Thursday, November 18, 2010

Gossip Girls

It was dark and rainy Tuesday night. This is what I hate most about winter — the darkness. I don't even mind the temperature change that much, but when it gets too dark to take walks and bike rides after five o'clock, I feel a bit stir crazy.

That's why volunteering can be such a motivator during the winter — it gets me off of my couch.

So, I headed over to Highland to tutor ESL. Only semi-damp from the run from my car to the building, I met my two regular gal pals. We started to look over the worksheets they had been assigned, but then one of the women left early because she felt ill.

So it was just Helen and me. After reading a newspaper study on the effects of alcoholism, we skipped the grammar lesson and just talked. OK, we gossiped.

Helen told me about her role as a mother-in-law and a daughter-in-law. Though she lives in a large house, she is taking care of extended family members, and that can be stressful. From laundry and housekeeping pet peeves to a mother-in-law that greets her in the driveway, I served as a cathartic receptacle. And I laughed with her.

She also told me about how she met her husband. Not exactly arranged, the marriage was encouraged. And, being a dutiful daughter, she listened to her parents.

Her husband, more than ten years her senior, had lived in the states for quite a while before she met him on a visit to her home. Her family did a "background check," essentially making sure he was a stable match for her. I envision a web of phone calls made from distant cousins and uncles making its way back to Helen's parents. She didn't marry for love, but it seems that she has done alright. She's raised four children, and is still married.

"You have your ups and downs," she says laughing, while making wave motions with her hand.

American marriage statistics are pretty bleak, so I'm not one to judge. I got married much younger than I had anticipated, but more than three years later, I'm still happy with that decision.

More than marriage though, we talked about expectations for women, and how hard it can be — and I don't even have children yet. I think about having a job, taking care of our home and my hobbies, and I know that something will have to give when Rob and I decide to raise children. But I am thankful for the partnership I have with him. Sure, we have our "traditional roles." Ask me about my thoughts on taking out the trash and I'll point to Rob.

Sometimes, I get more out of volunteering than I give. Tuesday was one of those nights.


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