Sometimes I will be visiting a friend (and it could be any one of many); and we will be as thick as thieves – curled up in couches and laughing, sipping tea and juggling children, when her husband will arrive home. And he, whom I will generally like, will on this day be in a foul mood and will fume at his wife, just a little, not so much as to be a bully but enough to stop our conversation. Did you realise the children have been throwing toys off the veranda, he tripped over them on his way inside? There may be some sideways glance from him across the room, too, lingering for just a moment on the upturned sippy cup on the floor.
She will become suddenly very conciliatory, her brow furrowing, she will jump from the couch and offer to pick the toys up herself from outside. Maybe it is simply the social awkwardness that arises from her husband’s rudeness; maybe if you weren’t in the room she would roll her eyes and say bad day? how about a fucking hello first. Or maybe it is something more and appeasement is actually the way she holds her marriage together. Either way you can’t really draw significant conclusions from this one observation and I could testify to her otherwise feisty feminist credentials. (I mean, maybe that husband is fuming because it is always him who picks up the children’s toys and on top of having to do all the laundry and the grocery shopping for the household he is bloody well sick of it. Maybe).
Now, partners will fume from time to time at their loved ones, I understand that. It is something I have both personally encountered and inflicted; sometimes even in front of others, although I am not aware of having ever personally silenced a room of adults with the sheer force of my temper. And perhaps men can similarly attest to having these experiences with their friends – a chat with their mate is interrupted by the entrance of a fuming female partner (or even a fuming male partner) that ultimately consumes their friend in peace-making urgency. Possibly this is nothing more than routine social dynamics.
But you know what it actually feels like?
It feels like my friend and I are reduced to children with an angry dad in the room. It feels like our interaction doesn’t warrant the respect that his interaction does. It feels like sometimes a woman can’t be both a friend to one person and a wife to someone else simultaneously, that the latter role demands too much of her. It feels like she and I need to apologise for something. It feels like we have run smack bang into male entitlement.