Monday, October 23, 2006

How Far We've Come

A friend just emailed me an article supposedly* from a 1955 issue of Housekeeping Monthly entitled "The Good Wife's Guide," all about receiving your man at the end of his hard work day. Among the tidbits of wisdom this "Guide" offers:

"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 may have gone through that day."

"Don't ask him questions about his actions or question his judgment 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 could quote the whole outrageous article, but instead I'll let you see it for yourself.

To think, this was not outrageous fifty years ago, and fifty years is not so very long. But how much have things changed, truly? Look at women's magazines today. Okay, so they're a lot more sexually explicit, but still, chock full of prescriptions for man-pleasing. Not that there's anything wrong with man-pleasing (there is real pleasure in bringing smiles to the faces of loved ones), but where are the magazines about our own pleasures and interests, outside of the gym, kitchen, and bedroom, that is? And where are the men's magazines all about how to please a woman? The choices we see at the checkout stand are there because we haven't demanded otherwise, and because those are the ones we buy. We buy them because we still haven't quite figured out that we are completely fine and absolutely gorgeous without any affectations at all: free of makeup, speaking our moody truth, possibly even with all our body hair intact, and god forbid, wearing comfortable shoes. Also, let's face it, men in general are yet to fully engage in the joys of nurturing. It's a learned pleasure, and a lot of them never learned it.

But this isn't about blaming men for their shortcomings or ourselves for our insecurities, nor is it about blaming our parents. The atmosphere that they grew up in influenced the people they became, the way they raised us. Not just our mothers, but our fathers too. Just think of the pressure men must have felt to always know best, and how that pressure got passed along, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. Is it any wonder that men still have so much trouble asking for help?

And no wonder women (me absolutely included) still struggle to remember that our comfort and happiness matters just as much as everyone else's.

The good news is, not many of us these days would agree that we shouldn't question our spouses when they stay out all night. (I, personally, told mine he better f-ing start talking, and then when he admitted what he'd been up to, I promptly divorced him.) It's a start.

Maybe we should sock away some of today's women's magazines, so that fifty years from now we can open them again and see how truly outrageous they are, and reflect, with amazement and pride, on how far we've come.

*I edited this entry to include the word "supposedly" because it has been brought to my attention that this article is likely a fake, an exaggeration of the truth of those times. (Thank you Lisa). My point remains basically applicable, however, so I've left the rest of my post unchanged. But I've learned my lesson: double-check my sources. Sorry about that. For more info, check this out.

2 comments:

Lisa said...

Hate to tell you, but this article has been determined to be a fake. Not that some of the statements aren't what women were told at the time, but it's been exaggerated for effect.
See http://www.snopes.com/language/document/goodwife.asp

Anonymous said...

In any event. I have some good news for you. Myself and three friends had a challege to follow the "rules", not tell husbands and see what would happen. All husbands became visible disturbed wihtin one day and by day three were annoyed, scared and/or bored. After cluing them in on our experiment, we were made promise to naver be that dull, vapid and creepy ever again.