When Wives Knew Their 'Place'
Ladies: If you make it to the end of this piece, you may want to have scissors and a match handy.
Gents: You may want to fold it into a little, tiny lump, hide it somewhere deep in the recesses of your man-cave, and secretly review it from time to time.
There is a lot of nostalgia surrounding the 1950s. There wasn't much national debt, and just the one teeny concern about nuclear obliteration. It seems like a simpler, much different time.
Just how different was called to my attention recently when I received a copy of a Good Housekeeping article from May 1955. It explained in detail exactly how a wife could maintain a successful marriage. I've always thought those ladies' magazines were pretty silly. Maybe not.
Things to do when hubby comes home (summarized):
Have a delicious dinner ready. This is a way of letting him know you care about him and are concerned about his needs.
Take 15 minutes to primp before he gets there. Put a ribbon in your hair.
Be gay and interesting for him. (Word meanings change over time.)
Gather up clutter and dust tables. (Every day, I suppose.)
Clean up the kids, change their clothes, cause them to be quiet. "They are little treasures."
Greet him with a smile, and show your sincerity in wanting to please him.
Listen to him. Remember, his conversation is more important than yours.
Never complain if he comes home late, or even stays out all night. He may have had a rough day.
Make him comfortable. Hand him a drink. Offer to take off his shoes. Arrange his pillow. Speak in a soothing voice. (If you are allowed to.)
Don't challenge his judgment. You have no right to question him. He is master of the house.
A good wife always knows her place.
I suppose if you wanted to go all the way you could give her a burqa and cut up her driver's license.
In Good Housekeeping's universe, I guess this is how my mother should have greeted my father. Mom missed this article. So, apparently, did all her friends, as did Dad and his pals. This is pure June Cleaver, and even she got in a punchline once in a while.
June's scenario is not happening now for so many reasons. First, it presupposes that hubby is employed and wife is not. These days, anybody who can get employment takes it, and if the Ms. is the breadwinner, then the Mr. had better be the one mixing drinks and fluffing pillows.
Even if '50s working arrangements are in place, several decades' worth of efforts by Gloria Steinem, et al., have eliminated any trace of such wifely attention. Women these days have plenty of ambitions, and being doormats for their spouses isn't one of them. Henry VIII may well have been the last man to be cosseted in the Good Housekeeping manner, and he went through six wives in the process.
These days, women's magazines are filled with a subject that was taboo back in 1955. There is still plenty of advice on pleasing the man in milady's life, but it involves instructions that were only beginning to show up in "Playboy" in the '50s. I know this because I can read the covers while standing in the grocery line, surrounded by other husbands similarly occupied.
Things are probably better this way. Chalk it up to human progress. A good husband always knows his place.
Fred Wolferman lives in Southern Pines. Contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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