In praise of being “nice”

8 Nov

Mr. JudgyBitch and I live in a small town where we do a lot of casual entertaining.  Lots of potlucks and BBQs and picnics and dinner parties at home.  There is one thing I do that drives other women insane:  I always fetch a plate for Mr. JudgyBitch and keep his drink topped up.  Other men notice this too, and will sometimes say crap to their girlfriends/wives along the lines of “why don’t I get my plate brought to me?”, which earns me lots of hatred from the gals most decidedly NOT fetching anything for anyone ever, period, fullstop.

I feel like there is a profound misunderstanding about WHY I take such good care of Mr. JudgyBitch, and honestly, every other guest in my house, too.  If you come for dinner at my place, I will mix your drinks, bring you a plate, take away your plate after you are done, and just generally make sure you are comfortable and at ease.  If you look cold, I will get you a sweater.  If you look hot, I will bring you a hat and some ice water.  If the sun is in your eyes, I will bring you sunglasses or get the ones you left on the counter for you.

My very good friend NurseRatchet once asked me, genuinely curious, if I LIKED being a servant.  “You wait on everyone hand and foot,” she said to me, as I refilled her wine glass, “and you spoil the shit out of your husband.  He doesn’t lift a finger around here”.  I just kept pouring, even though the bottle was sitting right in front of her and she could easily have done it herself. She watched me peel oranges for everyone outside on the deck and was sincerely mystified as to why I would do that.  Why not just bring a bowl of oranges outside and a bowl for scraps and let everyone peel their own damn orange?

A lot of women see my care taking actions, especially when it comes to food and drinks, as servile.  As if I am lowering myself, debasing myself to the position of a humble serf by the simple act of opening a beer and carrying it to someone who wants one. They see it as beneath them, humiliating, degrading and shameful.  And the unspoken accusation is that as a WOMAN, quite probably serving a MAN (although I take excellent care of my female guests, too), I am somehow  betraying my gender and reinforcing the grossest of inequalities. I am a kitchen wench.  A peasant. chattel, and nothing more.  Mindless, obedient and acquiescent.

 

Ha!  Ask Mr. JudgyBitch about that one!

Here’s why I peel oranges for my husband and children and guests:  because it’s fucking nice, that’s why.  Oranges are messy and the pith gets all under your fingernails and the juice drips and squirts everywhere when you try to separate the segments and your hands are left sticky and wet (although they smell really nice) and it’s just really nice and thoughtful to get an orange already peeled and segmented on a plate with a napkin.  IT’S NICE!

I take pride in being a gracious hostess.  My happiness comes from making other people happy.  I see a need and I meet it, and that makes me feel useful and when it’s met with gratefulness, it makes me feel appreciated.  I am blessed, I suppose, to have people who acknowledge and appreciate my work, and IT IS WORK.

I don’t think I have ever had a male guest who treated me with contempt for being an attentive hostess.  Some are embarrassed and feel guilty, because they have been taught that

“the personal is always political”

and if you let a woman take your dirty plate back to the kitchen so you can continue your conversation, it must mean you hate women and that makes you a bad person. It’s really absurd.  But for the most part, men are pleased and grateful for my attention to their needs.

Women, on the other hand, will often shower me with contempt and act like I am “showing them up” by being thoughtful and kind, even when the kindness is directed at them.  I get comments like “when does he (Mr. JB) ever do anything for you?” or “do you ever sit down”?  Usually said by some lardass sitting down while I fetch her a bowl of nuts to snack on.

Underwriting those kinds of comments is the assumption that what I’m doing isn’t work.  If I were  a lawyer or a caterer or a widget factory marketing rep, and I was fully willing and prepared to go the extra mile for my clients and make certain that everything was just as it should be, I would be considered a stellar employee.  The slackers might hate me, but the boss would love me and so would the clients.  But because I’m “just a housewife”, having the same conscientious attitude towards my work makes me an object of contempt and derision. I’m not working, I’m grovelling.  An indentured servant, seeking to please the master and nothing more.

Well fuck that noise!  I AM working, and I am damn good at my job and I will not apologize for it.

Critical comments about Mr. JudgyBitch in particular are insulting on a whole other level.  What does Mr. JudgyBitch do for me?  Oh, nothing, other than PAY EVERY DAMN BILL THAT COMES INTO OUR HOUSE.  He earns every penny that our family lives on, and I have the privilege and pleasure of being in a comfortable, well stocked home, with my three lovely children as a result of his work and willingness to support us and I don’t think fixing him a burger and opening a beer is a huge price to pay for that!

At the end of the day, I am grateful to have the life I do, and I am grateful that I can focus on making the lives of the people I love and care about a little nicer. Being nice isn’t a plot of the patriarchy to keep women down.  It’s a key part of having loving, harmonious relationships with all kinds of people.  It’s the lubricant of every social event.  It’s a the balm that can soothe little injuries and big ones, too.

And someone has to go first.  Why not you?

Be nice today.  Even to men.  Especially to men.  And to other women, too.  Be nice to everyone.  And hey, could you get me a beer while you’re up?

Lots of love,

JB

3 Responses to “In praise of being “nice””

  1. princesspixiepointless November 9, 2012 at 00:06 #

    Dear JB,
    You are for once dead right. There is an absolute beauty in making the people (even the ASSHOLES, including MILS, (mother in.laws, not to be confused with MILF-fucccck i need i drink) to be made to not only feel welcome in your home, but as true and proper guests. This is an old fashioned habit to some. True it is often the role of the woman. But it is so important. It is about social inclusion. Growing the family around us that is not always biological family. I love making sure my husband is well loved/fed in these circumstances.
    It keeps the booze police off my back, but it makes me feel great, to know that people can come to mine and feel loved, fed, nourished on whatever levels they need to feel needed at. I don’t think it is a gender thing. It’s a learning to host thing. People that can’t do it, have never had to work menial jobs and bust their ass. Or have never had someone do it for them.
    Thanks for peeling my oranges.
    x x x

    Like

  2. judgybitch November 9, 2012 at 15:22 #

    You’re welcome. Thanks for folding the laundry. And loading the dishwasher. And opening the wine!

    Like

  3. Jennifer October 14, 2013 at 13:09 #

    In the past few weeks, I’ve read every single one of your posts, and I agree with you on nearly everything. For some reason, this one is my favorite.
    (Background: I’m a 28 year old married, working woman, no kids yet- definitely will be taking off of work when they come along.)
    My husband and I have a marriage that seems to work similarly to yours, and damn, it’s so hard to explain to anyone how it works! When I say similar, what I mean is similar in attitude- the particulars are very different, obviously, but it seems that he and I and you and Mr. JB are working off of the same assumptions about home and marriage. You work TOGETHER. You are a TEAM, not competitors. Housework isn’t punishment, it’s loving your family- and a nice house is nice for everyone! Heck, even my dogs seem to enjoy curling up on a nicely folded blanket over a crumpled mess.
    Anyway, to get to the point, one thing I was not doing was getting him a plate of food. Not out of meanness, just didn’t think about it- we filled our plates at the stove, that’s all. Well, I decided to start trying it. Instead of calling out, “Dinner’s ready!”, I filled his plate and brought it to him. It’s a small change, to be sure, but he loves it and so do I.
    Well, we recently took a vacation with my family. My husband, father, and sister’s boyfriend went on a hike one day, that ended up being about 13 miles- double the length that they thought, and towards the end, my husband was sharing his water with them. (He’s an ex-soldier who’s always prepared, thank goodness.) They got back late in the evening, as dinner was ready, tired, hungry, and probably suffering from heat exhaustion.
    Well, as they were telling the story, I made sure my hubby had water, piled his plate high, and brought it to him. I didn’t say anything about it, and he just thanked me, but my mom noticed, and said sarcastically to my dad, “*snort* Do you want me to bring YOU a plate?”. After what they had been through, and not being able to contact them all day, THAT was what she said! My dad chuckled- he stayed with her for the sake of his four children, and probably his wealth, which is considerable, but earned during the marriage. He just ignores her, now, when she gets like that.
    My mom is *I think* a narcissist, but not a malignant one- the only reason we can stand her is that we know her background, we know that she’s not like that on purpose, and that she tries hard to be better than her own mother, and succeeds. But man, that was telling! And my mom is a woman who would never, ever, in a million years, call herself a feminist.
    Thank you for giving me another solid way to love on my husband. He enjoys your posts too. Also, my real initials are JB, lol. 🙂

    Like

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