Cort Ruddy just wanted to buy some paper plates, but instead had his first experience with being profiled as a stereotypical “dad”
At first, I laughed, because that’s what I usually do when I don’t hear something a stranger says to me. Then it dawned on me what she said, and I didn’t know whether I should be offended instead.
“That’s so you don’t have to do the dishes,” she quipped matter-of-factly, with a smirk.
I was in Target, getting some random supplies for the homestead. Razors for me, pull-ups for the boy, cat food for… well, that’s obvious. And it just so happened that we were out of paper plates. So I got those also, in two sizes—dinner and desert.
While I was loading the two stacks of paper plates into the cart, the older woman passing by looked at me and said it, with a smirk.
That’s so you don’t have to do the dishes.
For the record, we don’t use paper plates a lot around our house. We like to have them on hand in case we have company with other kids, or we have a birthday cake to dispense, or we’re just feeling tired and want to avoid doing the dishes before bedtime. It’s a common feeling when you have kids.
Also, for the record, I do a lot of the cooking and shopping in our house. We are a thoroughly modern family in that way. I also do the dishes a portion of the time. Of course, my wife would tell you that, when I am the one who does the dishes, I never dry them and just leave the last ones cleaned and stacked on the counter. I often get in trouble for not drying and putting them away when it’s my turn to do the dishes. Ironically, I also get in trouble for not drying and putting them away when it’s her turn to do the dishes. But that’s another article altogether—one I’ll never write.
When this random woman at Target made her wise crack, I laughed. Maybe she was just joking. It was a perfectly funny thing to say. But maybe she wasn’t. Maybe she was really saying, “Typical man, buying paper plates so he doesn’t have to do the dishes.” And maybe she was thinking, he’s probably single and lives in a cave, or his wife must be out of town.
I know other dads—some I’ve met through dad blogging circles (it’s cooler than it sounds)—who’d certainly be offended by that comment, especially the single dads or those stay-at-homers who always take lead on household chores like dishes. There are dadvocates out there who would chalk this up as one more example of how the mom-dominated culture is profiling, discriminating, and working to keep good dads down.
And the dadvocates would write about it. I know, because I’ve read the articles about random people who’ve said random things to them in public places that were potentially or ostensibly offensive. Like the dad whose baby had soiled its diaper at a library and had a mom say to him, as he grabbed a diaper and headed for the bathroom, “Do you want me to handle that?” That well-intended gesture was pretty loaded. (Excuse the pun.)
I always wondered why nothing like that ever happened to me.
But was this comment about doing the dishes anything like that?
Just for a second, imagine if the roles were reversed, and I said it to her as she loaded a cart full of paper plates: “That’s so you don’t have to do the dishes.”
Totally different meaning, totally different offense. And, holy crap, is it offensive. Very. Even if I was just joking. They probably would have banned me from Target (if they could catch me).
Still, maybe it was just a harmless joke. Maybe, she would have said the same thing to a mom buying paper plates. Maybe, with her little quip and accompanying smirk, she was letting me into the secret club of shoppers, child-caretakers, and just-plain-old parents who all know that some days you just don’t have any energy to do the freaking dishes.
Besides, she was right. That’s exactly why I was buying paper plates.
So, at first I laughed. Then I thought I should be offended.
Yet, for some reason, it made me happy. I’d never been profiled as a dad before—at least not since I was aware such things happened.
Now, I had. I think.