It was obvious that I woke my neighbor from a deep sleep. It was 7:00 AM and my knock was loud and frantic. “I need help. I’m sorry to wake you up. Oh, there’s a mouse in my apartment.” His left eyebrow raised in disbelief, while his right eye held a you-have got-to be-kidding-me death stare. “Please. I’ll bring you a bottle of wine.” I always bribe people with wine. I’m not sure what I’ll use when I need help from someone in AA. He shook his head and agreed to come down.
I don’t know my neighbor well. I had no idea if he was a mouse fearing man. To be honest, until I needed help that morning I didn't even know his name. He uses the front entrance and I use the rear, so our paths rarely cross. All I know is that mouse killing is a man’s job, and he is a man. Thank God I said “hi” the few times we ran into each other, or this moment would have been even more awkward.
My neighbor arrived a few minutes later. The panic stopped. I was surprised at how quickly his presence calmed me down. There was a man in the house; all was well. We quickly fell into our roles. He was the hero and I the damsel in distress. I realize how this sounds. If you’re expecting this post to have an X-rated ending, stop reading now.
He created a strategy to trap the mouse, which I swear was feasting on my multigrain cheerios, by trapping it in the cereal box then tossing the box into a garbage bag. It was my job to hold the bag. The panic came back. All I could envision were cheerios and a mouse flying all around the kitchen. It’s time to move.
Just like that, what I obsessed about for an hour was done in thirty seconds. He skillfully pitched the box of Cheerios in the garbage bag and my eyes involuntarily started to bat, “My Hero!” He shook the bag and nothing, no mouse. He went for the box of Chex cereal. Cereal, garbage bag, shake, shake, shake…nothing. Where was the mouse? Was there a mouse? We emptied the cabinet; everything went into the garbage. We searched for evidence. There were no holes, no bite marks, no droppings, nothing. Both of his eyes widen to a you-got-me-out-of-bed for-this stare.
“I swear I heard it.” I apologized. He finished his manly duties by checking for more holes, suggesting some poison and a call to maintenance. Then he headed back upstairs to bed.
When he left, I started to think about how in this era of blurred gender roles we still lean on tradition. We expect that most men can kill a mouse and that most women should be able to make a meal. Are our expectations outdated? I consider myself a modern woman with traditional values. Is that a contradiction? Reader, do you think it’s acceptable to demand gender neutral roles in some areas of your life and not others?
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