It was an innocent question.
“Do you need anything at the grocery store?”
So I was a little taken aback when the Curmudgeon fired back with this response dripping in sarcasm:
“Orange juice. I mean, could we get some orange juice in this house?”
To be fair, my daughter drinks orange juice like water, and my son was home from college, putting an enormous strain on the food supply. But I’d never heard him complain about orange juice, and was surprised by his tone.
So I asked him about the orange juice, and here’s what I got:
“Orange juice is part of the trust,” he said. “It’s expected that you’re going to always have milk, juice, butter and eggs in the refrigerator. Why wouldn’t you buy orange juice if you’re at the store?”
This was the first time in 36 years of marriage that I’d ever heard the words OJ and trust in the same sentence. I had no idea specific food and beverages were part of the marriage contract. I had no idea I was breaking a sacred trust by failing to supply orange juice on a daily basis.
But that’s what great about marriage. You’re always learning something new, even when you least expect it.
It didn’t start out this way. At one point, the Curmudgeon was a prodigious grocery shopper, slipping into to the store after jogging at night, or bringing the kids to basketball games on Saturdays.
But the Curmudgeon has pretty much retired from grocery shopping, except for the occasional dash for doggie yogurt, fat-free chocolate milk, beer or butter and eggs, which we can’t keep around with a teen-age baker under our roof.
His retreat from the grocery store was subtle yet steady and deliberate, much like a woman extracting herself from a toxic friendship. It was clear that he was no longer interested in grocery runs, but no words were spoken. He just stopped going to the store and I picked up the slack.
This seems to be how most household chores are ultimately divided between spouses – the war of attrition. One day, you turn around and realize that you’re doing the grocery shopping, housework and bulk of the child-rearing, though that’s not exactly how you envisioned it at the pre-Cana conference.
I admire women who assign weekly grocery shopping to their husbands. They’re my heroes, and I’d like to talk to them about their power of persuasion someday. But the majority of American women – a whopping 70 percent – are still the primary grocery shoppers for their families, according to a survey by Progressive Shopper.
“Although women’s personal and professional advancements have grown significantly in recent decades, their time spent grocery shopping has not decreased,” the study states.
Women also are the “rulers of the kitchen” (no surprise here). According to the report, 84 percent of women are the sole preparer of meals in the household, with 61 percent of women stating that they prepare meals at least five times per week.
Aside from meal preparation and grocery shopping, women also are responsible for other important household areas: seven in 10 women said cleaning the house is their job, while three-fifths said they take on the majority of the laundry chores in the home.
Seriously? This isn’t fair. No wonder women are so stressed out, exhausted, angry and in need of self-care. We’re doing everything around the house except taking out the garbage and putting salt in the well. I think all of us need to stand up for ourselves a little more.
I had no idea how much I dread grocery shopping until I returned from vacation last summer. I was still in “re-entry mode” – that weird state when you just return from vacation but feel and want to be still away – and a major grocery shop loomed.
The thought of going to my regular supermarket was overwhelming, so I drove 15 minutes to another store in a different town. I associated grocery shopping with being home and back in my routine, and I wanted no part of it. And though I’ve returned to my regular store dozens of times since then, I dread it. Every. Single. Time.
My worst recent experience occurred on senior citizens’ Tuesday when I was nearly run down by an elderly woman in a riding shopping cart. As she cruised the aisles, she had her husband on speaker phone, barking orders from home for specific food items. They were too lazy to write out a list, so she decided to call him and inflict their conversation on the entire store.
I wouldn’t have minded, except that she wasn’t watching where she was going while she drove the cart. She was completely oblivious to everyone else, and nearly drove into me in the dairy section as I was headed to get – you guessed it – the orange juice.