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.