Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Lesson One: Traditional American Male-Female Roles

Our exchange student arrives!

To those of you wondering if there is ANY sort of host-family criteria/background check/mental health evaluation, the answer is: screw you. I am very nurturing and motherly, especially after I've been drinking.

Our student is in high school, and because even the DNB hates being mentioned on this blog, I'm going to omit any other particularly identifying information about her. The DNB can't for the life of him remember how to pronounce her name, so he's been privately referring to her as Yoko for months.

"Is that the only...?"

"The only Japanese name I can think of?" he interjects. "Yes."

We decide to have hamburgers for her first night in America. This is the DNB's specialty, so he grills while I sit at the table and try to get Yoko to sit also. She seems to do a lot of standing.

During dinner, I realize that because Kirby and Madeline are only a wish and a prayer in their grandparents' hearts, and because our lives really aren't that interesting, Yoko is basically the center of attention. Which is pretty much exactly the opposite of what she's comfortable with. I decide to break the ice with a pressing question.

"So, do you play Nintendo?" I ask.

She looks up from her potato salad. "No."

The DNB is horrified with me, as if calling her Yoko makes him any better. I wanted to know, I mouth at him.

"Other high school students play Wii," Yoko offers. "I can't. I'm too busy."

Everyone relaxes, faux pas avoided for the time being. We discuss her hobbies and the DNB's job. I tell her I work at home. After dinner, the DNB hops up to put the dishes in the dishwasher, while I put away the leftovers.

"What would you like to do tonight?" I ask.

"I'm tired," Yoko answers.

"Okay, well you can go to your room and settle in if you'd like, or we can play cards or chat," I tell her. "Whatever you'd like."

"Is it sleepytime?" she asks.

"Sure," I reply. There's a long pause, and no one moves. "Okay, well you can go to your room," I tell her.

She gathers her things and heads to the guest room.

"Did you just send her to bed?" the DNB hisses at me.

"I wasn't trying to! I wanted her to do whatever she wanted to!"

The next morning, I get up at 6:45am to pack her lunch and take her to school. I don't know how you moms do this every day, it's horrible. And the lunch thing has been weighing heavily on my mind. What do kids these days take for lunch?

"Is a Lunchable too, like, 7-year-old kid?" I ask the DNB.

"Um, YES," he says emphatically.

I call my mother to ask what my high school aged brother takes for lunch. She gives a long list of very specific food items.

No one is being the slightest bit helpful, so I make a chicken and ham sandwich on a roll and include a Nutri-Grain bar for good measure. Then I decide she needs dessert, so I pack Animal Crackers because they are delicious. Finally, I throw in some carrots because, I don't know, isn't that what people have in sack lunches? I wouldn't eat them, but I'm pretty sure some people do.

I am going to drop the DNB off at work after we take Yoko to school, so he climbs in the back seat and lets her take the front. I chatter on the way to school, and when we get there, she spots a fellow Japanese classmate and runs off.

The DNB and I take a deep breath as I drive off. "I wonder what she thinks of us," I say.

"Well, we're really screwing with her understanding of gender roles," the DNB comments.

"Oh-em-gee you're right," I reply, thinking back through the last 18 hours. The DNB cooked dinner and helped cleaned up, and we discussed his long work hours. Then I said I work at home. And I drove the car and the DNB sat in the back seat.

"Am I ..." I ask, "a kept woman or a dude?"

1 comment:

amberlou36 said...

I'm 28 and think Lunchables are delicious.