Unwilling Feminist

There you go, she won again, went to work and left me home to take care of the kids - there's no day camp because of Tisha B'Av.

There you go, she won again, went to work and left me home to take care of the kids - there's no day camp because of Tisha B'Av. I've already done the dishes, two loads of laundry, and made a breakfast that my son refused to touch because someone at day camp told him that if you eat on Tisha B'Av, the Temple will be destroyed. He cried when I tried to make him eat something so he wouldn't starve on my watch. Shouts filled the house when his sister ran after him, holding some shakshouka in her hand to prove to him that he's an Arab. In the end I managed to feed the little Marzel a bit of chocolate, after persuading him with the help of a quote from his mother that "chocolate isn't food."

And she went so far as to call me a chauvinist last night when I tried to resist and told her I had to be in the editing room. "I'm a chauvinist?" I protested. "And anyway, didn't you quit your job something like two months ago?"

Sayed Kashua
Illustration by Amos Biderman

"Yes," she said, "but I have unfinished cases, and it takes time. And besides, yes, you are a chauvinist."

"You know what?" I tried, "You're right, I am a chauvinist; I mean, I would like to be a chauvinist, but you just don't give me an opportunity."

"What?" She gave me a puzzled looked.

"I am a feminist against my will, that's what's become of me, and that's the truth."

For some reason, that remark, that I am a feminist against my will, made her laugh last night. After all, she knows exactly what I meant. If, heaven forbid, I protest the fact that there is no, but absolutely no good food in the house, she immediately accuses me of chauvinism and of being a spiteful man who thinks only about his stomach. That doesn't really change the fact that there is no food in the house, and that we order pizza, hamburgers, Chinese and again pizza at least five times a week.

"Well, and am I to blame for that?" she asked.

"You know what?" - yesterday I was determined to fight to the end - "Yes, you are to blame. You say I am a chauvinist, so please, from now on there are new rules in the house; from now on you cook every day, do you hear? Every day. My children need healthful food, and so do I. And that's your full responsibility."

"Tell me, don't you ever have enough?" she answered in an amused tone. "For the past 15 years you've been telling me that I have to cook, but I don't cook, so maybe you'll stop already and understand that if you want to eat something else you'll just have to make it yourself."

For some reason, I insisted on continuing and not giving in to her arguments, as I usually do. This is it, I thought to myself, the rules have changed, I know, I can feel the change, after all I'm not what I used to be. I have self-confidence, at last I have self-confidence. True, this feeling of confidence scared me a little lately, and I was afraid that in its wake I would lose the ability to write, but as long as I am basking in success I will wage a war to the bitter end against my wife. I am a star, a best-seller, I have a series in prime time on Channel 2 and it's time I started to eat cooked food.

There is no newspaper that didn't write about me, no radio station that didn't interview me, and in the past few weeks I know what it feels like to be number one on the most-wanted list. And it's not only that I'm talented and write well; lately, people have simply stopped me on the street to say that I look good. Yes, I look good - I don't know what exactly changed, but by heaven, I look in the mirror and see a new image, handsome, looking back at me. Yes, I'm a hunk, a lot of people have told me that lately: "Wow, what a surprise, you just look a lot better than we thought."

Well, they might have had some monstrous mental picture of a mustachioed Arab in a galabiya, Kalashnikov in hand. Compared to that, they would see even your everyday lay person as a supermodel. But I don't care, nothing will shake my self-confidence now. I'm talented, I'm good-looking, I write well, and even those who panned me weren't especially convincing - their whole purpose was to praise themselves because of mental distress, such as rattled self-confidence, the kind of thing I also used to suffer from.

But now I have self-confidence. Everyone wants me. And not only me. Reporters who have already interviewed me now want to interview my wife. But her? Not on your life. She turned them all down; she's not capable of indulging me, doesn't want to give me support. After all, how much time would it take for her to be interviewed for some women's magazine and pull up the ratings another few points so we'll get a good place on the chart? But even a small effort like that is too much for her to make for my career.

Well, who needs her, anyway? I'm making it on my own, and I'm good-looking, too. And with those qualities I won't let myself be trampled - from now on I return fire for every allegation. Somehow she always won. I would just try to say some little thing and right off she whipped out in her favor all kinds of quotes from Freud, Melanie Klein, Winnicott and God knows who else. Somehow, everything I said about food left me with a complex and every comment I made about sexuality turned me into a eunuch suffering from deficiency in the oral stage. Never before have I won an argument with my wife, but those days are gone.

"Listen," I told her, "tomorrow I have to go to work just like you, and I couldn't care less about all your psychoanalysts. Tomorrow I'm going to work."

"Pshaw," she replied provocatively. "Since when did you get so high and mighty?"

"It's called self-confidence, baby, and you'd better get used to living with it."

"Is that so?" she replied tranquilly, as always, in order to unnerve me. But not this time - I am a best-seller, I am on prime time and above all else, I am handsome, too.

"Just today a reporter from a big woman's magazine called to say she wants to interview me," she hurled at me.

"And you probably said you don't want to. Hey, don't I know you?"

"Right, but I think I will say yes, because I think it's time the public knew the truth about you."

"What truth?"

"The kind of truth - how shall I put it? - let's say that after I open my mouth, there will be huge demonstrations on Schocken Street demanding that you be fired immediately." She picked up the mobile phone.

"What? Just a minute, just a minute," I blurted. "What's the big hurry about calling her? Wait a second."

"So you'll stay with the children tomorrow?"

"Sure, what got into you? - of course I will."

"Marvelous. I love you."

"I love you, too, my soul."

"Don't forget, there's a mountain of laundry."