This month's Elle offers an extremely thoughtful, entirely fair and ultimately damning profile of contrarian columnist Caitlin Flanagan, whose out-this-month book of essays, "To Hell With All That: Loving and Loathing Our Inner Housewife," sent to me by her publicist, is currently gathering dust on my shelf. (Dust that, in Flanagan's home, would likely be swept up by the help while she taps out a new essay glorifying housework.)
Read the whole profile here -- especially if you're curious about the unbelievable part at the very end when Flanagan's face turns green, her head spins around, and she utters six words that will scar reporter/mom Laurie Abraham for life. But another tidbit that really sent me into a tailspin was this: In an essay in her book about surviving breast cancer, Flanagan writes, "When I couldn't walk from the car to the doctor's office, [my husband] carried me. And if that's a traditional marriage I'll take it. If marriage is like a bank account, filled not only with affection but also with a commitment to the other person's well-being as much as to one's own, I suppose my balance was high. I suppose that all the days I had made a home for my husband, and all the times I had ended my writing days early so that he could work late or come home to a hot dinner and not a scene of domestic chaos -- all that, as much as the desire and intensity that originally brought us together, were stores in my account."
"Lovely for her," writes Abraham, "but pity those batik-wearing libbers when they fall ill, those gay men with AIDS, even mild domestic rabble-rousers like myself. Will there be no one to carry us?"
Right. As if only "traditional" partnerships are based on ... partnership. As if Flanagan's husband, before leaning down to scoop her up, did a quick mental tally. "Hmm. Warm dinners Monday through Friday, house ship-shape, her career less important than mine ... hokay, guess I'll get her as far as the door."
Hats off to Elle for reminding us that "fair" doesn't have to mean "uncritical."