By Charlotte Goodsir
When my grandmother died she left me a treasure trove of reading material. From first edition classics, to some that were supposed to resemble soft porn. However my favourite book was a “How to” guide, a pocket sized book from the 1950’s with several pictures on “How to be the perfect housewife”. Here is what I’ve learnt.
Seriously. These are the first four commandments in the book:
“-Don’t bother your husband with petty troubles and complaints when he comes home from work.
– Be a good listener. Let him tell you his troubles; yours will seem trivial in comparison.
– Remember your most important job is to build up and maintain his ego (which gets bruised plenty in business). Morale is a woman’s business.
– Let him relax before dinner. Discuss family problems after the inner man has been satisfied.”
Of course, no female could have a mind of her own. Opinions? You must be joking! Silence is golden. The best girls are seen and not heard. All helpful suggestions to keep your marriage sweet and dandy: Did Mary from across the street win best cake at the village fete? Did little Timmy try to drown a puppy? Well, harden up and drink some concrete because you can’t say anything about it.
Bad cooking will make your husband go to strip clubs
If you missed the rational train of thought here, don’t worry, there is none. Literally, none.
“Bad cooking is responsible for dyspepsia, dyspepsia is responsible for grouchiness and irritability, grouchiness and irritability lead to quarrels and squabbles. And bad cooking, which is the usual thing in the average American home, has been responsible as much as any other factor for driving the husband to the saloon, and to other places. And when she does cook, she should cook, and not be, as somebody said, a mere can opener.”
Don’t be a sexual vampire or a frigid Franny.
If by now you are thinking, “Can a perfect wife even exist?” No, probably not. Here is further proof that this is an unreachable fantasy.
“Just as the vampire sucks the blood of its victims in their sleep while they are alive, so does the woman vampire suck the life and exhaust the vitality of her male partner—or “victim.”
It is to be borne in mind that it is particularly older girls—girls between thirty and fifty—who are apt to be unreasonable in their demands when they get married; but no age is exempt; sexual vampires may be found among girls of twenty as well as among women of sixty and over.”
Everyone else is, yup you guessed it, a “frigid Franny”. It seems that there is no acceptable way to show one’s sexuality; even now it seems farfetched to imagine a girl having sexual desires without being coined a slut or whore, or even worse, a feminist.
Probably my favourite part of the guide was the side note of undergarments. Now, you may think that your Bonds are sufficient. I mean, if you get to the point of taking them off it doesn’t matter what colour they are; they all look the same on your bedroom floor. I was obviously wrong.
“That the underwear should be spotlessly clean goes without saying, but every woman should wear the best quality underwear that she can afford. And the colour should be preferably pink. And lace and ruffles, I am sorry to say, add to the attractiveness of underwear, and are liked by the average man.”
I read this guide and took a trip through time. Grandma dearest passed down none of these tactics whilst she was alive, but rather taught me how to touch type, a skill for the modern woman. It was a mere 60 years ago and yet, most of this gutter trash is still seen as a rough guide for how women should act today. Unfortunate as it is, these ideals of so-called “perfection” are so ingrained in our society that we are forced to abide by these once rules, now suggestions. Although change is happening (slowly but surely), we are a long way off equality, and there is no amount of baked dinners I, or a male counterpart can cook to solve it.