Friday, April 16, 2010

Muëller time

posted Sun, 15 Oct 2006

As we were walking out of the Farmers’ Market, I told SH it was much easier for me to visit his parents than it would have been for him to visit mine while my dad was still alive. “My mom wouldn’t put you to work – probably – but when my dad was alive, when I brought my boyfriend home, he put him to work right away.”

“That’s really rude!” SH exclaimed.

“No, it’s not,” I said. “It’s how things are done. It’s how my dad got to know my boyfriends. If I brought someone home, my dad would say, ‘Hey, I need help with something in the garage. Would you give me a hand?’”

SH shook his head. “I still think that’s rude.”

A voice chimed in from behind us. “It’s not rude. It’s cultural.”

We turned around. A woman in her early 70s was walking behind us, carrying three bags of produce. “I’m from Pennsylvania. That’s how my people did things. It’s a cultural thing. It was rude not to help. And there was nothing wrong with asking people to work.”

“See, I told you,” I told SH. “My dad was Wisconsin German. My people don’t sit around doing nothing. We have to be productive. And by asking you to help him with something, he would also be taking your measure. Are you someone who works? Or someone who sits around watching other people work?”

The Pennsylvania lady nodded vigorously. “I lived on the East Coast, too, but they don’t do it that way there.”

SH’s dad is from Connecticut and his mom’s family is from Georgia, so they have a completely different approach. In the South, you socialize. You sit and chat and while away the afternoon and that’s how things are done.

We asked White Chocolate for her opinion. She’s from Wisconsin but has lived in Jacksonville for the past six years and was in Montgomery for 13 years before that. She was horrified at the idea of asking a guest to work, but admitted that her time in the South has taken over her thinking. She also told us that her husband grew up in a house with servants and that her sister in law, after a month of marriage, took her new husband into the bathroom, pointed to the ring in the bathtub, and exclaimed in horror, “We have to call the landlord! Something is wrong with the tub!”

Whatever the reason, I have a hard time being in someone else’s house and being waited on. If there is work to be done, I expect to be involved.

But when the work is done, then we can relax. My dad wasn’t a slavedriver. It’s just that work comes before play. Or before beer.

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