Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Woman's Work

Once upon a time, I moved from an apartment to a house. Since I was still a renter, I was surprised that the job of caring for the lawn fell on my shoulders. Still, I do love me the novelty of new things to do....so I set about procuring a mower and trying to figure out how often I would actually have to mow.

First, a mower. I had a few restraints when I was thinking about getting a mower. A) it had to cost little to no money. B)
it had to cost little to no money. C) it had to be something that I could actually use. Luckily zlionsfan had an old mower that he had since graduated from (to a real "big boy" mower with a motor.*) It looks something like this. I was enchanted with the idea that it was green (not the color) that it was small, easy for me to maneuver and, of course, that it was free. I had visions of putting on my iPod and mowing my (not very big) yard on the weekends. This yard maintenance thing is a breeze!

Then my dad mentioned that he had an edger for me. I'm embarrassed to say that I had no idea what an edger was. Wait, you mean I have to do something other than mow my yard? Originally my dad had a gas powered edger for me, but upon careful consideration, decided to trade my little brother the gas powered edger for the electric edger for me. Why? Well, because the electric edger is lighter. I was insulted. What? You don't think I have the arm strength needed to edge my postage-sized yard? Seriously?

After my first go-round with the electric edger, and the subsequent day of not being able to raise my arms to shoulder level, I bowed to my father's incredible foresight. I then settled into an easy routine of mowing about once every ten days, and edging maybe once per month. My neighbors, mostly men, thought I was insane. I was routinely offered "help" with my lawn (at a cost, of course) and I routinely turned them down. I think that in this neighborhood, a woman doing her own yardwork is a bit, um, odd.

This year the weather has been a bit sporadic. There were beautiful days separated by random days of rain. Each weekend, I would tell myself that I was going to mow on Sunday, and it would inevitably rain. Then, last Wednesday, I stepped out of the house to face a yard that pretty much looked like this. Fabulous. I decided to mow during a weekend that was already packed to the gills. Until I spoke to my neighbor who mentioned that he had the holy grail of lawn care products - a self propelled mower. He would mow this weekend. YAY!! Not only would I be spared the comments of men in my neighborhood, I wouldn't have to force my little mower through the amazon jungle that was my lawn.

When I got home Monday evening after class and still had to bushwack my way to the front door, I was forced to admit that perhaps my neighbor suffered from the same "later" disease that sometimes afflicts the boy. Since my nagging would have no effect on a virtual stranger, I sucked it up and pulled out my little mower. After one length down the yard, I was already cursing my neighbor** and his phantom power mower, and had already decided that I was going to marry the next man who spoke to me - simply to have someone else to handle this first mow of the season.

Then came the beginning of the comments, and I took back that line of thinking. All comments came from men walking on the street or driving by and pulling over to offer advice. Apparently gender plays a big role in the household duties in this neighborhood and apparently women don't mow the lawn. All the comments had the same theme, "Hey baby! You shouldn't be doing that! Don't you have a man to do that for you?" or "Why don't you let me take care of that for you?" Right. Yes, I have a man to do this for me. Unfortunately he's busy right now inside making dinner and doing my laundry. But hey! Thanks for asking! After about ten comments, I had my fill of sexism and decided to let Casey out in the front yard with me. The bonus of having a well trained dog is that she says within eyesight and doesn't need to be leashed. Miraculously, the comments ceased. Apparently woman with lawnmower = woman to be harrassed. Woman with lawnmower and pit bull = woman to be ignored. Sweet.

After battling with my jungle for about an hour, I had gotten to the point where I could push my mower easily over the lawn for the second time to catch any thick patches of grass that had gotten away the first time. I was no longer getting stuck on various leaves and sticks, and thus the cursing and evil thoughts had ceased. But twilight was setting in, my arms were shaking, and I still had the small portion of my lawn near the street to get through. At this point I couldn't remember why I so enjoyed the "green" aspect of this mower and I was considering my options for next year. A) get married before the first mow of the year so that I don't have to do it, B) suck it up and buy a power mower, C) move back into an apartment, or D) not wait quite so long to pay someone to do the first mow of 2010. Luckily, a very kind neighbor with a power mower had been watching me battle with my jungle and decided to offer his power mower services. Yes, please. He finished up the portion that I had not yet begun to attempt. It was at this point that I learned a valuable lesson. Insinuate that Emily can't do or shouldn't be doing something, and she will rebel and get angry. Engage her in a discussion about her "green" mower, and then offer to assist with your power mower and she will fall down at your feet in gratitude.

I will say that I got sort of proud and fluffy when I stepped outside into the rain today and my lawn was no longer threatening to take over the house. Look what I can do!! Girls rock! I would throw up my arms in celebration if I could move them at all. As it is, the edging will have to wait until the weekend at least. We'll see.

*I get all sorts of his hand-me-downs. I'm thinking about registering myself as a not-for-profit under the name zGoodwill.

**Who smokes, btw. And who I see out on his front porch step all. the. time. But did he show his face once during the 90 minutes that I was mowing? Of course not. I know you can hear me in there!! Get out here and let me make you feel bad while I struggle through the grass and you sit there and watch me!


Candace said...

I loved your story and I do have a fantastic self propelled mower at home. I don't think I would ever do it if I had to use the "Little House on the Prairie" tool.

BTW..On Sunday I decided to trim the house with my gas powered trimmer and it made me feel very powerful and womanly (Like Amanda Woodward) holding that loud and heavy machine.

zlionsfan said...

Oh no no no. I really don't believe Amanda ever did any of her own yardwork, assuming that either before or after she lived in a place with a yard. I am certain that a) she hired b) a very young, very attractive man to do it for her. Either that or she simply set a trimmer out in her yard and Michael, Billy and the rest knocked themselves out trying to do it for her. Why do it yourself if you can trick others into doing it for you?

I do not miss the push mower at all. I tried to use it exactly one time on this yard, I believe, and that was that.

Yard work is tolerable in small enough doses, but I can certainly see the appeal of having it done for you. I've actually considered spending $400 or so to get something to dethatch my lawn twice a year.

ems, I'm horrified by the amount of clover in your yard. Seriously. I think I saw pink hearts and yellow moons in there somewhere.

ems said...

I actually really like the little mower, but in a decent sized yard, I can see the appeal of the power mower. I mean, it take me an hour for MY yard....I can't imagine how long it must have taken you for YOUR yard.

I love the clover. Part of why I didn't want to mow was because I would then kill the pretty purple and yellow "flowers."

Farmerspice said...

This reminds me of my dad "buying me" a new John Deere mower last year. He said it was his but he was going to store it in my garage. ha! I can't wait for the kids to get old enough to mow for me. For now, neighbor either next door or across the street mows for me when it gets a little "over grown". Takes him 15 minutes on his riding mower, me, one hour and extra gas to push it.

Anonymous said...

I am glad you were able to resolve your lawn issue, but mowing and yard work in general is man work. Unfortunately none of the men in my neighborhood ever offer to help me. Darn them! As a result of sporadic maintenance, my front lawn this year has been taken over by creepy leafy-like plants, weeds and dandelions, and my back yard is a forest.