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In Another World

May
17
2005

Today, gentle reader, let’s try a thought experiment.
Please wave your hands up and down and make that woo-woo sound in the universally acknowledged sign of switching to a dream sequence, remembered past or other alternative reality.
Done? Good.
Now, imagine that one day a man woke up and decided he wanted to build his own house. He had no experience in building a house, but he thought he’d like to try it.
So he went in to work the next day and told his boss that he’d like some time off to build a house. At first his boss was puzzled. The man had a “good” job and was considered a good employee and was likely to get a promotion in a reasonable amount of time. But the man explained that he just wanted to live in a house he had built himself. This man’s company, in our alternative reality world, had a policy allowing employees to take off an extended amount of time for any personal reason, so the boss had to agree to the man’s request. But the boss was still puzzled.


The next day the boss went on a bosses’ golf outing and talked to the other bosses about his employee taking time off to build a house. “I wonder if this will happen every time I hire a man strong enough to build his own house?” said the boss. “They won’t be very good career material if so. These men can’t expect to get promotions if they put their houses ahead of their careers.”
But another boss said he too had always wanted to build his own house. A third boss said it sounded like the young man had a lot of initiative. “Hmm,” thought the first boss.
Meanwhile, the man was building his house. He talked to his male buddies about what he was doing, and some thought he was nuts, but some thought it was pretty cool. They talked to their friends, some of whom also thought it was pretty cool, and before you could say miter joint there was a national movement of men who were taking time off to build their own houses, with websites, lobbyists, sitcoms and supportive members of Congress.
Soon employers were trying to nose around and find out about men’s house-building plans, because it was considered relevant to their value as an employee. Men who built their own houses were thought to show problem-solving ability, to be take-charge types, individualists but also team players, strategic planners and all-around cool guys. So naturally, men who returned to work after building a house were highly sought-after employees.
Many men didn’t want to build their own houses, of course, but they took sabbaticals for their own projects if they wanted. And employers made it clear that no one was owned 24-7 and that all employees were obviously entitled to a reasonable balance of work with their home life, no matter who had built their houses, so everyone was conscientious about doing what was needed before they went home on time and they all got along well.
Some men found they really enjoyed building houses and never did return to work, or not for a long time until after their houses were really fixed up in every detail. But because society recognized that people need places to live, these men were given reasonable financial subsidies to build and maintain houses. They were also always the most popular guests at parties—people loved to talk to men who were involved in the basic human experience of creating shelter, even if they did rattle on sometimes about framing techniques and matching versus contrasting baseboards.
Other men found they had no interest in building, and were soon back at work with amusing stories to tell of smashed thumbs and backwards tiles. They usually hired professional builders to finish their houses, with wages subsidized to ensure a decent living for the builders of course.
Some women built their own houses too, but somehow it wasn’t considered as cool. It was more difficult for them to work in the time off with their careers, and soon few women were doing it.
But building your own house was considered a positive option for men; some tried it and some didn’t, some tried it in their twenties, some in their thirties or later, but all the options were no big deal.
The original man, by the way, did return to work after a while. And he did get his promotion, eventually all the way up to CEO.
Woo, woo, hand wave again. Back to real reality.
Perspective is everything.
Now imagine that the man was really a woman. And that instead of taking time off to build a house, she left work to stay home and care for her baby.
The key question: would she be as popular at cocktail parties?

Share  Posted by Deborah Klosky at 4:52 PM | Permalink

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