My wife and I have been together for fourteen years and my parents still call me when they want to talk to her. They have her cell number. They are fine talking on the phone with her. But they still call me and ask to speak to her. Are they asking permission? Do they not remember (after fourteen years) they have her number? It’s a mystery. The other day, my step-mom called and told me she needed to ask my wife something. I asked if she wanted me to pass on a message? Nope. She just wanted to speak to her. So I handed the wife my phone.
The point of this story (God, I hope there’s one) is that my sister had finally picked out a dresser she liked that wasn’t $700. When the dresser arrived, it wasn’t assembled. My old man said the instructions were bad. My step-mom was tired of it sitting half-assembled in the garage. My sister really wanted a dresser to not put her clothes in (she’s a teenager. It’s a requirement). Everyone was having a rough week. So they asked my wife to come over and assemble it.
When we showed up at my parents’ place, they thought it was adorable that I came to help my wife. They really don’t understand co-dependent lesbian dynamics at all. You ask one lesbian to build a dresser, you get two. It’s basic math, friends.
My old man was right. The instructions were a shitshow. But we figured them out and started to build. Per the usual, I inserted and connected the cam locks because I have stronger spatial awareness; my wife operated the drill because she’s stronger (and “allegedly” doesn’t “injure” herself as “often”). Our beers were drained and the sun was down by the time we were approaching the finish line. My step-mom was keeping us company as we worked because, you know, nothing says fun like hanging out in a dirty garage with two people who are ignoring you. Whatever gets your motor going, I guess. That was the point at which we realized we had installed a slat upside down and would definitely need to disassemble half of what we’d done.
We grumbled, tried a couple things, and accepted that the dresser was coming apart. We were tired and frustrated and the kitten was home alone and hungry, but we were so close. Plus, we’d just done it so it would probably go faster the second time around. Right? Right.
At one point, as the dresser was falling off the workbench and another splinter was sliding into my arm and my wife was grasping at two pieces of wood going in opposite directions and we were very carefully communicating with each other that “honey, the dresser is falling,” my step-mom looked up and chuckled. We righted the stupid dresser and looked at my step-mom.
“You guys communicate so well,” she said.
My wife and I looked at each other and shrugged. We know we communicate well. We’ve spent years learning to do so, but we also have the advantage of having built the rules of our relationship outside the confines of heteronormative structure. But my step-mom is straight (which is not her fault) (and I’m totally cool with straight people).
Queer couples tend to distribute labor according to strengths, weaknesses, physicality. Like when we were in college, and my wife took the trash out because I wasn’t tall enough or strong enough to lift the dumpster lid. Now, I take the trash out because the back steps are narrow and her feet are too big.
Straight couples compulsively fall back on gender to distribute labor. Even straight couples like my parents who do things like call their lesbian daughter-in-law to build furniture. My step-mom was blown away when I pointed out all the ways we’d been playing to our strengths while building the dresser, but why is that surprising? Why would anyone do tasks they aren’t suited for when their partner is well suited to that task?
I’ll tell you why. It’s the fucking white supremacist cis-hetero patriarchy. And it’s bullshit.
Oh, my sister loves her dresser, by the way. She says it looks great standing next to the spot where she throws her jeans on the floor.