The importance of 'boy jobs'

There are certain tasks in our household that are known as “boy jobs.” When one of the girl’s friends heard my wife tell me something was a “boy job,” she asked if there were some vestiges of outdated gender roles in our family. This friend of the girl obviously did not know my wife very well.

My wife practiced law for a number of years. Woe be to the man who ever tries to suggest that "a lady should stay in her place." Typically, it would not be a good idea for me to compare a lawyer to a shark. In this case, I would say that any man who made such a suggestion would rather wish he had instead jumped in the middle of a school of bait fish surrounded by a dozen ravenous sharks.

Calling something a “boy job” is her way of telling me that she expects me to take full responsibility for a task. In turn, I get to pretend that it’s a really big job that requires a great deal of time and energy.

Changing the oil in the cars is a boy job. At one point in history, this was a big job. You had to crawl under the car, and take the drain plug out of the oil pan. Invariably, the oil would run down your arm. Then you had to figure out how to dispose of the used oil. The whole thing could take hours. Now, changing the oil involves a quick drive to one of the “Super Fast Oil Change” places. Of course, it is important to keep up the appearance that it is still the same taxing chore that changing the oil was when you had to do it yourself.

Now and again a random task is given the label “boy job.” This usually means that something is too high for my wife to reach, or too gross for her to handle without gagging.

One evening the smell of rotting flesh was coming from under the kitchen sink. “I think this might be a boy job,” my wife said.

It was a boy job. “So that’s where I put the third mouse trap,” I remarked.

I’m not sure how long the mouse had been in the trap, but I won’t describe it. The boy ran over to see what I was talking about. “Wow!” he exclaimed. “It’s kind of sticking to the cabinet.”

“You don’t have to describe it,” said my wife.

“But you should come and see this,” said the boy. “It’s really gross.”

“I don’t need to,” she said, “I’ll just have to imagine it. I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep tonight.”

“Why not?” the boy asked. “Survivor’s guilt?”

“Enough about the mouse!” she warned.

“I get it. What happens under the sink stays under the sink,” he grinned.

These are the kind of “boy jobs” I like the most. I don’t enjoy the gross aspect like the boy seems to enjoy it. I like them because I get to make a contribution that’s truly valuable. I don’t have to pretend it’s a big job. Even if it’s not a really big job, in my wife’s eyes it is. Then I get to feel like a knight in shining armor.

RJ Johnson

I have been a priest for 16 years.  I spent the first four years in Minnesota and Wisconsin, six years on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, before becoming the pastor at Advent Episcopal Church in Westlake in 2010.  If anyone would find it interesting I have a son and daughter, which I refer to as a matched set, a wife, a dog, and a cat.

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Volume 8, Issue 20, Posted 10:19 AM, 10.18.2016