Photography by David Savage
Interesting conversations happen in the break room at work. Today the conversation drifted to relationships. One of the men at work clearly has a ‘type’ of woman he prefers. He showed us photos of women he found attractive and I couldn’t help but notice how similar they all appeared. He then turned to me and said, “I know the type of guy you like. Yeah I bet you like the weak little blokes you can control and boss around.” I was momentarily taken aback. His tone held humour, but I did not quite take it as such. Other than the clear insult to who he seems to think I am, I was insulted on behalf of my partner. This is not the first occurrence. Often when I speak of my partner, people feel the need to comment on his ‘masculinity’. It is often suggested that I wear the pants in the relationship, as if the man I have chosen to spend my life with is anything but my partner, a patsy as it were, a puppet I control. Is this how other men see him, as a ‘weak’ pushover I have held by the short and curlies? Is this how they judge him before ever meeting him?
Is it because I am of the strong, independent female variety, because I am a hard worker, natural born leader and opinionated, see bossy, workaholic, bitch; my partner must be the complete opposite? Or is it him as he is? Is it because he holds traits that were once considered to be more feminine and society has yet to move on from this tragic nostalgia?
Yes, the dynamics of our relationship do conflict with the traditional roles our genders were apparently assigned. For example, I cannot cook and, to be quite frank, I despise doing it. I love to eat and my Instagram account certainly attests to my love of dining, but I am no chef. My partner is quite the capable cook. He often experiments with cooking techniques and ingredients. Every night, I come home to find dinner on the table and, usually, there is some in a container for me to take to work the next day. When I mention this, many people seem quite shocked. I am more shocked by the fact that professional male chefs greatly outnumber women, and yet it seems odd that the main cook in my home is a man. It makes perfect sense to me, I work longer hours, he has us on a health and fitness regime, boom. If I had a penis and exclaimed that I came home to dinner and a half naked woman, or that I had watched footy on the weekend, perched on the couch whilst my wife made me nachos, men would pet me on the back and holler their approval. As I have vagina instead and Mark has the penis, the swapped roles are hard for some to perceive and often considered humorous.
It may come as no surprise at this point that I am the major breadwinner in our house. I earn more than he does. Granted it really is not much more, though my potential to do so is much higher. My partner accepts this for what it is. My education level is higher, my drive stronger and my dedication more hell bent then his. He is happy where he is, whilst I am a ladder climber, an overachiever, I will always persist and spread my wings to gain more skills and experience. We do not currently have a joint account and this has worked for us for the past six years. We do not count each other’s change, we do not pick at each other’s chosen luxuries and we both pay our fair share of the bills, mortgage and groceries. The budget and paying of these items are tasks that Mark often undertakes. As he is the cook, he plans our meals and completes the required grocery shop. We joke that his Scottish heritage makes him better with money as well and he certainly has more self-control then I do. It was only two years ago, when he injured himself and was unable to contribute for weeks, that we both learned of my incapability to keep a cool head and plan the weekly meals and shop, despite the fact that my day job involves numerous cases of planning, logistical work and the success of these.
Our daydreams on possible futures include a time when he can leave work and be a stay-at-home-dad. Hopefully, I will support our family on a comfortable income. It continues to amaze me how many find this strange. I’m sure there are plenty people that would love to stop working. I am not one of them. Even when I am stressed, even when I complain, I am a person that needs to work. I cannot be home all day. I cannot be without motivation, without stimulation, without a reason to leave the house and a sense of accomplishment. I am a very driven person. I strive to achieve, to succeed. Now I am not saying that Mark is none of these, but he finds pleasure in other things. He likes being home. He likes working on the house and the garden. He enjoys spending his time at a leisurely pace, where I tend to rush. As much as I enjoy working with children, I know my patience is shorter than his. I cannot play games all day, or come up with new ways to entertain them. I am good with children, usually they like me, but I do not have that knack with them that he does. Some people are meant to be parents, and I believe that he is one of them. We are both certain that he would be happier at home with them, then at work, stressing himself over things that just do not matter to him, and entrusting their care, education and upbringing to someone else. We are also both certain that I would not be content were the roles reversed. Should that dream become a reality and it turns out not to be the case, should he wish to return to work, he will, as I will. Society places little pressure on men returning to the workforce.
Earlier I mentioned his Scottish heritage. My partner is proud of this and has been known to wear the traditional attire. It continues to amaze me that it is considered manly to wear his kilt and sporran, but in many other cultures they would be referred to as a skirt and purse and it is entirely socially unacceptable for a man to wear them. I suppose this is where the jokes of me wearing the pants come in to play again. Personally, I find the kilt to be rather sexy and the ease of access is a bit of fun. If we’re talking male stereotypes here, is there really anything manlier then a warrior in traditional attire wielding a six-foot sword? I heard that the Scots originally went into battle naked with raging hard ons, covered in paint, as a tactic to scare the enemy. I’m not sure how true that is, but it would certainly scare me.
So he cooks, he cleans, he would be happy to be a stay at home dad. He takes care of his appearance as well. Mark is a gym junkie, through and through. He trains when he’s sick, he trains when he’s tired and he trains even when he doesn’t feel like it. He has a body I drool over; strong jawline, wide shoulders, defined muscles, large arms that are impeded by his muscles and disallowed to lie to flat against his side, that glorious V shaped muscle group on his stomach and hips that teases to the point of his large cock, his round, firm ass I can’t help but squeeze often and strong legs. He is more than capable of picking me up and fucking me against the wall. He also enjoys mud masks. He takes pride in his fashion choices and always looks more put together then I do. That’s not modesty on my part either, he actually bothers with his clothes and styling his hair, I tend to throw my hair in a ponytail and leave it for a few days, my clothes are often decided upon seconds before by what is clean or randomly grabbed.
To top it all off, Mark is intelligent. More so then he believes. We hold political, social and other heavy discussions often, challenging each other and helping each other to grow. He’s a feminist and simple things he says such as, “Why is only my name on this? We both own the land! Your name should be here too!” sound sexy as fuck when he says them…and it’s not just that Scottish accent. Why? Because he gets it. He recognises when misogyny or outdated gender tropes are in play. On the rare occasion we head out for the night and have a drink, he is never shy in telling the bartender that the fruity, sweet cocktail is for him and that the smoky aged scotch, neat, is for me. Mark has no qualms pointing out to people when they are stereotyping. He’s not ashamed in recognising the attractiveness of another man, despite being straight. He is secure in his sexuality, in his masculinity and in his persona. I find it is often those insecure in their own that feel the need to judge or comment on his.
It’s quite simple really, and I am unashamed to say, I would probably fall apart without Mark…but don’t tell him that. Life is not an easy thing. Add my PTSD diagnosis to that mix and life is a veritable Molotov cocktail. Despite being an organised person, having my diary well planned and juggling work, home, volunteering, study, friends and personal projects, I’m not actually Supergirl. Heck! Even she struggles with balancing her various lives. Mark is my anchor, he is my center point, he is that little voice that appears on my shoulder and acts as reason. He is the one that mentions in passing that I have not yet booked in my pap smear. He is the one that puts a plate of food in front of my face when it is time to eat, reminding me that the body needs sustenance to work. He is the one that drags me into the gym every day. He is the one that, when I begin to ‘angry type’, as he so eloquently puts it, takes my laptop away from me and demands I take a break. He is the one that reminds me to slow down and take some time for me. He is the one that keeps our house running, that keeps our finances balanced and, when the day comes, he will most likely be the one spending the majority of the time with our children.
What is so wrong with that? The answer is, of course, nothing. There is nothing wrong with him or the roles he undertakes. I love my man and to me, he is the epitome of manliness, of what manliness should be.
Society needs to hurry up and evolve already.