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Why does the man of the house still take out the trash?

Why does the man of the house still take out the trash?


RACHEL LEVIN
NYT Syndicate
On a recent Monday night in San Francisco, as I lounged in the living room watching 'The Marvelous Mrs Maisel', out of the corner of my eye I also watched my husband, Josh, march around our house as he does every Monday night, collecting pails and tying plastic bags.
Next, he dons his headlamp (which underscores: serious business), grabs his Leatherman and spends the next 15 minutes or so outside in the dark fending off raccoons and annihilating the latest crop of Amazon Prime boxes; cramming the week's bottles and every last LaCroix can into the blue bin; dumping eggshells and avocado rinds and our kids' abandoned crusts into the green compost bin; and bungee-ing the filled-to-the-brim black garbage bin. And then bu-bump-ing-bu-bump-ing the trio one by one, down the entryway to the curb. Eventually Josh returns, washes his hands, and joins me, cosy on the couch.
This is our weekly ritual. There's no acknowledgment of the obvious inequity. No you-do-it-next-time admonishment. He accepts his role without a hint of bitterness. (In a way I do not when it comes to, say, driving car pool or coordinating play dates.) Every Monday around 9 pm, I feel a tinge of guilt, except ... not really. Almost every woman I know who lives with a man shirks this chore. It's as if all hard-won equality in the home is tossed on trash night. It may be the last bastion of accepted 1950s behaviour. And in this case ” and this case alone ” women are fine with that.
As one friend pointed out,"Women deal with the rest of the garbage."
For many, it's the simple ick factor."I don't do trash juices," said Gabriela Herman, 36, a photographer who lives with her husband and 17-month-old daughter in a brownstone in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.
"Ew, it's the actual bins," said Ashita Trika, 39, a senior product manager with an MBA who lives in a single-family home in San Francisco with her three children and husband, Noble Athimattathil."I have no idea what he does, I just know it gets done," she said of the garbage procedure."Sometimes I'll see the empties on the curb ” but I don't bring them in or anything. Noble owns trash end to end. He takes the mental load and the physical load. It's freeing."
Athimattathil, 40, grew up in Yonkers, where he said his father always took out the trash, until he passed the job down."My sister and I would both be sitting on the couch watching TV," he recalled."And my dad would always say: 'Noble, take out the garbage.' Why not my sister? She had two arms and two legs!"
Nancy Casey, 41, a nurse practitioner in Portland, Oregon, isn't fazed by garbage. Still, it's her husband's job."I do everything else," Casey said.
Trash night in Portland is especially taxing, she said, because it occurs only once every other week. Moreover, the standard bin is half the size of the compost and recycling, which are picked up weekly."It's the liberal hippie thing," said Casey, who grew up in Chicago."There must have been some kind of movement."
What about all the single ladies, that highly scrutinised cohort?
Sophie Galant, 24, a consultant, lives with female roommates in a San Francisco apartment and routinely passes the honour of trash duty to guy friends who come for dinner."I always ask them to take it out on their way out," she said."It smells. And I don't want it to drip on me."
Laura Manzano, 26, who moved from her college dorm in Virginia to a three-unit building in Brooklyn, has never dealt with the trash."Anthony does it all," she said matter-of-factly, referring to her superintendent."We don't even tip him. Maybe I should start?" (Yes.)
Elizabeth Hand, 41, a stay-at-home mother in Brooklyn, long had a helpful neighbour."This elderly Italian man named Augie who'd lived here forever," she said."He would just do it for us. I had no idea how much work it was, until he passed away. We miss him."
Recycling has added to the burden."It's insane how much cardboard we generate," Herman said."We get Amazon, like, daily. FreshDirect, Blue Apron. ... We have a whole staging area! Sometimes, its stacked to the ceiling." Some admit to such anxiety about box breakdown that they get packages sent to work.
Dawn Perry, 38, food director at Real Simple magazine, is a self-proclaimed recycling Nazi."I went to Boulder," she said, referring to the eco-conscious college in Colorado. When Perry and her husband, Matt Duckor, moved to a garden apartment in Bedford-Stuyvesant, they started seeing some"crazy behaviour in the trash bins," she said. Like plastic where clearly only paper should be. (And don't even get her started about the lack of curbside composting.)
"One day I semi-aggressively said to a neighbour, 'Are you going to break that down?'" Perry said. Duckor furthermore printed (and laminated) diagrammed recycling directions to post above the shared bins. He also mentioned a recent maggot issue."All he had to say was 'maggots,'" Perry said,"and people listened."
Lauren Gersick, 36, a college counsellor in San Francisco believes that garbage night's gender divide isn't so much about women eschewing heavy bins or leaky bags.
It's about men's desire to get out of the house, Gersick thinks; a sanctioned opportunity to step out, away from the children and the chaos, into the dark solitude of night.
"I know at least when I do it," she said,"I'm like: 'Bye! I'm going to do the trash.'"

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