Nuns. Rulers. Uniforms. And on top of that bombs. Fred had quite a colorful school career in Lebanon. He attended a private French Catholic school that required shiny black dress shoes as part of their uniform. I don’t know how he managed to keep his shoes shiny when there were piles of rubble all around, but Fred always kept his shoes brand new. Even to this day he takes very good care of his dress shoes, packed away neatly in their original boxes. Fred is a bit of a neat freak. Not on all aspects of cleaning. But certain things must be in order and kept new, like clothes, shoes, and books.
I, on the other hand, am not a neat freak. I am a mess freak. I keep scary amounts of unfolded, rumpled up piles of clothes in my closet until they push against the door so much, it is hard to close. Needless to say, this causes a bit a friction in our relationship. But I have learned that a little bit of friction is not necessarily a bad thing… sometimes it can be very nice indeed ;).
When Fred and I first started living together, we had a lot to work on, and cooking and cleaning were big red hot buttons we had to contend with. Having grown up in Lebanon where men’s roles and women’s roles are very clearly defined, it was difficult for Fred to adjust to his feminist girl’s college student girlfriend. But I am a load of contradictions rolled up into ball of mystery. Sure I was “liberated,” but having grown up in a traditional Korean household, I still valued the “old” ways that Fred was used to. So that meant Fred had to deal with me wanting to cook and clean for him, but refusing to serve him if he ever expected it or demanded it. I will gladly cook you up a great big meal, but ask me to get you a cup of water while you sit on your ass eating … oh no, no, no.
And because we did hold a lot of the traditional values in common, when it came to our parenting styles, we matched. We both wanted “mom” to stay at home with kids. So in the end, this feminist girl’s school graduate gave into traditional values, but not in any way that resembles tradition — Korean, Lebanese, or American. Fred became the stay-at-home-mom … er… dad, and I worked in corporate America. And it worked out well, because his Catholic school training sure did come in handy!