Honey, I'm Home

My friend JCS is graduating from UGA tomorrow. She's just finished her Ph.D. I'm so proud of her, having witnessed the long struggle toward that goal. We've known each other since middle school; we went to UGA together for a while as undergrads, and both of us continued our educations through multiple marriages (four between us) and children (7 in all). I add them all up because, for me at least, our lives seem so entertwined. Her now-husband went to high school with mine; they both grew up in St. Petersburg, Florida. Those boys were still wearing Geranimals when J and I were going on our first dates.

Yesterday, during our usual cellphone chat on my way to work, I was musing about how much she's managed to accomplish in the past few years--raising two teens and a toddler, teaching college, writing her dissertation, getting this degree. Like me, she earned her master's degree years ago, under duress, as a single mother. I used to meet her kids at the bus in the afternoons when she had class, and she helped me similarly. We've supported, encouraged, and celebrated each other for over 25 years. But back to the conversation, which eventually turned to our husbands and how they regard our successes. "He liked telling people I was working on my Ph. D," she said, "but the truth is, I think he'd rather I did the laundry."

This reminded me of last weekend, when I cleaned out the fridge for the first time in three years. Seeing those sparkling shelves, the neat rows of yogurt cartons, and the little baggies of cheese stacked in the deli drawer, Biggy fell in love with me all over again. I swear I saw cartoon hearts in his eyes and circling his head. When I got my book published--no such reaction. When I read in New York, when I became poetry editor of a respected literary journal, he tried hard to muster up some excitement, but it just oozes out naturally when the floors are spic-n-span.

The neighbor gal turns him on. She's young and cute, but that's not why. It's seeing her rake the yard, or watching her, on her knees, planting pansies around the mailbox. It doesn't matter if she's wearing sweatpants and a flannel shirt; he starts drooling.

The other day, I was standing in line to buy fried chicken at Publix. I was wearing a retro skirt like Donna Reed mighta worn, and a man practically ratcheted his head off his neck when he saw me. There was nothing overtly sexy about my outfit. The hem hit mid-calf, the shoes were flats--maybe a half-inch heel, but I might as well have been wearing leather hot pants.

He probably took that fantasy all the way to a white apron and oven mitt.

Here's something I found earlier today:

Tips for the Housewife, From a 1950's Home Ec Textbook:

1.Have dinner ready: Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal - on time. This is a way of letting him know that you have been thinking about him, and are concerned about his needs. Most men are hungry when they come home and the prospects of a good meal are part of the warm welcome needed.

2.Prepare yourself: Take 15 minutes to rest so you will be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your makeup, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people. Be a little gay and a little more interesting. His boring day may need a lift.

3.Clear away the clutter: Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives, gathering up school books, toys, paper, etc. Then run a dust cloth over the tables. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift, too.

4.Prepare the children: Take a few minutes to wash the children's hands and faces if they are small, comb their hair, and if necessary, change their clothes. They are little treasures and he would like to see them playing the part.

5.Minimize the noise: At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise of washer, dryer, dishwasher or vacuum. Try to encourage the children to be quiet. Be happy to see him. Greet him with a warm smile and be glad to see him.

6.Some Don'ts: Don't greet him with problems or complaints. Don't complain if he's late for dinner. Count this as minor compared with what he might have gone through that day.

7.Make him comfortable: Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or suggest he lie down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him. Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soft, soothing and pleasant voice. Allow him to relax and unwind.

8.Listen to him: You may have a dozen things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first.

9.Make the evening his: Never complain if he does not take you out to dinner or to other places of entertainment; instead, try to understand his world of strain and pressure, his need to be home and relax.

10.The goal: Try to make your home a place of peace and order where your husband can relax.

So here's what I want to know: More than fifty years later, have we really come no further than this? Let's hear from the men and women.


minus five said...

umm, i'm certain i would not have been able to fulfill the role of a housewife in the 1950's. or the role of one now if these are the qualifications.

that generation produced my parents' generation. and that generation seems to have stayed "happily" married for about 25 years before they realized they never knew themselves or knew each other or lived their own lives, so they divorced and wrecked their childrens' lives in doing so.

and this is why my current generation either doesn't get married or gets married a lot later in life.

you fell somewhere in between. therefore, you are screwed.

MAMOO said...

uh, excuse me, but 50 years ago the dryer was a clothes line outside and the dishwasher was 2 hands. just where did you get this "50's home ec book"? other than this slight descrepency it is right on. men are.......nah, i won't go into that.

Anonymous said...

Tania and Tania's mom: There's no room for man-hating in the year 2006.

Collin said...

"Be a little gay and a little more interesting."

Hmmm... there's an idea.

Russell said...

"Make the evening his"

"allow him to relax and unwind"

Could any concept be more damaging? Both to the Man and the Woman.

So the husband comes home from "work" and the kids are doing an art project on the kitchen floor - you know - ketchup on linoleum, the wife is trying to get a babysitter so she and Dad can go out. The two year-old is screaming so Mom can't really hear on the phone. Dad just wants to unwind and be "appreciated." Mom gives Dad a look like can you just grab Lucy out of the high chair while I finish this phone call. Dad however gets ketchup on his shoes and gives a cry of "shit!"

And wham!

The man's false expectations of unwinding- kind of false empowerment..could these statements be patronizing? Is patronizing from patre as in Father? Could that be patriarchy? Hmm, I wonder.

Biggy said...

honey, surely you jest. While I was thrilled to discover the inside of our refrigerator was white and not greenish beige, it didn't make my heart flutter nearly as much as you suggest. Now, if you mopped the kitchen floor while wearing your retro skirt...... Also, there's just something about a woman who's not afraid to get dirt underneath her nails.

M. Ru Pere said...

um . . . do you think your hot neighbor babe might like long narrative poems? . . . . and puppies . . . and ok, slamming a few tequilas? ;) JOKE!

Tania Rochelle said...

Who's man hating? I'm just asking the question. Why don't the men I know get truly excited about the professional accomplishments of their wives?

minus five said...

i don't think it's anything to do with husbands or wives. if a person can't relate to something you are excited about, it's sometimes hard for them to be excited.

most of my family stares blankly at any and all of my work and then they like to leave long pauses of silence, followed by zero words. they don't mean to. they just don't get it.


I would agree with Sarah...and I also think that the "traditional" heterosexual-marriage configuration was based more on selecting a WIFE or a HUSBAND and not a "life partner." Though, I hate all of those PC terms to describe, in essence, "the person you have sex and buy groceries with", I think "partner" captures the essence of what modern marriages and "partnerships" is all about.

Today, we seek to find someone who shares our values, dreams, goals, understanding of the world. It is not enough merely to find someone employed who does not completely offend us. We do want it all. And why the fuck not?

Seriously...life is short. We do have limited time on this earth, why settle for relationships that do not honor and embrace every last detail of who we are. Sometimes that means we make really hard choices. We leave relationships. We hurt people. We confuse the people we love.

I like to think of it as the distillation process. We have to shed all of the misconceptions....all of the lies we tell ourselves and others...so that we can get to the CORE of who we...only then do we attract into our lives those who truly appreciate, acknowledge and understand the value and meaning of what we do.

It's hard fucking work.

rk said...

Husband left at home with kids, for example, as Mom JetBlues to NYC to read free verse in the East Coast epicenter of such activity.

Even a hint of "I want moma" from three-year-old at home could certainly rekindle those early childhood emotions around abandonment that even well-parented children must face as they mature into separate beings apart from their Mother's.

Imagine now an adult male who was not well-parented facing these hidden or covert emotions. As an adult male very much not well-parented (my family history mystery includes my mother either killing herself or being killed by my father when I was just shy of five.) So I can offer my own feelings when my wife was in NYC recently pursuing her own professional accomplishments. I felt abandoned. I felt alone and victimized by my wife being away. "I've got all this work to do - How can I be expexted to still pick up our 4-year-old at noon and to take our 11-year-old to piano at 4 - I should hire an assitant - better yet a driver and a nanny while my wife is away."

Victimized by my wife enjoying the pursuits of her career for three days? - yeah, that's a set of highly evolved emotions - pretty mature!

The more mature response: "I need to hire a wife while my wife is away."

My wife often jokes that she wants a wife too. I finally get it.

Anonymous said...

I think minus five is likely a genius- they can't relate- and really that says it all. I am JCS- and in later posts will not be using my initials as I am new to this and have enjoyed anonymity all my life.

and Russell is greatly appreciated for his struggle to meet the women closer to our port.

Like the line in the Ref -- men are scared --- blah, blah, blah-- It must be sad spending life intimidated by the one you want to love and you want to adore you.

Anonymous said...

ok it's JCS again- I didn't see rk before- your point is interesting-
I just had some kind of banter last night with my husband about having someone help us next year. My ideas are cleaning and someone to be available to pick up my son 2 afternoons maybe- Ok we are talking extreme part-time. His idea was to have someone in the house 24 of the say 32 hours that I would not be here- 20 of those no one but this person would be here. no kids-
What!! I said. That's outrageous. He was just replacing the comfort that I provided him all these years - being here in case of emergencies. He believes he can not fill that slot. Is this the difference in modern men and modern women- women logically and instinctually balance things-- men can't seem to shift- they'll just pay to have someone replace something. However- I must add it's interesting the things they find to fit in- when the desire is high. I appreciate the honesty of the men that have talked about teh difficulties in working together. thx.

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