There are so many terms in our society that people don’t even think about before they say them. They’re colloquial, and their literal meanings are often very different than what the terms have come to mean. As a teacher, I have a plethora of these phrases that I outline for my students at the beginning of the year. They cannot say something is “gay” or “retarded” unless they are referring to a sexual preference or a specific disability, for example. As a wife, I have even more terms like this that I absolutely hate, and since we have bought a house and we listen to people talk to us about our gendered homeownership roles, the list is growing.
First up is “the honey do list.” I first heard this term just before we bought the house, when we were watching Friday Night Lights. Coach Taylor runs into a former player at the hardware store, and he says, “Do you have a honey do list, too?” or something to that effect. The second time I heard the term was just the other day. We had a guy come in from a sump pump company to assess our need for a backup system because of our finished basement. Tim and the man were standing at the door as he was getting ready to leave, and I was within earshot of them but out of sight. The man, trying to make conversation (and probably a sale), said to Tim, “How’s it going with the house? Do you have a honey do list about a mile long?” Tim, because he is awesome, replied, “My wife and I have been working on a lot of projects together, yea.”
The term “honey do list” might seem like a cute way to talk about all of the projects to do around the house. However, it’s connotation is that it’s something that the wife wants that the husband has to do. Not only that, but the implication there is that it’s a list of things the wife can’t do, so it’s hubby to the hardware store and to the rescue.
One could argue that a honey do list could be made for either partner in a heterosexual couple, but I’ve never heard it used that way, have you?
Like many things that relate to couples, the “honey do list” implies heterosexuality. Or, at least, it implies that one partner demands and the other partner does, regardless of gender. In this way, the “honey do list” brings up a lot of issues about power within relationships. When one person holds the power – or power tools, in this case – there are some terrible assumptions made, both by society and within a partnership. To assume that I need my husband to operate the man-tools in the house is downright sexist. To assume that I cannot learn to operate the man-tools in the house is downright rude.
Tim and I both have a list of projects to complete for the house about a mile long. Sometimes I’ll consult him on a project (like building this table) to see if he’ll help (I’m thinking I’ll need another pair of hands on that one), or if he even wants it done. On others, (like hanging pictures on the wall) I’ll just do it and expect him to compliment me on my awesome skillz. He, also, has a ton of projects that he does not need my permission to complete. Granted, the projects we each come up with for our lists are a bit gendered; mine tend to do with crafts and decor and his tend to do with the hardware store in some capacity. This just represents our interests, not necessarily our abilities. I, for example, have absolutely no interest in re-caulking the bathroom and he has no interest in making coasters out of maps of places we’ve been. However, we are both involved in the home and the house projects, and we certainly don’t tell each other what needs to get done and expect it to happen, as the “honey do list” would imply. We are equal partners who are equally invested in this house, thank you very much.
Photo Credit: russteaches