Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Was it really all that bad?


This last weekend our stake held a 50s dance. I was hesitant to go because I'm not really much of a dancer (in public that is--I shake my groove thang in the privacy of my own house thank you very much). We did go and it was actually a lot of fun. We didn't dance a single song, but hung out with the other wallflowers and chatted.

Then, today I received a forward titled "The Good Wife's Guide" which was published in Housekeeping Monthly May 13, 1955. I'm sure you've all seen this before. It shows a woman cooking at a stove with her husband just arrived home from work and features such advice as:

  • 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.

  • Be a little gay and a little more interesting for him. His boring day may need a lift and it is one of your duties to provide it.

  • Be happy to see him.

  • Listen to him. You may have 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.

  • Your goal: Try to make sure your home is a place of peace, order and tranquility where your husband can renew himself in body and spirit.

  • Arrange his pillow and offer to take his shoes. Speak in a low, soothing and pleasant voice.

  • A good wife always knows her place.


This is in no way the entire list, but you can view it here. I realize some of these terms are a bit archaic and some of the practices antiquated (although I'm certainly no fashionista--maybe there are a bevy of you out there sporting beautiful bows in your hair--who am I to judge you?).
Usually my first reaction to stuff like this is, "Puh-leez. (That's "please" for those of you who don't spell in jive.) I have had a terrible, much worse and trying day than my husband. If anyone should be performing the aforementioned tasks, I would think he should be helping me to relax!" And, I'm sure there are days where that is true, but I have to wonder back to the date of publication for this text--1950s.
No, I wasn't around, but I've seen photos and movies from that era. I heard the average man only worked 40 hours a week. Do you believe it? I've heard most women thought it was a noble profession to be at home with their children to nuture and love them. There was no obesity epidemic raging through the US because people were eating fast food and other fatty treats instead of healthy meals. It was a big deal to be "going steady" with your high school sweetheart. The songs on the radio spoke of an innocent and tender love instead of treating women like objects and talking of intimacy with no boundaries.
You know, we think we've come so far, but have we really? In some ways we have, but certainly in other ways our ideas of progress have not benefitted anyone. This article for instance, we like to look at it and laugh and think, "Oh brother. As if a woman should HAVE to do that for her husband these days." Isn't that where our thinking has strayed? The idea that there is an obligation instead of a willingness to love our spouse. I can't tell you how many emails I've received that make fun of men and show the obvious superior intelligence of women. Sometimes I do chuckle, but more often than not lately, I've begun to try and change my view and think, "How would I feel if this was a foward my husband had received about how stupid I was as a woman?" Not so funny then.
I'm not one to say we women need to stay in the kitchen and keep our mouths shut and live in the shadows of our spouses. On the contrary, a good husband will allow his wife to shine because he doesn't feel threatened or intimidated by her in the least. At least that's how my husband makes me feel. I have my talents and he has his and together we're so much better than we could ever be separately.
So, next time I think how hard my day has been or how much more I do around the house than he does or how unfair it is that he gets to leave this difficult business of caring for the children to me, I'm going to try and remember this quote that I need to remind myself of more often:
"I am satisfied that a happy marriage is not so much a matter of romance as it is an anxious concern for the comfort and well-being of one’s companion.
Selfishness so often is the basis of money problems, which are a very serious and real factor affecting the stability of family life. Selfishness is at the root of adultery, the breaking of solemn and sacred covenants to satisfy selfish lust. Selfishness is the antithesis of love. It is a cankering expression of greed. It destroys self-discipline. It obliterates loyalty. It tears up sacred covenants. It afflicts both men and women.
Too many who come to marriage have been coddled and spoiled and somehow led to feel that everything must be precisely right at all times, that life is a series of entertainments, that appetites are to be satisfied without regard to principle. How tragic the consequences of such hollow and unreasonable thinking!" Gordon B. Hinckley, May 1991

21 comments:

Minharos said...

I love that list. When I got married someone gave me a cookbook that their church put together and it had that list at the beginning. I was a bit offended, and have yet to make any of those recipes. I still think the list is terrible, but the general quality of life sounds pretty great. My friend and I have recently been discussing the idea of ladies who lunch and we're terribly jealous. I wouldn't mind going back to those days.

rachel said...

What an awesome point of view you have. I am really intrigued by the fifties myself and have a whole collection of movies from the time. I never realized until now why I was so obscessed with the time period. A time where family really did come first. There wasn't a need for the proclamation because it was the norm. . . husband and wife . . recreational activities with their children. Thanks again for the pep talk. Girl, someday ya oughta write a book.

mmhamblin said...

I agree with you. I do feel bad for women in those days who weren't blessed with wonderful husbands. They didn't have many options other than to stick it out and pretned to be happy. The one on the list that really bothered me was "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." What could he have possibly gone through that would warrent him being out all night? I think alot probably went on behind closed doors that nobody really talked about. Women those days probably put up with alot more than they should have had to. I do think some things about that time were ideal. And it was probably ideal for most families who didn't have bum husbands and fathers!

Kylie said...

Interesting. It reminds me of a pact Dean and I had to make a few weeks ago. We had to agree to not assume that one person had a worse day than the other. Otherwise we just keep playing the victim and getting more mad that the other person isn't being more attentive. I think thats the key to marriage, both people putting the needs of the other first. Its easier said than done, though.

Jess said...

I am FAR from perfect in this realm, of course, but every time someone passes this list on to me with an aire of "oh, how quaint and stupid were these women of the '50's," I am IRATE. Boy, we stay-at-home-Moms sure are martyrs, aren't we? God forbid we should recognize that our husband had a rough day; instead, we selfishly get to claim that our lives are those requiring bolstering, attention, and relief. (I love that you get it, by the way, Audrey, and every time you compliment me on my writing, all I can do is turn around and say "WOW!) Ever read "The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands"? I think Dr. Laura is often just a little too direct, (though most of the time I LOVE that about her,) but that book for me was a life-changer...and is every time I reread it. Based on that, there is not one single thing on the ORIGINAL list that I disagree with...even the bit about complaining if he comes home late for dinner, or stays out all night. (If we weren't Mormons, I think I'd encourage my husband to go get tanked on a weekend night with some buddies at ESPN Zone. Seriously. After an 80 hour week, sometimes I'm tempted to encourage it even though we ARE Mormon!) And don't get me wrong...the '50's were not the ideal decade, (they just didn't talk about all the stuff going in behind the curtain; my mother's family was living proof,) but I'm glad that they at least still HAD taboos. (Coming from me, that sounds strange, doesn't it? Yeah, I know...a girl can change a lot in 5 years' time.) Anyway, thanks for this, particularly the final Hinckley quote. You (and he) are exactly right: it all comes down to whether we decide to be selfish, or, like your friend said, put the man we love more than anything or anyone else ahead of ourselves. Though I don't always choose the latter, like I should, reminders like these make the choice easier, and at the forefront of my mind. Thank you.

DKAZ said...

They should just stick my face on that girl with the beautiful plaid apron. Of course in the 50's was there even interracial marriage?
I agree with you A.
I think what is happening politically is a perfect example of attitude of our society. It seems that people don't know what they want. We've become a society of instant gratification and entitlements. No more working hard for anything, just give it all to me-NOW! I see it everyday.
It's really sad that people don't understand the simplicity of sacrifice and hard work anymore. It's hard to know of the satisfaction you can get from really putting someone else's needs before your own. That's why I think Bill Clinton is just so amazing...I know it's all about Hillary and not him at all. Maybe his face should be stuck on the lady with the apron.

Lacey said...

Love the quote by President Hinckley. Male or Female, if we choose to make our spouses happy, our marriage and home will be better!

Lara said...

Loved reading your thoughts on this. I've laughed at that email before, and I'm grateful things aren't exactly that way, but I also see society crumbling around us because of selfishness.

I love President Hinckley's quote there...Joel had up on our bulletin board for a long time "the secret to happy marriage is an anxious concern..." (or however it goes). It's so true, and that's possibly what women in the 50s had figured out that we are missing.

Cuddlydoll said...

I am so glad that you wrote this. The first time I saw this list I did not have the same reaction as everyone else. What is wrong with being happy to see your husband when he gets home and letting him know that. What is wrong with wanting to get a little rest and dressed up before he comes home. It may not be a bow in the hair but maybe wiping the snot of your shirt is a good step to take. Obviously some of the language and suggestions are ant antiquated but I think the message is really well summed up in the Pres. Hinckley quote. Treat eachother with love and respect and be more concerned about your partner. However that does have to run both ways. I hope my husband would want to tuck in his shirt before he comes in the door because he still wants to look good for me. Wouldn't it be nice to have him ask me how my day was in soothing tones instead of blustering in complaining about his. I'm not saying Scott doesn't do these things.

I had a discussion similar to this with my mom regarding the backlash after Sis. Beck's talk in conference. There were women who were offended by her "Women who know" talk. I thought it was inspiring.

Mariley Johnson said...

well said. Should I say more?

JLJ said...

BTW - My husband receives emails poking fun at women all the time. They do exist. My favorite one shows two pictures. The first one is titled "Man" and the picture is of a switchboard with one simple switch. The next one is titled "Woman" and it shows a switchboard with hundreds of switches, buttons, dials and lights. My description doesn't do it justice. But that is something that I can laugh at.

The Schneider Family said...

All I have to say is, girl you can write! I always love reading your post. They make me think!

Ruth Petersen said...

Thanks for the reminders. Your post was inspiring and the timing perfect for Valentines. Did you read the NYTs article on the weekly date? I also really liked the world wide training. It was neat to hear 3 outstanding woman share their in site . Marriage is work. Love is an
action word. Our eternal happiness depends on how we do here and now showing charity to those closest to us day in and day out in small smiple ways.

Zim Family said...

Your posts are so completely intriguing. I find it interesting that for ever big step women take, we take two small steps back. My life would suck without my hard-working husband. He deserves all the love and time and attention I can muster....and I can never muster enough. I just always try to remember that there is no success in a 50/50 relationship, so there is no sense in keeping socre. We each have to give 100%. I love that.

wackywilsons said...

I just got caught up with your last two blogs...I should feel priviledged that you Tagged me out of all your 1000 friends! I will get right on it:)

I loved this last blog...you are hilarious with your points of views, and so creative to blog an idea like this...back to the 1950's. I had read this email before, but it is always good to get other points of views...and oh how times have changed! Thanks goodness!

Spencer said...

Look it all started going down hill as soon as that first jerk started making "women's shoes." I mean come on. Who needs shoes when you should be standing on linoleum all day?

Julie said...

Audrey... I loved looking through your posts. Adrienne pointed me in your direction. I appreciated your point-of-view in this post. The number of commercials on TV depicting the patient and long-suffering wife who puts up with her oaf of a husband have been bugging me for a long time. Each person in the family fulfills different responsibilities, and each should be respected and admired for the sacrifices he or she makes. I look forward to reading more, and if you happen to stop by my blog, don't be surprised if I've swiped your super-cute bookshelf! :)

Heather said...

Thanks for the post. I don't think I have anything spectacular to add..but thanks for ending with an awesome quote and reminding me that I need to be better!!

luke & misty meldrum family said...

Sorry I don't really blog for the tag purpose. I like to just let my friends and family know what is going on in our lives, but thanks for thinking of me. Misty

JenW said...

well said. well said. we need to get back to some of those values we seem to have left behind in pursuit of "equality" for women. helpmeet...that's what we are supposed to be to each other...so what's wrong with helping?

Bethany said...

I sometimes like to play that 1950's feminine role. I try to give my hubby a kiss, a break, dinner, and a well-groomed wife when he comes home from work. I'd even rub his feet if he let me...

That being said, I expect the same sort of servitude from him. We both need to give each other our all. It's not about gender roles, its about unselfishness.