03 May 2007
love thursday: helping hands

In case you hadn't guessed by now, I like my P an awful lot. He's quite thoughtful and sweet and handsome and lovable, and yes, I think I'll keep him.

But I'm not going to lie to you. He's not the hugest help around the house.

Now even that's an unfair statement because he does cook half the time, but see, I don't mind cooking, so if he didn't do that, it probably wouldn't bother me. Cleaning though? I *hate* cleaning of any kind (except organizing--me likey organization!), and unfortunately, apparently so does he.

I don't push him much because well, I work mostly at home, and, ahem, I'm the woman and all. Yeah, yeah, give me flack for that one (I give myself flack too), but it's an ingrained mentality that's hard to lift. Now try to rip it kicking and screaming gently ease it from a very traditional, southern Italian man who grew up in a very traditional, southern Italian household.

I figure half-arsed cleaning is better than repeated arguments, so I leave it alone for the most part.

But sometimes I get overwhelmed, particularly during the middle of the week when I'm out of the house for at least 2 full (10 a.m.-8 p.m.) days--especially if, God forbid, it has been raining, which means I haven't been able to do laundry for a few days. That stuff piles up fast even with only two people, you know.

But I really hate doing the dishes. A lot. So the other day I casually mentioned that maybe when I cook, he could do the dishes. That didn't go over well. In fact, it didn't go over at all. I'm not even sure it successfully traveled the short distance between my mouth and his ears--a new record for the Things P Didn't Want To Hear Game.

[Such a fun game, by the way, fully adaptable to any partner and free to play!]

Or at least I thought he didn't hear me.

Last night when I came home from teaching, I gave LuLu some LuLove, and then I went to the sink to wash my hands. When I reached for a tea towel to dry them, I was greeted by this:

This scene may not mean a lot to you, but let's just say that when P uses hand towels, they never end up Martha Stewart pretty back on the rack. But this time? I was duly impressed.

And then I grabbed a yogurt from the fridge and a spoon from the silverware drawer. I noticed that the spoon I picked up was one of our oddball ones with a design unlike the others--not strange until I realized I had used the same one in the morning before I left in my coffee and left it in the sink.

I flipped around to see this:

This had been half-full of dirty dishes when I left the house, and surely P had eaten something when he got home from work and added to the pile.

But then...he...washed them? And dried them? And put them away?

I kid you not, my eyes swelled with tears. And I didn't even mind that some of the silverware was out of place.

Who needs a big fancy ring when you've got an empty sink and folded dish towels?

I love my P.

Happy Love Thursday everyone!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aw! Super sweet! Ok, I'd like to read more posts on the southern Italian traditional man, and what I am getting myself into. I just got me one of them and I am sooo confused about some of those traditions!! When he speaks about me to his friends or family, I am just a "friend" and not his girlfriend or as he says "fidanzata". Is this normal or am I just a fool??? Or maybe just too American! :)

Anonymous Anonymous said...

maybe his Mum had been down while you were out?! h ah ah ha ha ha. vanessa

Anonymous Britt-Arnhild said...

So sweet and loving. I really like your writing style.

I am lucky to have a man who do the dishes. I do all the cooking though ;-)

Blogger KC said...

What a sweetie! (That is, if vanessa's guess isn't right! I'm just kidding!) One thing I've noticed, (in my extrememly limited experience,) these southern Italian men may be traditionalist but they are really sensitive and big-hearted.

Anonymous Judith in Umbria said...

Strictly from experience, I think you would be "mia ragazza" at least.

Sogna, it's a beginning. Remember, if you have babies, it is going to get a lot more pressing to have help. Keep it up. Even Italy can change. At one time women and girls ate after the men were finished, and there was often nothing but bread and wine by then.

Blogger Pola said...

whoah, you know how to speak to a man! Well done!

Anyway I am worse than you: I think I will accept a job once I will be able to live decently with a maiden to clean the house once a week. ;)

Blogger sognatrice said...

Anonymous, oh we got us some southern Italian (male) traditions round the expats blogosphere, so have a good look around! As for your man, if he's calling you his "amica," maybe he's not ready to "come out" as a couple yet, otherwise he'd say "fidanzata" or, as Judith says, "mia ragazza." Other expats/Italians have advice on this?

Vanessa, actually La Mamma would never do that; she's lovely and very nice to us (making occasional dinners and whatnot), but cleaning's not her thing. I know. Hard to believe ;)

Britt-Arnhild, why thank you! And I enjoy yours as well :) You are lucky about the dishes, but I have not only a cook but a really good one at that, so I can't in good conscience complain.

KC, I agree 100%. Rough exterior sometimes but big softies. Of course there are also ones down here that I think are all the rough exterior, but I'm guessing no American/English/Australian/etc. woman would have them anyway ;)

Judith, thank you for your support and advice. We're on the same wavelength, because I keep thinking it's only going to get harder from here! Anyway, like Pola says, I know I'm going to end up paying someone to come in and give it a once-over at least once a week anyway...but then I'll probably be one of those women who clean before the cleaning lady comes anyway (which means P will have to become a man who does this too--hah!).

I've seen a lot of women down here eating after the men are finished and/or in a different room, often standing up, so the wheels are definitely turning slowly in Calabria.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amen, Schwester, to the "who needs a big ol' ring when you get a clean sink and folded towels" comment! P is one smart "Calabresian!"

Ciao, ciao! and here's to a lovely Calabrian Hochzeit - sometime soon.


Blogger sognatrice said...

Wunsch, good to know that, once again, we speak the same language. Mostly. Because, um, who you callin' Schwester?!

Anonymous heather said...

very nice. see, he IS listening... when he wants to be...

Blogger Waspgoddess said...

That's a very funny story, and what a sweetie he must be to just quietly do it instead of making a big song and dance about it.

And it seems great minds think alike, since I'm also contemplating a domestic issue today, which unfortunately doesn't have the same positive outcome. Or does it?

Blogger Jenn in Holland said...

Okay, can't even tell you the number of times I said "uh-huh", or "yes" or "oh yeah" as I read through this post.
You have a tremendous way with words and the post is precious. I love this marvelous man moment, even after you thought he hadn't heard! That was my favorite bit by the way: "That didn't go over well. In fact, it didn't go over at all. I'm not even sure it successfully traveled the short distance between my mouth and his ears--a new record for the Things P Didn't Want To Hear Game."
Perfect AND hilarious!

Blogger BecsLifeOnline said...

Aw sweet post! You've got a keeper there. And I expect it was an even nicer surprise than him just going to do the dishes as soon as you asked. Maybe he wanted to surprise you and that's why he pretended as if he wasn't listening.

Blogger Pam said...

Wow! I'm impressed. P did a better job on those towels and the dishes than either me or my boyfriend do around my place : ).

Anonymous Enza said...

Way to go! Train that man up now and when u do get that big fat diamond, he'll know exactly how to please u! :)

Blogger stefanie said...

Yay! It is the little things, after all. :-)

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd go with the empty sink and folded towel any day. So much more meaningful in the real sense, than jewelry.

Sigh. I can't wait until I find my own "P" someday. :-) Granted, I'm so stubborn, I'd have a big problem with not sharing a bit more of the daily chores. However, as I don't do yard work, I'd be willing to compromise...a bit. Ha!


As someone who grew up in a traditional West Indian household, your post brought back some memories.

P doing the dishes might seem not a big deal to our American eyes (it would be expected) but I think the little actions speak volumes. To parapharse Mastercard...they're priceless.

Blogger Johnaesthetica said...

Sometimes it's those small things (doing dishes, et cetera) that mean so much.

How are your english classes going?

okay that should be "phrase". I wish there was spell check on blogger

Blogger Sharon said...


Give that guy a pat on the back!

Blogger cheeky said...

Being thoughtful goes a really long way.
I wouldn't give yourself any flack about being home and being the woman; (and I know it's not keeping you up at night, lol)I think it's endearing.
What a total sweety. Love it.

Blogger Heidi said...

How sweet!!!!! I have a hard time getting my hubby to do the dishes on Mother's day even!!! You go girl!

Blogger Cavu said...

Ah, yes. I remember having a huge fight with my boyfriend (of a similar culture as your fellow) because I told him he could sew his own button back on his shirt. Then he took it to have his mother sew it on and told her that I had refused.

He's a wonderful man, too (we're not together but still great friends), and was not at all a lazy or sexist bugger--just raised in a different culture than I was. Which means such things need talking out sometimes. And that adjustments like sometimes remembering to fold tea towels and doing dishes even if you don't want to.

Blogger Texas Espresso said...

that is so sweet. i swear - it made MY eyes well up. I love it when they do those little things at unexpected times. awwwwww And its nice to know even though he did not want to hear it - he listened~ sometimes you can't tell with those men. (at least with mine.hehe)

Anonymous Anonymous said...

ha ha ha - That's LOVE, baby. It's the little things, you know? Such good people, that P is!

Anonymous Carole D. said...

Very sweet and down to earth post.
Trust me, those southern traditional men get better with age. I grew up in a very traditional Sicilian household and my husband, who's first generation Italo/American did the same.

I'm pleased to say that after 28 yrs. of marriage, he does most of the cooking and does dishes on the nights that I don't feel like (such as when I get my nails done, I know, very vain) or the night that I work. I saw changes in my father and father-in-law as they got older also. But, it was hard for the women to let go.

I think, what works is when we step back and do less and less (if you can stand the chaos and the mess) and I think they finally get the hint.

It's going to be interesting to see how much my male cousins in Sicily have advanced in that area. I will update you all with my observation.

Yes, Sognatrice, secondo me, P is a keeper and will make a fantastic marito!!!!!
I have to admit, I also thought at first that maybe his mother came over. Shame on me:(

Blogger Bongga Mom said...

Yes, that's a keeper. My hubby is pretty good about doing his share of the dishes, but even more importantly, HIS dad, my father-in-law, always does the dishes, so I can see that he's going to improve with age!

Blogger Erin said...

That is so sweet and thoughtful, especially when it's something you're not at all expecting. Hurray for P!

Anonymous jessica said...

Okay, but how come you can't do the laundry when it's raining?

You've got a sweetie on your hands.

Blogger Vanessa said...

you make me smile, s! i love it when the guy pretends he doesn't hear or care and then comes through so beautifully! good for p.

by the way... felicitazione (or whatever it should be in italian) on the BIG plans :)


Blogger Tori said...

Oh boy, can I totally relate.
It makes my entire week when my husband does the dishes. It is an amazing feeling to have an incredible partner and some clean dishes!

Blogger JennDZ said...

Guys can really surprise you sometimes, huh? Very cute!

Anonymous bella said...

That P is a sweetie! What a nice thing to do for you!

Blogger PastorMac's Ann said...

How sweet & thoughtful. He knows just what to get a girl! ;-)

Blogger Shan said...

What a sweetie!

Blogger sognatrice said...

Heather, you're exactly right--listening when he wants ;)

Waspg, hope your domestic issue had a happy ending!

Jenn in Holland, glad you can relate; so you play the Game too?

Bec, yes surprises are always good, but that moment in the Game sure was tense....

Pam, I, too, am amazed with the towel-folding. In 2 years, I've never seen him fold *a* towel let alone fold two so well!

Enza, hah! He's learning!

Stefanie, Ally B, it truly is the little things because those can make or break any given day; I'm happy I had a day "made" this week :)

Christina, if you're really lucky, you'll find a landscaper to share your life with ;) Now if only I could convince P that laundry is F-U-N!

NYC, you're so right. When I watch American shows and see all those hubbies helping out (or being house husbands), I think about how your traditional southern Italian man would react to such a sight. It wouldn't be pretty ;) Oh, and I didn't even notice "parapharse" until you posted again. Great proofreader am I.

John, English classes are good, thanks. We have the end of course tests coming up in the next couple weeks, so the students are getting a little nervous. I'll be preparing some review this weekend.

Sharon, I've patted P as you commanded ;)

Cheeky, thanks :) I actually feel guilty (or something) about having the guilt--kind of buying into the whole thing that the house is the woman's domain. I guess I do though, since I'm the one who really likes to keep it pretty--not sure P would care so much. Thank goodness he's not a clean (eat of the floor) freak either!

Heidi, what *is* it about the dishes that put them off so much?

Cavu, oh, going to Mamma with the button is so low! Actually early on, I remember something happened with P about sewing, and I said something like "Right. I don't really do that well," so he took that as a hint to take it to Mamma. But it didn't become an issue probably b/c I emphasized that I just didn't want to do it incorrectly ;)

But yes, you're right, it's just different cultures--sometimes it's fun and interesting, other times hard and frustrating, but always worth it :)

Texas Espresso, so our Italians have something *else* in common? Who woulda thunk it?

Ninotchka, P is good people, eh? Thanks for visiting :)

Carole, thanks for the words of wisdom and experience. I have high hopes, then, for the future being filled with fewer dishes? You're going to love seeing things in Sicily first hand...can't wait for your impressions!

Bongga mom, I think it's best if I *don't* look toward my FIL for signs for the future regarding dishes. He does, however, sweep the floor, so there's hope there :) Congrats on your hubby's skillz ;)

Erin, yes, the unexpectedness definitely earned him even more points. He probably didn't expect tears, but hey....

Jessica, ah, the laundry! We don't have a dryer (many people don't here b/c of the expense of running it), so if it's raining and you have to keep everything inside on drying racks, it gets crowded fast--not to mention that stone houses and damp weather outside do not for perfect drying temps make! Basically it's better to just let it pile up and wait for a sunny day. On the other hand, I'm helping to save the Earth, right? Right?

Vanessa, thanks for the good wishes :)

Tori, yes, my week was made here as well; glad to hear you have someone doing dishes now and again too :)

Jenn, Bella, Pastormac's Ann, Shan, the funniest thing is that he really had no idea how big that little act was going to go over, which somehow makes it even sweeter. You just never know with that species ;)

Blogger sognatrice said...

Jessica, for more on the lack of dryers thing, Jennifer over at Italian Trivia has a great description and explanation.

Blogger Robyn said...

Delightful blog, Sognatrice. I've bookmarked it to enjoy often. And thank you for visiting mine.

Blogger Alexandra said...

hmmm... maybe P called his mom to come feed him and she decided to do the dishes??....

-i'm only kidding! Bravo P!

Blogger Alexandra said...

oh oops you already discussed the fact that it wasn't la mamma... come on being comment number FOURTY i can't be expected to read it all! :)

Blogger sognatrice said...

Robyn, I've added you to my blogroll; Robyn is a great artist, folks, so do head to Have Dogs, Will Travel and check it out!

Alexandra, no worries...and you see now that you were not alone in your instinct ;) I'm very lucky to have found someone who actually isn't a mammone (Mamma's boy), but even more lucky since my MIL isn't interfering at all. Should I say "yet?" ;)

Blogger sarala said...

If you think you're busy now wait until you have kids.

Blogger sognatrice said...

Sara, oh I don't think I'm busy at all--far from it! And that's how I've designed my life. I once lived the life of a too-busy city person (albeit without kids), and I didn't like it very much; it wasn't "me," and so I moved to Italy. Doesn't mean I don't get stressed sometimes too, though.

Also, I've already mentioned in the comments somewhere that if/when children are added, I'll definitely pay someone to come and clean at least when the kids are young--I don't want to waste moments I could be spending with them (or sleeping!) scrubbing a toilet. Although once they get old enough to help me, I think it's valuable that they learn to do these things too--haven't thought that far ahead considering I'm not even pregnant ;)

On hiring someone, though, I also like that there are plenty of local women who could use the extra euros, so I think it's a win-win in my situation. This, too, is a personal, individual choice, of course. For now, though, every bit that P pitches in is appreciated, and that's all this post was about.

Blogger Miss Eliza said...

That is so sweet! Jeff does that, too - pretending not to hear and then surprising me later. i think he has to think about it for a while before he decides... either way, ti works for me! :)

Blogger Karina said...

Aww, that's love! Very sweet!

I actually love doing dishes, there's something about it that relaxes me, go figure!

Blogger sognatrice said...

*Miss Eliza, they're so crafty aren't they?

*Karina, you're welcome at my house ANY TIME ;)

Blogger Gill said...

Lovely post - you practically had my eyes filling with tears too! A clean sink is worth way more than a big flashy ring in my books!!

Blogger sognatrice said...

Gill, I see you know what I mean then ;)

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