Tuesday, May 28

His and Hers

I walked into the electrical store the other day (in St. Martin) to have a chat with the generator repair specialist.  I was feeling somewhat confident in doing so because I was witness to the problem we were experiencing (remember the generator fiasco post).  Who am I kidding, I was not feeling confident at all.  In fact, the only reason I was going at all, was becuase Craig needed to be available to the autopilot guy.  I was forced, against my will.  When I walked in, immediately I felt like a fish out of water because there were only men in the store (old, salty sailor types).  I walked up to the counter and asked to speak to a generator technician.  The tall, thin young man asked me what type of generator we had and I promptly told him what it was.  He looked at me with a puzzled expression.  Clearly he was not the right man for the job!  I pulled out my owner’s manual to show him the English words printed on the front.  He then took my manual and started walking away.  I said, “Should I follow you?”  He replied with “if you want to”.  So I did just that, followed him.  As we walked down the long narrow isle, he kept turning around and smiling as if he couldn’t believe that I, a woman, was asking for the generator technician.  As if I couldn’t possibly know anything about generators or boats or anything for that matter.   Maybe I was being too sensitive, but why else would he smirk like that?

This little incident got me thinking about the typical gender roles we all fall into, whether we want to or not, whether we are on a boat or on land.   I once read about the gender roles men and women take on while living on a boat, they labeled them pink and blue.  Which is really just a cute way of saying ‘his’ and ‘hers’.   He changes the oil, fixes the leaky head while She cooks and does the laundry. 

I don’t know about you, but I like to be able to do things on my own.  I get great satisfaction out of being able to complete a job and not have to call Craig to do everything.  As a girl, growing up with 2 older brothers, I learned how to do a lot of things.  My dad was also very handy, being an engineer.  He could fix stuff.  He could build stuff.  He taught me how to change the oil in my car.  When it came to potential husband material, I wanted someone who could fix and build stuff, just like my dad.  Craig definitely fit that bill.  He grew up on a farm and knows a lot about a lot-o-stuff.   But as men and women, it is natural to fall into the age-old gender rolls of his and hers or blue and pink.  Especially if you compliment each other, as Craig and I do. 

Living on our boat, we fell into the same pink and blue patterns as we did at home.  Sure Craig knows how to shop for food, make a meal and do laundry in a bucket.  Although I am not convinced he would actually do the laundry, considering his dirt threshold is a lot higher than mine.  On the other hand, I am in tune to strange sounds and know how to trouble shoot them (sort of).  But I can drive the boat and set the sails.   I have learned a lot about our systems on the boat, thanks to Craig.  He often includes the girls (me included) and explains what and why he is doing something.  Sometimes, if the girls have broken something or not flushed their toilet resulting in a smelly, dirty toilet, he makes them do the job! 

If we didn't exercise that philosophy, it could be a potentially dangerous situation on the boat.  What if, god forbid, something happened to Craig and he was unable to do 'his' job.  I would have to take over.  It's very important to both of us that I know how to operate the boat.  I feel confident that I could get us safely into a harbor if I needed to.  It might not be pretty, but I could do it.

We shouldn't take things for granted and it's easy to fall into the same ole routine.  We often trade 'jobs' on the boat so that we, meaning I, don't forget how to do all jobs on the boat.  I help with routine maintenance of checking the oil before we head out, change the water filters for the water maker and we trade off on the anchoring duties.  One person runs the windlass (an electric motor that pulls the anchor chain, lifting the anchor) and attaches the bridle while the other maneuvers at the helm.  We both raise and lower the sails and take turns managing the sails, depending who is on watch.  I know how to put in a reef or shake one out.  I have yet to do this all by myself even though Craig says I can.  I feel better when we do it together.  While I don't enjoy changing the oil (I am the assistant), I have learned a lot over the course of the year about maintaining a working boat.  I poke fun at most of my roles because it isn't' rocket science but I enjoy them just the same!

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