The couple, revealed by the washing machine

When to begin the couple ? It is now difficult to answer this question. Is this the first sexual intercourse ? In the beginning of the cohabitation ? The implementation of a collective system for the management of daily life ? We propose in this article to come back on one of the theses of Jean-Claude Kaufmann. According to this author, there is a weakening of the rites of passage constituting the couple, the thresholds have become gradual and imperceptible. This is in stark contrast with what prevailed in the first half of the 1960s. Of course, the marriage was preceded by a more or less long period of attendance of the two future spouses, often marked by the ritual intermediary of the engagement. But there was no confusion possible : it was all a simple preparation, prior to the entry into couple real, clearly marked by the marriage. This last was the opportunity of a clean break between two slices of life : youth and adulthood. The next day, the new partners changed abruptly from domestic roles and social role. They passed the role of children living with their parents to that of husband and wife living in their own home.

Today, on the contrary, the thresholds are shifting and uncertain. In the new slow process of formation of the couple, it has become difficult to define when it begins. Jean-Claude Kaufmann has sought to reveal small decisive moments of the entrance into the life of a couple. In The frame of marriage. Analysis of the couple by his machine, the author chooses an angle of entry of the original to investigate the couple. If the couple tends to prefer this as in his Sociology of the couple (What do I Know ?, 1st ed 1993) Jean-Claude Kaufmann calls the “lightness” conjugal “, which is to “inhibit integration” in the couple, to “allow it to be defined for each progressively positions the best adapted” for the purchase of the washing machine is a fundamental step in the existence of a ” time truly conjugal “.

The passage in the genuine time marriage occurs when both of the first personal objects are installed in the partner, from the one who is often the first of them : the toothbrush. It becomes day after day more difficult to withdraw. It is still possible for the “stage toothbrush”, which is characterized by an accumulation of objects remaining for the essential personal and individualized. The furniture and appliances in common use bed, table, chair, fridge, gas cooker, hi-fi remain vaguely property of one or the other, and induce little effect of collectivisation of the domestic system. The acquisition of the washing machine causes on the contrary an acceleration and an intensification of this process of collectivization. The linen of which it was hitherto self-same or was reduced at his mother’s home the weekend is mixed and processed for the first time conjugalement. Many decisions must be taken : Who should do what, by what processes, and what pace, according to what criteria of cleanliness ?

The purchase of a washing machine would have important implications : it would be necessary to agree on a unique design of the clean and the rhythm of washing, on a method, on a division of tasks. It should be, that each register in a specific place of a common organization well-defined, in a universe of conjugal formed. The return among parents and the offer of services of the mother have the advantage of maintaining the new couple at a degree of lightness housewife who preserves the flexibility of the interpersonal relationship and leave the future open.

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