It's the 21st century: Who gets the bill? (and other questions I ask about gender norms)

I remember, during our time at the Elmhurst, one of the reasons A and would get along so well (aside from our penchant for late-night Moscow Mules and long-winded heart-to-hearts on the fire escape at odd hours of the night), was the fact that I always stress-cooked and -cleaned the apartment whenever a paper, an exam, or a light plot design came up. I pulled out the vacuum or made lemon sticky buns in our lopsided Elmhurst oven that always clanged as it pre-heated, instead of doing things like finishing up problem sets or writing my senior thesis, and something about that brought me a certain degree of happiness (on other days, Iyengar yoga helped).

I painted that kitchen myself, in my skivvies
The Elmhurst kitchen I painted myself.

Here in Shanghai, I know I don’t cook as often as I should, and I’ve written about my struggles trying to keep that part of my life going while abroad before. Part of it is social: eating out in Shanghai is wonderfully cheap, Shanghainese food is wonderfully oily, and I can eat rice for days (although I know that I shouldn’t). It also seems like a waste of my time abroad to pick out things like pea shoots or mozzarella while I’m living in a place as remarkably different as China (let’s be real, I just want the 酸辣白菜. And I do crave that day that I can go back to Union Square’s farmers market to buy rhubarb or strawberries, and make them a cobbler. But then, at the same time I wonder whether I’ll be able to get back to cooking food once I return to the U.S. (hey there, Seamless.You’re looking good tonight). Last Friday, I made macaroni and cheese for the first time during my time in China, with quinoa pasta, a whole block of cheddar, and my first béchamel sauce. It was a wonderful dinner, that at the same time felt more of an ‘occasion’ rather than something I do as part of my day.

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I haven’t posted very regularly the past week, because things here have been changing since my return. Our start-up’s priorities have shifted, which is terrifying and making me either overwhelmingly anxious or just quite excited (it’s too soon to tell). It’s pouring rain in balmy 80ºF weather, which just makes me want to stay in and read books. D and I have moved in together, which is a big step. It’s not really a shift, since we’ve all but lived together before, but it is a shift in a way that I came back to Shanghai after two weeks of being away in the U.S. and three weeks of not seeing each other, save for two and a quarter days, and the apartment was re-painted and covered with posters of naked girls posing over luxury cars. Okay, none of that actually happened. Our apartment looks… well it looks like it used to, just with a few more cereal boxes and Pure Springs water bottles. But I’m still trying to figure out this whole ‘living with your boyfriend’ thing

And as wonderful as its been, at the same time it’s brought up questions I hadn’t considered, many of which I’m still trying to figure out myself (not bad questions, but you know, this is a big step). It’s also reaffirming that D and I are pretty great together; I don’t actually think we’ve actually fought once, which I would say is miraculous, but I don’t think it is. I think that’s how relationships should be.

I don’t think I’m a ‘neat’ person (there’s a sweater hanging from my chair that’s been there a week), but I don’t mind doing housework or laundry, because it’s a part of living on your own. I don’t think I see it as a burden, even but it does make me wonder, since we are two adults, who work full-time, are rarely home long enough to relax, and like getting take-out (especially if it involves nachos), whether it’s actually okay to have those ‘gendered’ roles in our relationship in the 21st century. I’ve always imagined having a family and cooking dinner every night, but I don’t think I’ve ever thought about it for a long time (or really thought it through beyond the typical ‘far-off’ abstract thinking). I still try (wildly unsuccessfully) to pay for most dates because I’m a firm believer in those things. And I’m still trying to figure out how to breach ‘equality’, when our role models (at least or me) consisted of a mom cooking dinner every night, or baking muffins for bake sales (although, who really wanted to eat the muffins at the bake sales?). I’m not quite sure where I’m going with this yet, because although it seems I’m pre-occupied with this, I’ve only thought about it a bit these past few days, but I’ll keep trying to reconcile whatever’s going on in my head.



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