Between the mountains of mashed potatoes and sneaky chowing down of my daughter’s Easter candy last weekend, I was shown an old magazine article by a family member that dominated much of our conversation for the next several minutes.
The article was published in 1955 in Housekeeping Monthly, and was titled, simply enough, “The good wife’s guide.”
Now, there wasn’t much preamble to the article. There was the aforementioned title, and then a series of bullet points which were meant to offer advice to wives on how to best perform their traditional “wifely duties.” Let’s go through a few of these together, as we reflect on the “good ol’ days.”
• “Have dinner ready. Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal ready, on time for his return. 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 prospect of a good meal (especially his favourite dish) is part of the warm welcome needed.”
Wait... this is real? My mom would sometimes have dinner ready for my father when he would get off work, but that simply meant she called in the order and he could pick it up on the way home.
• “Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so you’ll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your make-up, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh-looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people.”
Typically, when I walk in my door after work, my wife looks like she just got off the set of a hostage video and my 2-year-old is swinging from a light fixture with a banana in one hand and the bumper of a small truck in the other. It instantly hits me who had the tougher day, and I often start to wonder if maybe I shouldn’t have taken the time to look refreshed for her with a ribbon stapled to my head.
• “Over the cooler months of the year you should prepare and light a fire for him to unwind by. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift too. After all, catering to his comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction.”
It’s beginning to dawn on me that this column was either written by a man with a major inferiority complex, or assigned by a male editor... with a major inferiority complex.
• “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. Minimize all noise. At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise of the washer, dryer or vaccuum. Try to encourage the children to be quiet.”
I’m feeling like I just woke up on the set of “Mary Poppins,” but without the cool chimney sweep.
• “Listen to him. You may have a dozen important things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first — remember, his topics of conversation are more important than yours.”
I’m closing my eyes and thinking back to both of my sets of grandparents, and how they were raising families and working in 1955. I’m thinking of either of my grandfathers telling their spouses that what they have to say is of more importance. I’m thinking of frying pans flying through the air and my grandfathers going to work the next morning with black eyes. I’m thinking about how much I miss my grandmothers.
• “Make the evening his. Never complain if he comes home late or goes out to dinner, or other places of entertainment without you. Instead, try to understand his world of strain and pressure and his very real need to be at home and relax.”
Yeah, definitely written by a guy. But, wait, there’s a follow-up!
• “Don’t complain if he’s late home for dinner or even if he stays out all night. Count this as minor compared to what he might have gone through that day.”
Now, this one makes sense to me. There are days at the office when I run out of paper clips or my little feelings got hurt by someone being mean to me. What better way to get through that emotional trauma than going on a three-day bender with no repercussions?
• “Make him comfortable. Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or have him lie down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him.”
You know, a nice, cool beverage would be nice after a long day at work, and it would be even more appreciated if my dutiful bride brought it to me on a silver platter. Of course, so would an evening without a wedgie or knuckle sandwich. I think I’ll just go ahead and grab that drink myself.
• “Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soothing and pleasant voice.”
Yeah, nobody that takes off my shoes follows up that action with a “low, soothing and pleasant voice.” It’s more of a gagging sound, followed by a mad rush to an oxygen tank or...
But I digress.
• “Don’t ask him questions about his actions or question his judgement or integrity. Remember, he is the master of the house and as such will always exercise his will with fairness and truthfulness. You have no right to question him.”
I don’t think even June Cleaver would have signed off on this.
• “A good wife knows her place.”
Anybody want this one? I’m just going to get myself in trouble here. Anyone? Hello? Is this thing on?