Saturday, March 14, 2009

How to be a Good Wife

An excerpt from a 1950's High School Home Economics textbook:

Have dinner ready. Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal--on time. This is a way of letting him know that you have been thinking about him and are concerned about his needs. Most men are hungry when they come home and prospect of a good meal is part of the warm welcome needed.

Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so that you'll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your makeup, 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. His boring day might need a lift too.

Prepare the children. Take a few minutes to wash the children's hands and face. If they are small, comb their hair, and if necessary change their clothes. They are little treasures and he would like to see them playing the part.

Minimize all noise. At the time of his arrival eliminate all noise of the washer, dryer, dishwasher, or vacuum. Try to encourage the children to be quiet. Be happy to see him, greet him with a mile and be glad to see him.

Some don'ts. Don't greet him with problems or complaints. Don't complain if he's late for dinner. Count this as minor compared to what he might have gone through that day. Make him comfortable. Have him sit back in a comfortable chair or suggest he like down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him. Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soft, soothing and pleasant voice. Allow him to relax and unwind.

Listen to him. You may have a dozen things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first.

Make the evening his. Never complain if he does not take you out to dinner or to other places of entertainment. Instead try to understand his world of strain and pressures, his need to be home and relax.

THE GOAL: Try to make your home a place of peace and order where your husband can renew himself in body and spirit.
I was a senior in high school in 1951. I may have read the above text. If I had I would have thought it was very good. As I read it now, I don't know whether to laugh or to cry! It seems incredible that we believed such drivel. And allowed it to be taught in our schools. Now, almost 60 years later, I cannot imagine that I could ever be so naive!

I was married in 1954, dropping out of my senior year in college because my husband was a lieutenant in the Army and was moving to Ft. Lewis, Washington. I was in my senior year at Oklahoma University and I wanted to be with him. It seemed reasonable and even my parents, who very much wanted their only child to have an education, agreed. We went to Ft. Lewis and I tried to be a good wife--a good Army wife.

I tried. I really tried. I tried to meet all the unreasonable expectations. But, after four children, the vacuum cleaner seemed to be left in the middle of the dining room or wherever I was interrupted. The washer, dryer, and dishwasher (when we could afford to buy them) seemed to run at all times. I don't think I ever suggested that he lie down or arranged his pillow or offered to take his shoes off. I was usually somewhat frazzled by the time he arrived. I was not good at some things but very good at others. I was a very good cook and a very gracious hostess and, I hope, a good Mother. I just never seemed to conquer the clutter!

I could write a treatise in response to this textbook but not on this blog! Suffice it to say that Betty Friedan's book "The Feminine Mystique" was published and slowly things began to change. I became a feminist and went back to school, earning my degree and a Master's degree twenty years later. I marched in the demonstration in Washington, D.C. for passage of the Equal Right's Amendment.

I have come a long way. A very long way. I am amazed at how much has changed. The many opportunities that women have today.

"The battle for women's rights has been largely won." Margaret Thatcher

Thursday, March 12, 2009

As I Grow Old

As I grow old I want to have a face etched with the experiences of my youth, my young adult years, my middle age and the lines of aging. I want my face to reflect all the places I’ve been, all the things I’ve done, all the people I’ve known, all the smiles and tears of a lifetime.

I don’t want to plump my face with botox and erase all the evidence of living. As if I’ve lived in an eternal state of youth, not having known the joys and sorrows of adulthood and the wisdom of age.

I want my hands to reflect the diapers I’ve changed and the cookies I’ve baked and the laundry I’ve done. The hands I’ve held in love and the hands that have reached out to others.

Age is not the end of life, it is the fulfillment of life. And all the signs of aging, some of which are not pleasant, are there to remind me of the life I’ve lived, the people I’ve loved.

I want people to know that I’m 75. I don’t want them to exclaim, “How young you look!” I want them to notice the lines and express that I’m still living my life to the fullest. And I want my history reflected in my face.

Grow old with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made:
Our times are in his hand
Who sayeth "a whole I plant,
Youth shows but half;
Trust God; see all nor be afraid."

Robert Browning

Monday, March 9, 2009

Reality TV

“I don’t know how many of you watch the ‘reality’ TV shows,” the priest began her sermon yesterday. The theme of the sermon was “God loves you too much to leave you alone,” based on the scriptures for the second Sunday in Lent.

She envisioned Sarah and Abraham, from the first reading, as contestants on a reality show. At 100 (Abraham) and 90 (Sarah) years of age, God promises them the birth of a child and tells them that their offspring will be as numerous as the stars. Sarah laughs at the very
thought of enjoying pleasure with Abraham again. God tells them to name the child Isaac. He makes a covenant with them, promising that they will be the grandparents of Kings and multitudes.

This is the passage, one of my personal favorites, which led me to use the name of “Sarah” for this blog. It is about a very old woman who gives birth at a very advanced age. “God loves us too much to leave us alone.” There are many ways of “giving birth.” Nearly all endeavors lead to something new coming forth and being “born.”

The sermon went on to other “contestants” and the phrase, repeated several times, that God loves us too much to leave us alone, evoked many thoughts. The first being laughter and that I wasn’t at all sure that I wanted God to get involved! I just want to be left alone to do my thing, which nowadays includes too much TV time and napping. The last time I felt called by God to do something, led to a great disappointment and being told that I was “too old.” I haven’t yet resolved completely my profound sense of loss. Then a year and a half ago I had a small stroke, reminding me that I was not in control.

I may not ever be called to do anything memorable. Perhaps God is calling me to be the best I can be and to do the best I can do in however many years I have remaining. Perhaps God will continue to nudge me and perhaps I will continue to respond, “Who do you think you’re nudging?” But I suspect that Reverend Karen Ann Campbell is right. God loves me too much to leave me alone.

Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16,
Psalm 22:22-30,
Romans 4:13-25
Mark 8:31-38