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