The day of the weak

Anyone who believes that women can do anything men can do needs to get out more. This is because “out” is where you’ll find heavy things that have to be moved around.

When it comes to figurative heavy lifting, I like to think I hold my own. Move on to the literal kind, though, and Kevin’s got it all over me. This really burns me up. He’s not that much bigger than I am – maybe two inches taller and fifty pounds heavier – but he’s much stronger.

This is particularly irritating because I am reasonably fit. I get regular exercise, and I work on both strength and stamina. I could probably put up a good fight against most women my age. Last year, when we were lugging huge logs up from the depths of our backyard marsh, I found I could carry 70 or 80 pounds, and I thought I was all that. Kevin, though, could carry 150, or maybe even more.

It's science! Men have about 50% more muscle mass. (J. of Applied Physiology, 89; 81-88, 2000)

“It’s not fair,” I whined to my husband. “There are a zillion things that men can do better than women just because they have more muscle mass.” But I had to admit that this was personal. “It really pisses me off that I can’t lift as much as you.”

Kevin looked at me pensively, giving my complaint due consideration. “Well,” he said, philosophically, “I’m a stud.”


I am not comfortable with the implications that our muscle mass discrepancy has for the division of labor in our marriage. In New York, we didn’t do many things that required brute strength. If there were two bags of groceries, one heavier than the other, I was still perfectly capable of carrying either. Kevin rolled his eyes when I invariably gave him the lighter, but giving him the heavier seemed to be an admission of helplessness.

Out here, though, there are many jobs that are either beyond my physical capabilities, or tax them to their limits.  In the first case, Kevin has to do them. In the second, he is the reasonable choice to do them.

And so it was this past Sunday, when we took advantage of beautiful warm weather to prep our garden. One of the jobs was rototilling. Another was removing the straw that mulched our overwintered garlic. Rototilling is hard. Removing straw is easy. Guess who did what.

As I watched Kevin muscling the rototiller around the garden, I felt like shoveling straw was one step removed from sitting in the shade sipping iced tea. After all, I can use the rototiller. I’ve done it. But keeping it going in the right direction on our slightly sloped plot requires most of my strength. It requires much less of Kevin’s. This means that, if Kevin does it, it gets done faster, better, and with a smaller chance of mishap – no small consideration when you’re dealing with a powerful machine with sharp rotating blades. He tilled. I shoveled straw.

All in all, I think the advantages to being male are significant. Besides being able to lift more, you get to go through life without ever being called “shrewish,” “strident,” or, my personal favorite, “assertive.” That, and you can eat more. You can pee standing up. You can join Augusta National.

If I could choose, I’d be a man. My husband, who always wants for me whatever it is I want for myself, draws the line here. But it’s a moot point. Biology dictates that I simply have to resign myself to letting him do the hardest work. I will do the jobs that require pie crust, or administrative skill, or a comprehensive knowledge of the novels of Anthony Trollope.

Meantime, pass the iced tea.

2 people are having a conversation about “The day of the weak

  1. I have over the years done some pretty hard work.
    I have worked side by side with men, women and even children.
    While my primary concern during any project is always the task at hand, when all is said and done what strikes me, is not how much work any one individual has done but the effort they give with the ability they have.
    I would rather haul logs with someone who gives 100% than a slacker even if the slacker ends up pulling more weight.

  2. Ha! This is a lovely, honest post. Technically, you can pee standing up, as I was once informed and then challenged to try. If you don’t mind a little drippage…
    But seriously, I now can’t imagine doing everything I do on the farm and on the sea without a brawny guy to pick up the slack. I did, however, once do it all myself, and found that I was far more inventive and resourceful than I am when the big guy is around. His proximity to my projects makes it dangerously easy to pass off all the dangerous and heavy work. I think there is something ingrained and also taught in the male psyche that makes lending a hand to a lady both deeply rewarding and pridefully necessary – for a guy to refuse the job makes him a sorry excuse for a male, or some such nonsense. Imagine if women were equally rewarded for jumping in to solve a construction or motor-related problem. Unfortunately there is all-too-often a sort of guilt involved in showing the big guy how it’s done – as if you removed his balls and attached them to yourself!
    There are many jobs better suited to a strong guy. There are also lots of very strong women and plenty of very weak men. I always think it probable that a woman invented the wheel, for use of such technology levels the playing field. Use the ‘dead man’, the rollers, the wheels and the motors – brains will often topple brawn.

Converstion is closed.