I know this is not a big deal to most people. I know that most people view mowing as a nuisance. But I’ve never mowed before, so I came out of the experience feeling like a bad-ass.
The whole thing started this morning, when I returned from my daily walk with the dog. As we galloped up the sidewalk, trying (and failing) to negotiate the “heel” command, one of my neighbors appeared and asked if my husband and I would like his push mower. The neighbor no longer needed it, since he recently paved and tiled his entire yard. This is a lawn care solution that I know my husband envies, but since I insist on having vegetation in the yard, and not stones, we decided to accept the push mower. I thought it would be a nice, green alternative to the weed whacker. My husband agreed with me, probably because I had a crazed I-want-that-push-mower look on my face.
My husband is in charge of yard tools for the most part, but this morning he was busy with work, so I went to the neighbor’s house to retrieve the push mower.
All of a sudden, I had a new toy. The neighbor showed me how to use it. It made a satisfying whirring noise. Oooh. It reminded me of that fun rumble action on an XBox 360 controller. I decided to try the mower out, just to see how it worked. I’d just mow the part between our sidewalk and the street, the little strip of grass that makes me nuts because it’s outside the hedge, and therefore invisible to my husband from his perch on our porch swing, and since it’s invisible, it sometimes ceases to exist for him. In order to get that weedwhacked, I must nag with all my might, occasionally invoking the City of Bridgeport’s blight ordinance, and how the city is desperate for cash and they will come by and fine us, someday, oh yes they will.
So I mowed that. It was kind of like the super-easy training level you get in video games, just to familiarize the player with the controls. No mini-boss, just exploration. Then I felt confident enough to move to the the front yard. Then I remembered that I have things to do today and I went inside and worked. But then I took a break and mowed part of the back yard. Then I went back inside and worked. And then I couldn’t stand it. I mowed the rest of the yard.
I realize it’s just a chore, but it felt like a revelation. It was always one of the jobs I felt like I had to wait for someone else to do; either my dad or my brother or a landlord or now, my husband. The division of labor along gender lines wasn’t a big deal in my house while I was growing up, but for some reason, mowing the lawn was always a man’s job. The one time I saw my mother mow a lawn, it ended in the death of a large lawn ornament and confirmed my childhood suspicions that God doesn’t want women to operate lawnmowers. But today, I had a sort of She-Ra, sister-is-doing-it-for-herself, empowering feeling when I was cutting that grass.
I realize that this feeling will fade pretty soon. Probably as soon as mowing becomes my particular chore, which will probably occur as soon as my husband reads this post. That said, I feel like I’ve overcome yet another prejudice I had about myself, and crossed off another item on my List of Self-Sufficient Things Everyone Ought To Be Able To Do. And that list is another post altogether.
I just love that you compared your empowerment to She-Ra. That has made my day.
“For the honor of Grayskull!” God, I loved the Princess of Power. I have to work her into my posts every now and then.
i love this! Back in the 60s and 70s, when my older brother was the only one allowed to mow, I had the same mower envy that you describe. Why was I relegated to only washing dishes and scrubbing toilets? Then, when I got my chance, I moved over the pachysandra. Buh-bye lawn mower, hello sponge.
I’m glad I’m not the only one! But I have to admit to something: as a kid, was kind of a sexist about the mowing. I really did believe that it was a guy job. And then, when I actually started questioning the division of labor as a teenager, I kept my protests to myself. Because principles are great and all, but I didn’t want to volunteer for another chore!
One of my writing teachers said that yard work is a great thing for writers, because it leaves you alone with your thoughts. So you can think about your story or whatever you’re working without anybody pestering you, asking, “Why aren’t you doing anything?”
She’s totally right. And mindless physical labor always seems to help me. Sometimes, when I’m weeding I get the story break-throughs that I can’t get when I’m at my desk. Of course, then I end up running into the house, leaving the garden half weeded and typing with really dirty hands, but that’s a trade-off I’m willing to make.