I was at a dinner party 2 Fridays ago, it was being hosted by my friends from business school – a couple. Two other couples were invited as well, bringing the total to four. It was the first time in the longest time that I was going somewhere with a date, a proper couples’ thing (though to my friends’ credit, I am sure this was not a prerequisite for being invited) and it felt great. A French couple introduced themselves to us and I asked them what they did here for a living. The man had a job in telecom and the woman added “I am a tai tai”. In turn, I said I worked for a bank and and when their eyes moved towards him, Ike chimed in “I am a tai tai as well”. I chuckled but not without admiring Ike’s sense of security to be able to tell strangers so easily that I was the breadwinner, as temporary an arrangement as it may well be.
In both unpleasant ways and pleasant, my life never ceases to surprise me. It has been a little over two months since Ike and I started dating. Considering my track record and luck, it surprises me that things are going this well between us so far. Knock on wood. But what surprises me even more is our whole arrangement – the whole living-together-this-early-in-the-relationship-with-a-stay-at-home-boyfriend. Never in a million years did I think I would be in this particular situation. Nor did I imagine it could be this pleasant. You live, you learn.
Temporary or not, I pay the bills in the Ike-Jupiter household and happily so. Ike takes care of groceries on the weekdays and breakfast on weekends. I take care of groceries on weekends and dinners on almost all nights save those where I have to work late (because some customs are hard to give up). Ike takes care of dishes and laundry too. We tend to the plants together (he does go the extra mile) and my plants love him.
Ike tells me he waits for me to come home like an eager puppy would. What he doesn’t know is I am itching to leave the office from the moment I enter it. And as I get closer to home, my pace quickens as if my building is a bus I might miss. I turn the key and almost always, the lights are on, there’s nice music playing (usually stuff I haven’t heard before because Ike has a huge collection) and some nights, a nice aroma wafts about from whatever he’s cooking. Ike is always in the kitchen when I enter – either doing the dishes or chopping up vegetables or something else. He comes out, says “welcome home baby” and gives me a tight squeeze and a kiss.
It is all quite lovely but it may all change quite soon as Ike attends more interviews for work. He might soon start going to work and take a bigger share of the household expenses. I might a bit more whole monetarily speaking but I am going to lose a lot more. A house-husband (okay, house-boyfriend for the moment but house-husband has a better ring to it) is a blessing and will add more than subtract to your life. Here are some reasons I am going to be pretty bummed out when Ike rejoins the workforce.
1. The househusband will fix things that you didn’t bother to fix
So you will never get around to changing that one lightbulb in the elaborate and pretty much useless light decoration in the living room? Don’t worry, he’s on it.
2. The househusband will fix things you didn’t even know needed to be fixed
The househusband will buy racks to arrange your spices and oils. He will look up care instructions for specific herbs and then tend to your mint plant by trimming its overgrown roots. He will read the instruction manual of your heater and figure out how to time it so it goes on and off during the night and on right before you wake up. One day you will come home, head to the bathroom and wait a minute, something’s not right…but wait…it can’t be… how can the bathtub area be so bright? The light can’t be moved…the ceiling can’t be moved…or can it? “Ike! Did you move the ceiling?” Turns out he did. He moved the ceiling panels and rearranged the lights so the bathtub wouldn’t be dingy when the shower curtains are drawn. My bathtub is so bright now that everytime I shower now, I feel like I am a nude one-woman show on Broadway.
3. The househusband is not tired/angry at the end of the day
There’s only one frustrated or mopey face at the end of a long day and that is mine and even that doesn’t usually last very long. The househusband isn’t angry or tired so he is happy to hug you, maybe put rice or pasta on the stove to cook so it’s ready in time for dinner, set the table and even an episode of your favourite funny show so you can laugh a little at the end of a long day.
Oh and also not being tired or angry means he’s always ready for sex. Well almost always (molesting him in the middle of the night when he’s fast asleep has not yielded results).
4. The househusband works out for pleasure not to vent out frustration. He has defined abs.
Self-explanatory but I am going to brag a little anyway. Ike’s workout routine is yoga and advanced pushups. And by advanced pushups I mean he puts his feet on the coffee table and then uses this strange z-shaped equipment to give himself more depth. I tried to read braille on his abs this morning and he called me out on it. It was embarrassing but I am going to keep doing it anyway.
5. The househusband helps you with chores and you don’t have to nag him about them!
You can decide what’s for dinner tonight and ask the househusband to check the recipe from your recipe book collection and run out and buy missing ingredients. Then you can reward yourselves with a perfectly executed dinner. And you don’t have to worry about the dishes. Unless, say, you lose a bet right before the Chinese new year weekend about something stupid like “hey who sang Hungry Eyes, I bet it was the Foreigner” and lose and then get stuck with 4 continuous holidays of doing dishes.
6. Breakfast and Lunch fixings!
Long before Ike ever moved in, his Krups coffee machine moved in, and mated with my Krups coffee/spice grinder. If I ask for it, Ike will happily make me breakfast and coffee. He will also pack any leftovers from the previous into a lunchbag. He even packs a treat sometimes like a few blocks of dark chocolate or some tim-tams. And you’re probably wondering, well Jups if you’re the one cooking dinner then what’s to stop you from packing up your lunchbox yourself? Well, you’re probably right but the thing is 8 times out of 10, after chopping, cooking, eating and cleaning, I just don’t get around to one more chore, just like I don’t get around to waking up 5 minutes early and pouring myself some milk and cereal or making myself a slice of toast, okay? Okay.
7. Little surprises abound
The househusband has time to fill your life with pleasant little surprises. It’s a wet and horrible 7-degrees cold “spring” here in Hong Kong. When I shout for a towel, Ike will put the towel on the heater so that it’s toasty warm. Or he will move my small heater to the walk-in closet so I can get dressed without freezing to death. I don’t ask or expect these things – they are little surprises that make my life a little bit better.
To cut a long and somewhat boastful story short, I will say this. Try dating an unemployed man, one who is not a bitter, anti-establishment sort. Try living with him if you’re brave enough and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. If I want to buy a house or a yacht, I will have to do it on my own. So what? I pretty much intended to anyway so nothing’s changed there. You are well within your rights to expect a financially stable, well-employed man who has the skills to pay the bills. Me, I am trying this on for size, this oh-so-different, so-over-the-top-affectionate arrangement that is impossible to put a price-tag on. There may not be economies of scale in this household, no, in its place, there’s some inequity (more like den of inequity though!).