Washington takes on the honey-do list
Having solved the problems of soaring inflation, empty grocery store shelves, and urban crime, federal lawmakers recently turned their attention to a vexatious problem that has long eluded resolution: honey-do lists.
Honey-do lists, as everyone knows, are the lists of household chores compiled, generally by the wife, to take up time generally devoted to relaxation or taking in a game. The Urban Dictionary adds, "Also can be a bribe for sex."
In times past, wives were secure in the knowledge that a woman's home was her castle. But according to the Violence Against Women Act bill introduced in the Senate last week, such thinking is hopelessly outdated.
When Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) drafted the VAWA bill, they clearly had honey-do lists in mind. They expanded the definition of domestic violence to include "coercive control," which they define as "behavior committed, enabled, or solicited to gain or maintain power and control over a victim, including verbal, psychological, economic, or technological abuse." The Centers for Disease Control reveals that men are the primary victims of this type of abuse. Each year, 17.3 million men are victimized by coercive control, compared to 12.7 million females.
The word "honey-do" is a pun on the honeydew melon. Nobody seems to know who invented honey-do lists or when. But the notion has become deeply embedded in American marriage culture. Not surprisingly, advice columns are filled with wry commentaries about honey-do lists that echo the "power and control" theme.
Wolfgang Nieslielski explains that his wife pens notes such as "'Mow the lawn — TODAY!' As you can see she, very cleverly again, also attaches this additional symbol '!' — something looking suspiciously like a club." Terry Stawar describes honey-do lists as a "Sword of Damocles, creating constant tension," but he eventually acquiesces by saying, "Marital bliss may rest on honey-do completion."
Some try to make light of the nettlesome practice. Comedian Bill Engvall once remarked, "Did you ever notice all the items on a honey-do list are dangerous? Clean gutters, put a light in the shower, patch roof. It's really a honey-die list." And blogger Johnny Hea writes, "The Honey-do list is a very complex document with a myriad of unspoken, unwritten rules that govern it. ... Enforcement of the Honey-do list is brutal."
Women are beginning to enlist in the crusade to abolish honey-do lists.
Lucille Williams counsels wives, "Before we move on to crossing off the tasks on your list, wouldn't you agree that a harmonious and happy marriage is better than getting any list completed?" She also cites the biblical admonition, "It's better to live in a corner of the roof than in a house shared with a contentious woman."
Blogger Pam Sherman admitted to her evolving thinking on the matter: "the 'honey do' list is actually why we all get married — so we have that other person to do our to-do list." When it turned out that her husband wasn't motivated to risk life and limb to make home repairs, Sherman agreed to outsource the tasks and rename her list the "honey-hire" list.
Commentator Rebecca Reid goes farther, deploring honey-do lists as "sexist as all hell." She recounts, "Apparently the person in question doesn't see themselves as having an equal responsibility to the running of their household. ... They also seem surprisingly comfortable with the idea that sex is a vending machine, where you put chores in and get orgasms out."
We all need to appreciate that the quest to eradicate honey-do lists is certain to encounter fierce resistance. Dozens of companies profit handsomely from sales of honey-do notepads, dry-erase boards, refrigerator magnets, and more. (My personal favorite: T-shirts emblazoned with the message, "I'm not retired. I'm now a professional wife-pleasing honey-do list.")
But there is a simpler solution than heavy-handed legislation to the pestiferous problem of honey-do lists. Ladies, stop using them. And men, stop abiding by them.