Wednesday, May 04, 2011

wifercize wednesday: don'ts for wives

While enjoying an extravagant dinner and witty banter with our friends Ben and Sarah, I found (and read) these two books while in the bathroom.  Correction, I did not read the two books cover to cover.  In fact, I skimmed the first few pages, became uneasy about the amount of time I had been missing from the meal, and took the books with me.

They are now on lend to me to write this special Wifercize Wednesday.

Published in 1913, one would assume (as I did) that these two manuals - conveniently blue and red to yet further distinguish the genders and keep colour sexism alive - would be a laugh.  Outdated misogynistic advice written by an opinionated man who desired to put his wife in order and thought it prudent to write a companion edition for husbands to keep the peace.

The author of both books is, in fact, a woman by the name of Blanche Ebbutt.  In prefaces she writes in both volumes, she appeals to each sex in turn.  To the wives: "I hope she [the average wife] may find it worthwhile to take a few hints from an old hand."  To the husbands: "You are neither as bad nor as good a fellow as you imagine yourself to be...  As for men- well, I have a husband myself!"

I wish I could take the time to write out all my favourites from both books but, as they are only 73 tiny pages each, it would basically mean a re-write and you'd be better off buying them for yourself.  Instead, I'll post some of the best from each category to whet your appetites.  Wives, take note.

Don't expect your husband to have all the feminine virtues as well as all the masculine ones.  There would be nothing left for you if your other half were such a paragon.
Don't put on airs with your husband.   If you can't be natural with him, you shouldn't have married him.
Don't let your husband feel that you are a 'dear little woman', but no good intellectually.  If you find yourself getting stale, wake up your brain.  Let there be nothing your husband can talk about that you will be unable to understand.  
Don't say, 'I told you so,' to your husband, however much you feel tempted to.  It does no good, and he will be grateful to you for not saying it.
Don't keep your sweetest smiles and your best manners for outsiders; let your husband come first.
Don't snub your husband.  Nothing is more unpleasant for lookers-on than to hear a snub administered by a wife, and it is more than unpleasant for the husband; it is degrading. 
Don't check your husband's high spirits.  Let him sing a the top of his voice in the bathroom, or whistle out of tune on the stairs, and be thankful for a cheerful man about the house.
Don't think it beneath you to put your husband's slippers ready for him.  On a cold evening, especially, it makes all the difference to his comfort if the soles are warmed through.
Don't expect to begin where your parents left off.  A little struggle in your early married life won't hurt you.
Don't have any secrets from your husband in financial matters.  Complete confidence is best.  Don't let him have any financial secrets from you.  You are partners, and you have as much right to know what is the balance at the bank as he has.
Don't confuse stinginess with economy.  You can be careful without being mean. 
Don't omit the kiss of greeting.  It cheers a man when he is tired to feel that his wife is glad to see him home.
Don't get the idea that all your husband wants is a housekeeper, or a decorative head of the table.  He wants a companion and when he is at home he doesn't want you to be always somewhere else. 
Don't try to excite your husband's jealousy by flirting with other men.  You may succeed better than you want to.  It is like playing with tigers and edged tools and volcanoes all in one.
Don't be jealous, anyway.  It belittles you, puts you at a disadvantage, and, if your husband thinks about it, is apt to make him unbearably conceited.  Nothing makes you look old and worn sooner than jealousy, and nothing makes you more ridiculous. 
Don't forget the anniversary of your wedding.  Keep it up.  The little celebration will draw you closer together year by year.
Don't be afraid to rough it now and then with your husband as a companion.  If he feels that he would like a week's walking tour with you as a chum, don't object that it may rain, or that you haven't a suitable dress, or that you can't manage for a week with nothing in the way of luggage except a nightdress and a tooth-brush.  Enter into the spirit of the thing, and you'll get quite as much fun out of it as he will, and be happier than if he accompanied you to some fashionable resort where you would need to dress three or four times a day.
Don't forget to 'feed the brute' well.  Much depends on the state of his digestion.
Don't impose your ideas on your husband in matters of individual taste so long as his style is not bad.  He has a right to his own views.
Don't reject your husband's advice on matters of dress without good reason.  Many men have excellent taste and original ideas on the subject.
Don't refuse to entertain your husband's friends on the ground that it is a 'bother'.  Nothing pains a man more than finding only a cold welcome when he brings home a chum.
Don't try to 'amuse' your guest every minute of the day.  If they feel thoroughly at home, the amusement will come naturally.  Don't forget to have books in every room.
 Don't refuse to entertain at all because you can't do it on the same scale as your neighbours.  The 'jolly little party' is generally preferred to the starchy reception. 

1 comment:

Matt said...

Okay. I might have read both books when I housesat for you guys...
They're awesome!