MH: In “What Our Fathers Knew,” the narrator is a member of a new era of men who are not like their fathers, who help around the house and take care of their kids, but it’s an uneasy alliance. What do you make of how the ways in which women and men negotiate the division of labor in the home are reflected in contemporary men’s fiction?
ASC: I think a lot of modern men wrestle with what it means to be a man in our current society. I don’t think our culture has come to any firm conclusions on what aspects of masculinity are acceptable and what are outdated/misogynistic. There is a general consensus that men should not have authority over women, whether that’s in the home or the workplace or wherever, but I don’t think we’ve figured out how to restructure society to reflect a true equality between the genders.
For those of my generation (70’s babies), our fathers became fathers in the first years of the feminist movement, and some of our fathers made adjustments but many still reflected the attitudes of their fathers. That made for some confusing signals, for both the sons and the daughters. Now those sons and daughters are having their own families and bringing in different ideas and interpretations as to how the balance of power should work in a marriage or relationship. Many men are happy to split the power/chores evenly, but they are certainly aware that such equality is pretty new to our culture and, for some men, there’s a sense that something has been lost. I think that “something” is the product of mythical remembrances, but it’s nevertheless a weight or at least a rough texture that they feel as they move through their lives.
As for my story in specific, I at least wanted to capture this sense of longing for a mythical past that many men my age seem to feel from time-to-time. We know we can’t be Frank Sinatra anymore. But we’re not yet sure what we CAN be.