Division of labor


Flautas con arroz y frijoles.

In Mexico, whenever I sit at the kitchen table, the first female who sees me immediately asks me what I want to eat, whether I’m hungry or not. As an American, I feel guilty. No matter whose house I visit, the same thing always happens. As a guest on vacation, I don’t really have a schedule to follow, so I spend a lot of time in the morning just hanging out, which I don’t mind at all because I’m vacation to rest up for when I get back. And I just plain like hanging around doing nothing anyway. Usually, I don’t sit in the living room. Most Mexican living rooms resemble museums because they are on display, but they are not meant to be entered except on those very special occasions when the entire family is present. So, when I wake up at my host’s house, I tend to go to the kitchen to talk to an uncle or cousin. If we make a mess in the kitchen, no one really cares. If the living room gets messed up, heads will roll!

Well, in Mexico, the woman is responsible for many of the household chores. So if I’m sitting in the kitchen with my uncle, the first female who enters the kitchen fires up the stove and asks what we’d like to eat. She then looks in the fridge and lists the possibilities for breakfast. I usually don’t eat breakfast, so I always say that I’m not hungry. But no one ever seems to believe me and they continue cooking anyway. I must admit that I did enjoy all this attention and I actually started to like eating breakfast first thing in the morning. I was served breakfast at every house I visited. One cousin once served me breakfast, but forgot to give me silverware. The kitchen was full of hungry guests, so I got up and got my own silverware. When my cousin sat down, she saw me eating my soup with a spoon. She suddenly realized that she forgot to give me silverware. She apologized profusely and wondered how I got my silverware. I said, “I have feet and I have hands. I got my own silverware.” Everyone stared at me in amazement!

Then came all these questions about my life in Chicago. Everyone knew I was divorced and lived alone. Who prepared my breakfast? Who cleaned my house? Who did my laundry? They were amazed when I told them that I did most things for myself. This idea was so foreign to them. A man taking care of himself? How could this be? I don’t think any of the females really believed me.

But I don't want to eat breakfast!

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David Diego Rodríguez, Ph.D.

I write about whatever comes to mind. También enseño español y escribo acerca de los mexicanos y la enseñanza del español.

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