IT'S ALL IN THE GENES
March 30, 1998
I'm spending the day by myself and I've become a bit introspective, which is never a good idea when you are as unstable as I am. I haven't spoken to anyone but the dog for more than six hours and the voices on the radio aren't really addressing my concerns.
The woman I share my life, my bed, and most importantly the laundry with is a tremendously successful high school teacher. What that means is that she is on so many curriculum committees and book editing committees and teacher education committees that she doesn't spend enough time with her kids or with her family (which would be ME). She is so good with kids - and by extension with other teachers - because she believes she is responsible for their success and, most painfully, their failure in school and therefore in real life. She routinely gives up weekends, nights and vacations to students, book committees and other teachers.
It is a mystery to me why she does all that she does.
I, on the other hand, freely and regularly give up writing time, thinking time and work time to be with her and to support her activities. That is what I was raised to do. I am the wife. This is an extremely shameful character flaw for me to admit but there it is. I hate it and sometimes I hate her for it but I can't blame her. It's all in the genes, I'm sure of it. Once they finish up with the whole human genome project I have no doubts there will be a small footnote than explains this habit of self-loathing selflessness. There will be a grainy picture of a gene magnified a gabillion times and it will look just like all the other genes except for the apron wrapped around it and the bottle of Tylenol in its little tendril.
For Leslie, I can only imagine the confusion of living with me. She comes home, tells me she has been asked by the Noble Prize Committee to invent a way to teach 16 year-olds how to calculate the velocity of their academic careers going down the toilet if they don't learn how to factor a cosine or something equally as impressive sounding and I smile, congratulate her, make her favorite dinner and call everyone in the world to tell them the great news. A week later I'm screaming about how I have no time because I have to do all the shit around the house to keep her free to work on the project. When she suggests she give it up I tell her that's not the solution, I don't want to stop her from doing what's important but I want to do what's important to me.
"I never told you or even asked you to give up anything." She looks bewildered and a little panicky.
"You never asked but you expect everything to be the same around here -- for dinner to be there for you, for the laundry to get done and for the place to look neat and not so lived in." I'm yelling, throwing barbed accusations at her with the venom of a mad woman.
"We can get help. We can get someone to come in and clean once a week." She's always thinking of solutions.
"What are you saying? I can't handle this? I can't exploit someone into cleaning up my house. My mother worked full time, cooked, cleaned, raised Jaime and I and put up with my dad's remodeling insanity. You think I'm weak!" I collapse onto the sofa and start crying so hard I can't hear anything but the mucus shooting in and out of all my facial orifices.
"What do you want? If we work together on this, we can get through it." She's a little afraid of me by this point because I'm out of control and she doesn't understand yelling, crying and screaming as communication devices.
Eventually it comes done to me not having the time to write and when I think about actually taking the time I feel guilty because there is something to clean or be shopped for or to be cooked. The guilt makes me a little nuts because I was raised to be a feminist with the whole Room-Of-Ones-Own theme drilled into one side of my head by my mother and the traditional Latino Family-Above-All-Else principle on the other side. It's a wonder I haven't killed thousands by now.
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Copyright 1998 by Laura Jiménez.