Most of us fall into the category of either male, or female. I know there are other variants and there is a difference between our chromosomal sex (XX or XY, although again, there are others), our gender identity (how we think of ourselves), and our gender appearance (how we look to others, usually defined by which sex organs we have). There are even additional layers to this such as sexual orientation and how our brain tends to process the world (feminine vs masculine). I will dive into these topics at some point (because they are fascinating to me) but today I want to focus on the subject of more traditional gender rolls.
In the Happy Philosopher household many of the activities and responsibilities are asymmetrically distributed. Mrs. Happy Philosopher does much of the cleaning, cooking and laundry (I’m not allowed to do laundry after the “black pen” incident) which I know is sort of 1950’s stereotypical housewife type stuff, but it just evolved that way.
On the other hand I am delegated the more ‘masculine’ tasks of washing the cars, changing the oil, vacuuming (very manly), lifting heavy stuff and opening jars that Mrs. Happy Philosopher has trouble with. Basically her job is to make sure we don’t starve and that nothing smells too bad, and my job is to do whatever she tells me to do that I’m not too incompetent at.
We also have a policy that any unwanted animal that makes it into our house, whether it be a fruit fly or a mountain lion, is my responsibility. This mainly involves harmless spiders, but I did have to confront an angry possum in our garage once (after I stopped running around screaming in terror – hey it was big and was hissing at me for some reason). It is also apparently my responsibility to deal with roach infested rental cars…but that’s a story for another time.
A few weeks ago I was furiously writing a blog post (not this one) when Mrs. Happy Philosopher came in to tell me something. After a few seconds she paused.
“It stinks in here.” She said.
It was a little judgmental honestly, and by the tone I could tell she was implying it was due to me. Now, in fairness, I do not always smell like a rose. I don’t take 4 showers a day, and occasionally I forget to throw deodorant on when I’m not going to work. I mean hey, I don’t want to wash all those pheromones off if you know what I mean.
Anyways, as I started paying attention I kind of agreed with her. It was a little funky, and as far as I could tell it wasn’t me, but who knows, maybe it was just due to me being cooped up in here all afternoon. It was getting late anyways so I turned off the computer and went to bed.
Note to self: take a shower.
The next day when I came back to the computer, I knew something was not right. I was freshly showered, smelling faintly of Irish Spring and lavender, but the room smelled even worse than yesterday. And the smell was more familiar now…it smelled like death.
Nature has done us a favor; in that certain smells are so repulsive to us we avoid them at all costs. This is for our safety. Things that are really unhealthy or could kill us tend to repulse us. This is good for our survival, but not so good when your office smells like a rotting corpse.
This is where the ambiguity of our self-selecting gender roles comes into play. After all, I am in charge of defending the house against critters, and my wife is in charge of making things smell acceptable. Dead animals are sort of a gray area. I mean if the dead animal smell was on an article of clothing, it would clearly fall into her responsibility (laundry), whereas if it was lodged in the engine of our minivan (manly car stuff), clearly my responsibility. We had a brief debate about the matter and cast our votes. It was a tie, and for some strange reason most ties are oddly decided in favor of the wise and powerful Mrs. Happy Philosopher.
I knew I needed to take action, so I grabbed a flashlight and started searching. I looked behind and under every piece of furniture, in cabinets and boxes. I even examined all the electronics, looking for small holes something could have crawled though and got trapped…
But the smell was not getting better. Maybe it would be gone by the next day. Sometimes inaction and watchful waiting is the best course of action.
Not this time…
Day three was upon us, and Mrs. Happy Philosopher conveniently was out of the house most of the day and it was up to me to find the source. As my eyes and flashlight failed me the day before, I got down on my hands and knees and sniffed around like a dog hunting for prey. After a few minutes I had a feeling I was on to something. When I got to the air vent and took in a deep breath my eyes watered and I nearly passed out – but mission accomplished.
This could not be good. My HVAC skills are less than zero, which means any attempt at troubleshooting would probably make the situation worse than before. As I pondered this situation a frightening thought entered my mind. It was late fall and the temperatures would be dropping. Even though we are mildly frugal at times, we draw the line at turning the heat off and wearing winter coats indoors. I suspected that once the heat clicked on it would be game over. We would be in a rotting flesh – open the windows – turn on the heat so we didn’t freeze to death – never ending spiral of misery.
I nervously shuffled to the thermostat while simultaneously checking the 10 day forecast. Mild temperatures, thank God! I switched the furnace off and frantically started sealing the nearby vents and got a fan to air out the room.
As it turns out, the fan was a bad call. Instead of making things better, the whole house now smelled like 3 day old roadkill. The office was a little better, but I was met by a furrowed brow and mild (ok severe) disappointment when Mrs. Happy Philosopher got home.
Not really knowing what to do I decided to light some scented candles to “take the edge off”, which turned out to be mistake number two of the day. Instead of smelling nice, the whole houses now smelled like peaches and rotting flesh. If Marilyn Manson came out with his own line of candles this would be one of the scents.
I was a little dejected right about now so I turned to the only thing I had left…Google. According to the internet:
“The whole process will take a little more than a week with a small animal like a mouse or rat, and over a month with a big animal like a raccoon or opossum.”
This was more than mildly distressing, and I’m not sure I have the writing skills to express my extreme disappointment, but as I dug deeper into my research, someone suggested sealing up the offending vents would curtail most of the smell. Brilliant! Thank God for the internet. It was also mentioned that sealing with plastic was probably not a great idea with potentially hot air blowing through it. Good call.
As I put the respirator on and started sealing the vents with masking tape and aluminum foil, I sort-of felt like I was in an episode of Dexter or something. Thankfully no one rang the doorbell, because that would have required some lengthy explaining.
Feeling very proud of myself, I noticed after a little while the smell was slightly improved. I felt things were finally starting to turn my way, but I would be wrong. My smugness was soon negated by the inconvenient little fact that all of the air vents are actually connected…which meant the odor was now spreading to nearby rooms. The last thing I remember from that day was dropping the phone after hearing something about “peak rodent season” and the earliest appointment being about 2-3 weeks away…
As you may know, I’ve recently hit the reset button, trying to recalibrate certain aspects of my life. We all need to do this because life is not linear. There are ups and downs. There are times when we seem to do everything right and we are still not completely happy, or our heath fails, or some tragedy blindsides us (or dies in our ventilation system).
And as I reflect, and share with you dear reader the most intimate details of my struggles, I can say without any hesitation…
THIS SH$T IS WAY EASIER WHEN YOUR HOUSE DOES NOT SMELL LIKE ROTTING FLESH!!!
So no matter what is going on in your life, you are likely facing it without a horrible smell around you, and I guess that is the point of this rather pointless article. Things can always be worse. This may not be of comfort to you, but it is of comfort to me.
May your day be full of pleasant smells.
Note: Usual writing schedule will resume when I can stand being anywhere near my computer. Thank you for your patience.
Another note: I know this is really not an essay about gender rolls, so sorry if that’s what you were expecting. I just really couldn’t think of a good title (or even a mediocre one).