After spending over a month with contractors, tradespeople, and even a random mother-in-law – who does not belong to us – in our home, I think it’s safe to say that we have seen it all in our dusty house.
ALL. Remember the mother-in-law.
Steve and I built this house together thirteen years ago. Neither of us can think of a single disagreement we had over anything. We were also newlyweds so perhaps that had something do with it.
Thirteen years later we were three weeks into a renovation that he was largely absent for – I’m at home during the day, he’s at work. Fair enough.
Except it is not fair. During the construction of our home I dealt with no one other than the builder on very rare occasions. But this time around it was me dealing with the contractor, the trades, and the mother-in-law.
I might be a tad bitter about her. More on that later.
Why isn’t it fair? Because women are not treated the same. The same contractor would question and discount my input just to turn around and call Steve – who we explicitly instructed was not to be called because his days are busy enough already; oh, and because I’m a capable adult who takes care of a house, often on my own.
Because I was a woman alone in a home with bunch of guys, I set out to be nice and establish myself as the owner present in the house. I learned their names. I told them good morning and good bye in the evenings. I commented on their work. I smiled.
That last one was my big misstep.
We all know the anecdotes of men asking women to smile for their Diet Coke as they pay at the gas station. Or the rise in popularity and criticism of RBF – resting bitch* face.
I wish I had more RBF – I shall speak with my Botox lady next time – and less southern politeness. Sadly, being polite gets you run over more than it makes a friend – especially in these situations.
We had a terrible tile crew and even after it was fixed, it wasn’t. That was my breaking point. This is our last house and I’ll be damned if I’m going to have a backsplash that is two shades of grey.
Steve emailed his concerns to the owner and received a response full of excuses. I also sent a separate email detailing the unfinished work that was part of the contract and had been paid for.
Guess who didn’t get a response to their email?
Here’s where things really went sideways.
But first: Steve is a wonderful man. He is progressive, supports my attempts to smash the patriarchy, and he is right along side me in raising a strong, capable, questioning, and independent 16 year old daughter. We don’t have defined gender roles in our home – it’s more about me being short and him being tall. He takes care of the tall things; I take care of the short things. And even better, we enjoy doing projects together.
But he is a fixer and after me trying to explain just how bad it had been to be treated like this in my own home, he offered up this solution:
I could email the contractor from Steve’s email address telling him all the things that were horribly wrong with the situation. Such as: the attitudes toward me, trying at every turn to pull something over on me, the intimidating and pushy behavior, and the mother in law.
Holy hell, if I owned a sword it would have be out and I would have been standing on a rooftop for all to hear:
I refuse to only be heard by a man because he thinks another man is behind the words. I sound my barbaric yawp! – Walt Whitman
Ok, I didn’t say that last part. But you get the point. So did Steve.
He sat down and calmly composed an email, never to receive a response. But the words were out there in the universe and for the first time I think he got how I was feeling.
We have since had more issues and this morning we had a leak from the stone in the fireplace after it rained. I texted the contractor and I kid you not, I received a thorough mainsplaining on how a leak is water escaping from a crack.
So here I am today and I have a lot of questions and misgivings about society. We treat genders, races, and religions with disdain for not being like us. We take advantage of situations, intimidate, demand, and tell females to smile for a stupid Diet Coke.
We adapt and develop RBF. We learn that politeness is often dangerous. And we yawp until men see our perspective from the rooftop.
Why? Here’s a hint: it’s not to be heard. That’s not the problem because believe me, they hear us. It’s because men taking on badly behaving men is the springboard to change.
They listen to each other when it comes to certain issues. But very few will tackle this one. And before men get scared, this doesn’t have to involve protests and signs. Simply calling out the bad behavior would go such a long way.
Not immediate change but if enough say something, enough will pay attention.
So… the mother-in-law. This is the part that actually grieves me. She was downright nasty to me. She lied to the owner, her son-in-law, took a check we left in good faith – because we had to leave – without completing the work and called me a liar over something so stupid. She was by far the most defensive, the most deceitful, the most vicious, and the one looking to get away with the least amount of quality work for the money paid.
When women turn on women, we take a years of steps backwards. We un-do efforts by men to treat us with respect and their efforts stop. And when men say nothing to their male counterparts, women just become shrill and difficult. It’s a circuitous mess.
Steve tells me every night that I’m his favorite sound in the world. I have questioned that of late but he swears it’s still true. But until people start treating people with respect, I’ll continue with my occasional yawp but far away from remodeling projects.
The painters are here next week and hopefully I’m not continuing with a part three but instead telling you about the time this week that my rabbits turned themselves blue.
Oh, and by the way, I hope the mother-in-law, her son-in-law, and family had a wonderful Thanksgiving together last week.
* I strongly dislike the word “bitch”. It’s demeaning but that’s what the face is called – for now.