd feel horrible next to them when the mom described Tim Tebow/Tebow Mom's anti-abortion superbowl ad as, "tasteful and well-put." That night Bill offered me a drink, I said, "I think I"ll go get X." He said, "Oh no no, let my wife do it, make her feel useful!" What. the. fuck.
Anyways, yes, they're perfect. I can handle that. However, Bill will make these offhanded comments like he's trying to be funny, and usually they revolve around something gender related. Backstory, I'm not all that feminine. In fact, I'm kind of the polar opposite. I realize everyone expresses gender differently no matter what their sexual orientation, but I am often seen as "a lesbian." Bill has made comments about how I only own 2-3 pairs of shoes, compared to his wife's dozens, or how "awesome" it is that my husband doesn't have to pay for an extensive wardrobe because I only wear t-shirts and shorts (hint: He doesn't think it's awesome at all). He will make comments about me doing outside things like mowing or trimming or something, wondering why I'm not making "the man of the house" do it. Once, I was walking by and he asked what my husband was doing that day, and I said he wanted to do X but I thought we needed to get Y done. He bellowed, "Let the man do what the man wants to do!" He always follows up with a tee hee hee! Like making it sound like a joke is suppose to excuse the fact that he just said something horribly offensive for those of us no longer living in the 1950s.
Then comes his go to joke the "who is wearing the pants in the family?" Question. It comes after EVERYTHING. I've gotten the "pants" joke several times. I am usually the recipient because I work and frankly I expect, after my husband travels 75% of the time, some pitching in, even if it's "woman's work." My husband has been denigrated because he chooses to do 100% of the cooking. He loves it, but that definitely causes Bill to joke about having to be barefoot in the kitchen. However, he made the joke last week about another man on the street's wife. The menfolk were all going to go out, but another guy could not. He said, "Oh, my wife said we're doing this that night." Well, out came the "Who wears the pants, man!?" joke. But this time he did it about another stay at home mom who is just as devoted and in just as conservative of a gender role as Bill's own wife.
It just made me realize that one dick apple is kind of spoiling the whole bunch. There's this air of traditional gender roles which permeates this neighborhood, it's like a pressure cooker to be and do everything and not trouble the hard-working menfolk while they do their manly man stuff. I have to admire my husband for not being too caught up in it. I think he does chafe with the fact that he has to chip in more than he would like, that we have two different ideas of what "clean" means (he's cleaner!), he's pretty nice about it, and when I ask him if he wants me to stay at home, he adamantly says no way.
I also realize that I can't really be myself in this neighborhood. I kind of am a know-it-all, but hopefully not in an obnoxious way. I just happen to be a very good memorizer and if someone asks a question that I happen to know the answer to, like who was the first president born when the US was an actual country? I know that. I decided I wasn't going to hold back and play stupid, and that also seems to unnerve Bill and others. I'm then seen as this nerdly figure who likes Star Trek and hasn't grown up into a real person who devotes her life entirely to her children and getting them into the right camp and country/athletic club.
I am just sick of the sexism around here and it's about time someone other than my husband heard about it:). I try to tell myself that the glossy veneer of a perfect family might hide something. There is no way kids are that perfect! Never a cry, never a scream, never a tussle over a toy?! Thanks for listening!
I hate to say it, but having a neighbor like that would make me somewhat gleeful. I would be thinking of all the subversive little things I could say to him about his outdated, ignorant, sexist views. Actually, that's kind of me NOW. Well, and that I joke with AlphaGeek about some of it because it's no fun being a rabble-rouser on my own. I'm pretty sure that's why most of my friends are only online. Thank god I don't have too many issues with being a loner!
As for the perfect kids - eh. They are probably terrified. My sisters and I were perfect angels in public too - because we knew my mom carried a wooden spoon in her purse and wouldn't hesitate to pull it out and beat the shit out of us at the least provocation. That's the kind of thing that inspires perfect behavior.
mcg - that is rage-inducing!
Edited to add: even though both of us bought our house, our local mortgage folks only recorded the title as Spouse First and Last name and Wife. So I'm not on the title of the house records and cannot put utilities in my name. Good times.
MNM, I was pretty pissed off, yes. Especially since I set up and maintain all of those accounts, I had found the realtor, I had found the mortgage guy, and I had organized all of the paperwork to get the mortgage. But spouse is a dude, so it must be his house.
What we can't figure out is that if theoretically we got divorced and got remarried, would my house then belong to his new wife and I wouldn't be entitled to anything?
I have to say that I would be getting pretty cranky with my husband at this point. Its clear that this bozo is not going to take your opinion seriously but I would expect my guy to either step up or step out and not hang out with someone who is so amazingly disrespectful of me and our lives together.
Bap: You have plenty/enough/some non-neighbor friends, right? Because I do know some lovely people in your city...
And I thought I lived in a liberal enclave...until there was talk of adding affordable housing nearby. Affordable is defined as people making $25k to $50k. Suddenly, there was a chorus of "we don't want to live near THOSE people." WTF? I'm horrified and disillusioned and embarrassed to even repeat that.