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Opinion >  Column

Paul Turner: In defense of men underfoot

A grilled flank steak with garlic herb sauce in Brookline, Mass. (Daniel J. van Ackere / AP)
A grilled flank steak with garlic herb sauce in Brookline, Mass. (Daniel J. van Ackere / AP)

I’m not saying men always get blamed for everything.

But hear me out.

It has been decades since women first entered the workforce in huge numbers. Yet have you ever heard someone express concerns about them being “underfoot” at home when they retire?

No. Of course, not.

It’s always assumed that recently retired men will be the ones who don’t know what to do with themselves. It’s assumed that men will be the ones getting in the way in the kitchen.

Frankly, it’s a bit insulting.

Nobody imagines scenarios in which a husband trying to prepare a complex sandwich and being blocked at every turn finally has to tell his recently retired wife, “Why don’t you just go play golf or something?”

Why is that?

I have a few theories.

1. Despite countless societal shifts and re-imagined family roles, women are still considered by many to be the home team in the kitchen. All too often, men are thought to be bumbling klutzes who excel at loitering in front of the fridge.

For men who recently retired from careers in which they had a fair amount of responsibility/authority, this new status as a hapless oaf can be something of a comedown.

2. When Spokane is promoted as a retirement destination, it appears to be assumed by marketers that active seniors here will spend their time smiling their posteriors off on boats and tennis courts or otherwise look like models in an ad for an erectile dysfunction drug. So when, in real life, a well-intentioned gentleman tries to access the pickle jar in the refrigerator, it is possible to view his presence as being “underfoot.”

3. Women talk a good game about a desire for closeness. But if some innocent retired husband happens to be standing in front of the kitchen sink three seconds too long, all bets are off.

4. It is sometimes assumed that women always know what they are doing. This charitable default impression continues even after they retire from working outside the home. But quite often they can’t even remember why they came into the kitchen.

Still, if their retired husbands are already there, shuffling about aimlessly, perhaps they can figure it out together.

‘My cousin in Spokane’

No, that’s not a movie title. I’m just wondering how many people across the country have uttered those words.

It has to be a lot. It occurred to me that some of those far-flung folks probably do their share of the heavy lifting when it comes to correcting people’s “Spocane” pronunciations or mistaken notions of Northwest geography (our proximity to Seattle).

Thank you, cousins. Mine live in New Jersey and North Carolina. How about you?

Let’s move on.

Over the moon

Next Monday will be the 49th anniversary of Apollo 11 being launched into space.

I’ve hosted multiple rounds of readers’ memories of the moon landing mission over the years. But I thought perhaps I should invite another this month, before next year’s milestone anniversary swamps the subject.

Then I remembered. You have to be fairly old to have actual memories of watching Apollo 11 on TV or talking to family and friends as it was happening.

Still, there are a few of us around.

So if you can recall where you were and what you were doing that week in July of 1969, let me hear from you.


OK, I said we were through with slug stories. But this report from Fritz Stout is a bit different, so here goes.

“Maggie and I lived in Olympia for about 20 years, mountain biking extensively through the late ’80s and the ’90s before moving here in ’98. Let’s just say slugs and mountain bike brake pads are a terrible combination for several reasons. The physics of severely reduced braking capacity due to slug slime contamination can be downright dangerous, but cleaning the mess off is like adding insult to injury. Disc brakes are the best thing that’s happened to bikes in a long time.”

End note

Ken Waddle saw last Thursday’s questionnaire for kids wanting to mow my lawn, and he wrote to say I forgot one.

“Do you plan on texting while mowing?”

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