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A HOUSE DIVIDED

I recently came across the results of a government study which concluded, after years of exhaustive research, that husbands do less housework and family cooking than wives. Obviously, this project was conducted by the kind of freeloading, fed-funded Einsteins who would surmise, after years of exhaustive research, that men are more likely than women to suffer from jock itch. No shuck, Sherlock.

Almost every man I know is a lousy, unreliable housekeeper who doesn't know Spic and Span from Frick 'n' Frack. And the few exceptions to this rule are incapable of performing truly masculine tasks--like spending three days crawling around under a dead car before hauling it off to someone who might actually know how to fix it.

Being a very manly man, I consider slobbiness part of my personal style. My wife learned this about me on our very first date. In fact, her only comment upon being lured into my bachelor pad was that I should put a welcome mat inside the door so I wouldn't track filth into the street.

Back then, she probably assumed my swinging-single lifestyle was so exciting I didn't have time for menial chores like dusting, waxing and harvesting the mushroom patch in the back of my refrigerator. But now that we're married and have thrown two kids into the picture--which somehow octuples the average household mess--she is no longer charmed. A better term might be "perpetually irritated."

Clearly, we have a problem here. It's high time I bit the bullet, put my nose to the grindstone and got my wife to accept certain ugly, inescapable truths about us manly men.

It's going to be a challenge, I know. This is a woman who refuses to believe that it's physically impossible for a man to walk through a bathroom without leaving a thin layer of little tiny hairs all over the sink--a natural phenomenon beyond our control, as any trustworthy member of my sex will tell you.

This is also a woman who seems to think that simply by telling me to put my dirty dishes in the dishwasher instead of the sink--or in the sink rather than on the TV--she's going to miraculously overrule the millions of years of male genetic memory that subliminally commands me to ignore her. You might as well tell fish not to swim, birds not to fly, and celebrities not to sue the National Enquirer.

I don't mean to imply that all male behavioral patterns in this area are inbred. Some are simply the product of our foolproof logic and scientific acumen.

Men know, for example, that bacteria breed no differently than all other life forms, and that there's no more effective way to reduce their population than by keeping the little suckers apart. This is why we spread our dirty clothes all over the house rather than lumping them in the clothes hamper--a veritable Sodom and Gomorra for horny, microscopic vermin.

Male logic knows no household bounds. The most common complaint by women about their mates, perhaps, is that whenever a man exits a bathroom, the toilet seat is invariably left in the upright position. To the masculine mind, this is far more thoughtful than at least one alternative, which is to leave the toilet seat down|.|.|.|and damp. Why women don't thank us for lifting the damn thing is an unsolved mystery worthy of Robert Stack.

While we're on the subject of the unexplainable, get this. My wife thinks I should prepare more of the family meals. Even though she's tasted my cooking. Even though she remembers the night I took charge of the kitchen and came up with "Spork and Beaghetti," a zestful (and possibly explosive) blend of leftover spaghetti and pork and beans, dumped into one big bowl and served with Fritos.

Not long ago, I was subjected to all sorts of grief for giving our son raisin bran for dinner. What's so bad about that? A bowl of raisin bran is fortified with ten essential vitamins. It contains fruit, whole grains and milk to build strong bones. Plus, it's an effective aid against irregularity. You can't say that about most of the meals she prepares.

"Cooking isn't that hard," my wife likes to grumble. "You could use the microwave." Apparently, she doesn't know raisin bran is already cooked. Nor has she figured out that the only thing I can accomplish with a microwave is to make food inedible in a shorter period of time--a feat that amazes me but does not impress my boy. Especially when he's hungry, Mom isn't due home for a few hours and we're fresh out of cereal.

The way my wife complains, you'd think I never cook. But I do. I barbecue. This mode of food preparation involves only one, easy-to-remember rule: When it's not too black, it's ready to eat--a dictum which applies very nicely to steaks and hamburgers. Unfortunately, it doesn't apply to tuna casserole or even TV dinners. Believe me. I've tried it.

Frankly, my wife may not be ready to acknowledge the God-imposed limitations of manly husbands such as myself. But I have a back-up plan. When logic and reason fail me, I'll whip up another batch of Spork and Beaghetti. And if that doesn't work? What the hell, maybe I'll start putting my dishes in the sink.

The only thing I can accomplish with a microwave is to make food inedible in a shorter period of time.

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Michael Burkett