A Bad Cold, Netflix and a Little Guilt by Association

In my last post, I mentioned that I’ve had a bad cold or flu for the past couple weeks. It’s become a well established practice that you treat a cold with rest, fluids, chicken soup and binge watching.

The binge watching part has changed a bit since my youth. Back then, you turned on the TV to one of the four available channels (three for me as a kid – we lived in a valley 35 miles from the transmitter and didn’t get PBS). Once you picked a channel, you laid on the couch, covered yourself up with blankets and watched whatever came on, commercials and all.

Now, we put on Netflix, pick a series, and go. For hours and hours. Netflix will pause every so often and ask us if we’re still there since we haven’t pushed a button in four hours. When that happened while my daughter was watching, I heard her say to the television, “Don’t judge me, Netflix.”

So what have I been watching while sick? NCIS, from the beginning. I haven’t been a regular viewer of the show, but I had seen the occasional episode and have become familiar with the main characters. You get a different perspective when you watch from the beginning however. So, what’s the main impression that I took away from watching the first couple seasons over a few days? Tony DiNozzo could’ve been brought up on sexual misconduct charges dozens of times.

During the Marketplace segment on NPR’s Morning Edition this past Wednesday, March 23, there was an interview with Melinda Gates. (I still think she would make a great president.) She discussed the challenges faced by women and girls throughout the developed and underdeveloped world. For those in the United States, one of the issues has to do with how the work around the house is shared in two-income families, especially in those families with children. She suggested that, to avoid conflicts and unequal distribution of labor down the road, couples should discuss how that work would be done before they get married, and again, before they have children.

From close to the beginning of our relationship, I considered my girlfriend-then-wife an equal partner. She was a better student than I, and had better used the resources available at college to ensure her success. I say “close to the beginning” because while I thought of her as my equal in my mind and heart, it took a couple years before all my actions reflected that sentiment.

I think there’s a little caveman node in the male brain that helps guide teenager and early-20’s behavior in boys. For some, it remains a oversized driver of male behavior throughout life; for others it is subdued and manifests only in certain, perhaps odd, behaviors. Me? I live dangerously by eating apple slices off the end of a sharp knife. Okay, that’s probably the pirate brain node, but you get my point.

So for us, there wasn’t much of a conflict over domestic work load. Before we had children, we split things pretty evenly in the cooking & cleaning department, and we both spent many hours on our careers. Our only real conflicts seemed to be when Syracuse basketball games ran later than anticipated; I wanted to watch the rest of the game and she wanted to go to bed. Since we lived in a 600 square foot studio in Manhattan, there weren’t many options for separating the TV and bed areas. After one game versus Georgetown in which the last minute of playing time took 29 actual minutes to complete, I had a better understanding of the problem.

When we decided to have children, I looked at the big picture and decided that I would resign my management position and be the stay-at-home dad for up to six months before getting a new job. To me, it was the logical choice. My wife was beginning a medical residency six hours away from Manhattan and I wanted to be with her. Additionally, she owed the military four years active duty once her residency was completed, and we would move again to God knew where.

See – logic. By necessity, my career had to be more flexible if we were going to stay together. I also had a good measure of self-confidence since I had gotten four promotions in five years at a Fortune 500 chemical company. I was certain I would find another good job easily.

So, I am a strong proponent of gender equality. I have known and worked with many smart and capable women, including some who were held back because of their gender. My mother-in-law was a immigrant who had almost no possessions at 30 years old. Her gender kept her out of management both in her native Poland and in the United States. In Poland, she was the top student in every training and education class she attended for her employer, but still was not allowed to be a manager.

She realized that her gender and strong accent would work against her in the U.S., so she took the cards she was dealt and ran with them. She took a job as a cleaner for New York State, convinced her husband to do the same, and did private home cleaning in the evenings and on weekends. By the time I met my wife’s parents about 23 later or so, they owned five rental properties, a hardwood tree farm and a natural gas well.

I spent a lot of time on long drives with my mother-in-law and I knew how smart and forward thinking she was. I am absolutely certain that, had she been born a man, she would have ended up as a top manager in whatever field she entered. She passed along those skills and abilities to my wife who has had much success in her chosen field.

I hope I have laid out a compelling case that I believe women are my equals and that I treat women with respect. And that’s why NCIS is a bit of a guilty pleasure. Tony DiNozzo is a fun character, but he doesn’t exhibit the same level of respect to women that I do. I find myself a little embarrassed of his behavior, kind of like if I had done or said that myself. I hope they addressed these issues in a admirable manner in later seasons.

For now, I’ve gotten healthy enough to leave the TV behind for a while and get back to work. Well, almost. There are still five games left in the NCAA Division I Men’s basketball tournament and my team is still in it. Go Orange!

About tonyj126

I'm a 50+ married man who always seems to have a large backlog of work to do, but also a lot of flexibility in my schedule. Much of the work I do is volunteer or taking care of extended family members. I suffer from, as my priest calls it, "the sin of self-sufficiency," which means I can figure out how to do most things myself, and consequently, reduce the need for community to solve problems. As a logical extention (at least to me), I find myself called to comtemplate the country's and the world's woes and offer my observations. I hope someone out there will find them useful.
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