Moving from Austin to El Paso, people warned me about the culture shock I would inevitably face. But really, I haven’t found El Paso to be drastically different from other cities in Texas in most respects. There are extremely nice neighborhoods, middle class neighborhoods, and rougher parts of town. There are Targets and Walmarts along with local offerings. Where Austin is a homogeneous blob of white people with tech jobs, El Paso is mostly Hispanic. Hispanic people themselves are so varied, though, with immigrants from all over Central America and first, second, and third generation Americans with Hispanic heritage, the population feels more like a Houston melting pot. Most of the restaurants offer tacos, burritos, and horchata, but this is my favorite of the cultural differences, and definitely the most delicious.
The longer we live here, the more glaring the differences are in day to day culture. This is a conservative area, to be sure. Now, coming from super-crunchy, keep-it-weird Austin, the difference is probably more pronounced. I have never been told to cover up while nursing in public, but the vibe here is palpable. I’m not ashamed, but I don’t want to offend anyone, so I try and find a low-traffic area and face away from people when possible. Since Archie is nursing less and less, it isn’t a big deal anyway. There are little cues I can’t put my finger on (besides the Catholic churches on every corner) that have alerted me to the conservative attitude of my new city.
Today, however, there were no little cues. There were overt, and somewhat backwards, bombshells. Things I would expect from an older man maybe, or in a lighthearted and folksy context, but were instead delivered deadpan from a guy my age.
Today was the first walk-through of our new home, and as my husband has recently started a new job and had to leave an hour early yesterday because his son got a mild concussion (another story for another time), he was unable to attend. I brought my two kids to a two hour meeting at our new house because that is what I had to do to get things done. Our realtor, a lovely woman named Danii, came to meet with us and someone from the building company arrived to walk through the property with us. We’ll call him Nick, because that is his name, and he doesn’t read my blog.
Nick was immediately uncomfortable that I was attending to my children and getting them set up in the empty living room with a few toys and refreshments to keep them occupied while he told me about warranties and rock selections for the xeriscaped yard, etc. He was looking at me expectantly and finally asked, “is your husband on his way?” Ah, no. It’s just us.
So, we go through the paperwork and start to look through the rooms for nicks in the paint and scratches on the baseboards, which get marked with orange stickers so the touch-up team can repair them. Archie starts to panic when I go around the corner out of sight, so Danii offers to watch the kids while I continue the tour with Nick. He points out things I’ll need to look out for, like caulk around sinks and drip pans under AC units, and I do my best to absorb every detail about the house. After we discuss the AC, the shut off valves behind the washing machine, and the carbon monoxide sensors, he studies my face and says, “should I make an appointment to go over all this with your husband?”
“No.” You asshat. I should have said asshat. But I just said no. I can forget all this stuff about insulated pipes for cold weather just as easily as he can. He is at work, and this is the home, which is my domain. Robby does a lot around the house, but he needs to focus on his work, so I often do things myself. And while I am the primary caretaker at home, if Robby had been at the walk-through, he would have been just as distracted by the whining kids as I was. We may look like an old-school family on paper because Robby works and I stay at home, but Robby cries during Disney movies and I love to build Ikea furniture. People are complex.
After several comments about how my husband should know this, or be sure and tell your husband that, and your husband can read about the warranty tonight, there arrived the perfect opportunity for a lesson in sexism. We are examining the master shower and he is AGAIN babbling about caulk (this guy is a major caulk fiend). He says, I kid you not, “so, your husband really needs to make sure the caulk is in good shape and replace it whenever it looks worn. He can do it on a Sunday, you know? Send you to the spa for the day, and he will take care of the caulk in the shower and change the AC filters!”
Maybe he was trying to be folksy? Maybe he doesn’t talk to many other women? Obviously, he didn’t know that I recently re-caulked our master shower and the guest bath. And while it’s true my husband changes the AC filters, takes out the trash, kills the bugs, plunges toilets, changes light bulbs, and retrieves things from the attic, *I* am the Queen of Caulk. I do the priming and the painting. I assemble the furniture, and I stained the deck. There are so many things I could have said to put this guy in his place, starting with “listen here, you caulk-sucker…” but I said “hmm”.
My kids were a hot mess at this point, and while we are going through the house marking every tiny scuff, my son is knee deep in the dust pile outside and has managed to bring in enough dirt and rocks to fill a half-gallon carton of milk. Sure, they are distracting, but they’re just as distracting to my husband. If Robby had shown up alone, I would bet my fancy new stove that Nick wouldn’t ask if he wanted to wait for his wife so she could help explain these new fangled appliances to him. Fiddle dee dee, my tiny lady brain just can’t hold all those words!
I am infinitely grateful that Danii was there to occupy the kids and follow us to point out things I had missed. She is assertive and confident, and if she had been within earshot for enough of Nick’s ridiculous mansplaining tainted with misogyny, she might have chimed in. With the distractions of my children and trying to remember which wires were for speakers and which ones are motion sensors, I didn’t have time to stew and get angry until after our meeting, so Nick was spared a feminist clap-back for today. Next time, though, I still probably won’t say anything and will just complain about him on the internet.