joreth: (Misty in Box)
In the course of explaining my quirks to a new partner, it gets bought to my attention just how much emotional labor I perform in my relationships, or at least how many habits I developed from performing this emotional labor and compensating for other people's inabilities to deal with their emotions in the past.

There are all sorts of little things that I do that, by themselves don't really seem like a big deal, but when I'm spending a week with a new partner and nearly every interaction we have involves me saying "so, this thing about me, I do this thing and here's why", the aggregate of all my emotional labor is more apparent.

For example, I cut the bread for the table. I used to sell and demo cutlery and I have always had an affinity for knives. I am also a bread addict - er, I mean, aficionado. I have known a lot of people who do not know how to properly cut bread and it ends up smashed in a lump when they grip it to cut or rip it apart. Instead of light and fluffy and we now have to *chew* it instead of lightly chewing it while it also dissolves on the tongue (for those breads that are soft and do that). I can slice the softest breads and cakes with even a fairly dull knife and still retain most of the integrity of delicate pastries and breads.

But I have learned over the years that some men do not like to be schooled on proper cutting technique. I'm not sure if they don't like to be schooled by women or they just don't like to be schooled in general and it doesn't really matter for this discussion. But I have had some men react harshly to what they perceive as criticism of their manly cutting skills, and still more men who just ignore my corrections entirely and continue to mash the bread. I have never had either reaction from any woman I have had this conversation with.

So, in order to avoid hurting feelings or eating smashed bread for the rest of my life, I now automatically reach for any communal bread on a table and slice off two slices for myself and a few more for whoever else is at the table, without trying to teach anyone anything.  I just kinda do it as if I just happened, by coincidence, to be the first to reach for the bread and oh, by the way, here are some slices for you too, honey.

So, as I said, this is not a big thing in isolation. But when I tell this story and it is the third story I've told that day that involves me changing my own behaviour in order to manage someone else's feelings or to get something that I want without a confrontation or conflict over it, I am reminded at just how often I shoulder the burden for maintaining my relationships.

That's the thing with emotional labor - it's largely invisible to both sides, the side shouldering the burden and the side not carrying the weight. It isn't usually one giant rock weighing us down, it's a sack full of pebbles that grows over time. One person carries a handful of pebbles while another is bent over double from the sack on their back. They didn't notice how heavy the sack got because each pebble only weighs a few ounces and they were added one at a time over a lifetime. But if you try to split the weight and make the other person carry two handfuls, suddenly it seems "unfair" that they're having to take up so much extra work! Why do they have to do these things anyway? It's just a pebble, can't you just keep holding it?

This is why it's important for adults to know how to do their own fucking laundry. This is why it's important for adults to know how to cook a number of meals that provide for their nutritional needs and not just that tastes good, even if they have the money to pay other people to cook for them. This is why it's important for adults to know how to cry. This is why it's important for adults to have a friend and family network of some sort to turn to for emotional support and celebrations, in addition to their romantic partners. This is why it's important for adults to know how to use a calendar system *of some sort*, whether it's Google or paper or whatever. This is why it's important for adults to know about culturally appropriate dress codes, whether they agree with them or not, and how / when to break those codes along with the consequences for doing so. This is why it's important for adults to pay attention to their bodies, eat as healthy as they can under their given circumstances, exercise as they can under their given circumstances, take their damn medication when they can access it, and treat their mental health as seriously as their physical health (which is to say, treat them both seriously) including utilizing mental health professional services when they can access them. This is why it's important to stop calling what fathers do "babysitting" when they watch their own kids or asking them to "help out" around their own house.

This is why feminism is important, particularly the latest wave of non-TERFy feminism that sees the harm of imposed gender roles and binary systems.
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