"Holding Things Together" by Anne Tyler

Could the narrator be more annoying?

But anyway, the conflict in this story was interesting. Both Lucy and Alfred struggle with social expectations. Alfred cuts a rather disappointing figure of a man, according to Lucy, even down to his clothing. He always appears sad, incompetent, and, well, impotent. He doesn’t have the skills that men should have, at least that Lucy expects men to have, like being able to fix the car, balance the checkbook and mow the lawn. Alfred feels like a failure for not meeting Lucy’s expectations and Lucy resents him for not meeting them. Lucy enjoys having men take control of problems, rescue her from bad situations. She becomes obsessed with maintaining her car because when she drives into Exxon and turns her vehicle over to Joel and Victor she finally feels taken care of and, surprisingly, womanly.

The argument between Lucy and Alfred that becomes the climax of the story was interesting because it reflects a common occurrence: women not allowing or teaching their spouses to perform households tasks because they don’t think they will do them correctly. Alfred seems willing, if not eager, to help Lucy in household chores, but Lucy, in her perfectionism, doesn’t allow Alfred or try to teach him how to help her. Alfred understands this tendency as Lucy wanting to be in control, while Lucy resents Alfred for not taking control.