Melbourne Cup public holiday, my friend put on lunch. Roast something-or-other, veg and the television. We watched the horses race, there was a poorly organised sweep, we ate, chit-chatted and ate. It was nice.
Post-lunch, I sat, aware of a messy kitchen, dripping with roast fat, squished pumpkin and benches thick with grease. I watched my friends for movement. We were three women, four men. We were rather restful. Slowly, eventually, one rose – female – and we heard the sounds of running water and the clink of moving dishes. I resisted the urge to assist. For a while. It didn’t last.
The host – male – and I went into the kitchen. We grabbed well-damp tea towels and began to dry. No one else arrived. I decided this was ridiculous and called my boyfriend. He could help.
It was he who commented, had this been an all-male event, no one would have bothered with cleaning up. It would have been left to the host at a later time, when everyone had left, to begin the laborious task of restoring order and dishes to cupboards. We on the other hand – the dishwasher and I – felt an obligation. We didn’t want to clean, we just felt we should.
At any dinner I hold, admittedly these are few, help is always ready at hand, from mostly female hands.
Why didn’t our male guests feel any obligation to clean? Probably because it’s never expected. While they may be asked to sort an empty gas bottle, rarely would they traverse a room, tray of food in clumsy hands, offering food to nibbling guests.
Me, a girl, on the other hand, well I can’t remember a party or Christmas dinner, or any other event, my parents held, at which I wouldn’t be sent on my way with tray and hesitancy hand-in-hand, offering food up as quick as I could to return as fast as I could to whatever it was I’d rather be doing. I never wanted this job. Ever. I was given it and told it must be done. So I did it.
And what has come of it? I’ve learnt a lesson in party politics and obligations – if I’m fed, I help to clean. It’s simple and I’m sharing it with my boyfriend. He’s learning later in life than I did, sure, but he’s learning. And I’m not going to spend party time, stuck in a kitchen, cleaning someone’s else’s mess. He can help.