We Both Wear Pants
This piece is both portrait and admission.
It comes from the same place as a series of pieces I began years ago. Yours, Mine & Ours, was my attempt to visually describe the unique personalities that make up my family. My wife is the smooth, folded bath towel to my rumpled heap of terry cloth. Another piece, Shed, focused on the business casual work attire donned by my wife on a daily basis.
This recent piece goes much farther in being honest about a fairly large aspect of our lives: work. The smooth, satin, carefully folded material on the slacks-specific clothes hanger are in stark contrast to my rough and rumpled work pants which, when not in use, are usually found slung on a hook in a locker with the work belt still in the belt loops. This pretty well describes our unique work situations.
The fact that my wife’s stable career has allowed me to develop in a much less structured way as an independent artist is pretty much constantly on my mind. While I have been extremely fortunate, having received a degree of critical acclaim and financial success that I never would have expected, none of these achievements have represented anything that approaching riches. I grew up in a household where my father was the primary “bread winner” and my mother took care of most everything else.
I must admit that I feel shame and a sense of personal failure that I have not even come close to reaching the point where I could say to my wife: “Hey, I’ve got this. You don’t need to work to support this family.” She wouldn’t want to stop working if she could; she loves what she does, however, I would like to be able to give her that option. At present, I cannot do that. While we might earn approximately the same number of dollars per year– hers come on a consistent basis and with health insurance and other benefits that my sporadic, commission-based, freelance, sub-contractor income completely lacks.
Like the stone itself, relationships can be hard, and require a lot of work. They are both enduring and fragile at the same time. And they are worth the effort. Individuals are often dissimilar, though they work.
Jokes and comments are often made regarding who wears the pants in a given relationship. Many people have a this idea that being a stone carver is a very “macho” endeavor, but from my perspective, not really. First off, there are fair few extremely successful female stone sculptors out there. Secondly, there isn’t anything much more traditionally masculine than being able to fully financially support one’s own family . . . So, I can’t really agree with the stereotype. I’m not being overly modest. I love the tradition and physicality of the work I do, and I think that I can make some neat stuff. I am a handy and all. However, if one was going to ask who wears the pants in our family– well, it certainly wouldn’t be me alone.
In our case, I’d say that I have received far more of the benefit from our work together than she. Her stability, organization, reliability, and care have allowed me to have a much more chaotic, irresponsible and unstable career path than the average person. I’m the dirty laundry. I’m very thankful to have been able to hang my rumpled, coarseness next to her smooth, silkiness for many years now, and hopefully for many more.