I was standing by the sink in my kitchen the other day drinking a cold glass of water on a hot evening when my wife put a piece of paper on the counter in front of me and said "Read this. You'll find it funny."
So I looked down and began to read, as instructed.
It was an email attachment which contained an article from a 1955 issue of Housekeeping Monthly and it was entitled "The good wife's guide." A drawing on the page showed a woman in a nice dress and an apron greeting her husband who is in a suit with his newspaper under his arm and two sweet children (the typical older boy and his little sister) standing as if in a fairy tale right by their dad greeting him as he comes in the door.
The article explained what women should do to be good wives. But judging it in retrospect, it is hard for me to believe that anyone ever followed that guide, nor that anyone ever wrote it in the first place.
In 1955 I was only three years old, but I can tell you if my mother had read that even then, I think she would have hit the ceiling. Nonetheless, as I read it I began to have visions of a mans world, with the womens liberation movement 10 years out and a kind of simplicity that we rarely see today.
"Some of these ideas aren't too bad," I said to my wife as I read.
She looked at me and shook her head.
"Maybe I shouldn't have let you see that," she said in a determined tone.
As I looked at it I began to read some of the points of being a good wife out loud, which I am sure fell upon deaf ears (or distant ears because by that time she had gone to the television room to block out my smirking rendition of what the article said).
Here are some of the "finer" points the article listed.
Have dinner ready. Plan ahead, even the night before to have a delicious meal ready, on time for his return. Sounds like the guy in the photo was off to war or something.
Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so you'll be refreshed when he arrives. The article also states, besides having dinner ready, the wife should wash the childrens faces and change their clothes if necessary to make them presentable, to pick up around the house and to dust before he comes home so he will be happy. It also says that she should look good. All I want to know is when the 15 minutes of rest comes in.
It also suggests during cold weather to have a fire going in the fire place, to give him a haven of rest after a long and boring day at work. Yeah, as if her day was a trip to a luxury resort. But it does note that "catering for his comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction."
Now one of the really good lines from the article. It tells women that they should listen to him. And it also tells them that they should refrain from complaining about their day or the events because "his topics of conversation are more important than yours." I won't even touch that one with a 10 foot pole.
Paraphrasing the next few lines of the piece are easy. Let him do what he wants, when he wants, where ever he wants. The article says that wives should never "complain if he's late for dinner or stays out all night" without her knowing where he is. It goes on to says that wives should consider this "as minor compared to what he might have gone through that day." On what planet was the person who wrote this born?
Finally comes the piece de resistance of the article. It says that wife shouldn't "ask him questions about his actions or question his judgment" and that "A good wife knows her place."
As I finished reading the article, my wife, who had come back into the room, asked me what I thought. I mulled my answer around for more than a few seconds in my small cranium. While coming up with an answer to her question, I also had to judge how much trouble I could get myself in by the answer with which I would respond.
"I kind of liked it," I said. She got this look on her face, but I was determined to go on. "I vote we go back to 1955."
She was kind and didn't ban me to sleep out in the trailer that night. But I well could have ended up there had I not saved grace by saying, "I'll bet a man wrote that."