|photo by Tarah Coonan|
What does it mean to be a good wife?
Unsurprisingly, given that Jon and I have physically been together for only six days out of the 67 since our wedding, I have no idea. To be totally honest, though, it's actually not something I ever thought about until recently. Does that automatically make me a bad wife?
I know that if I asked Jon what would make me a good wife, he'd look at me like I was being foolish. "Being a good wife is the same thing as being a good person," he'd say, "only one who happens to be a woman and married."
That must be too simple. I mean, right? It can't be that easy. So, in earlier drafts of this post, I made it harder, reading traditional Bible passages from wedding ceremonies and delving into Jewish midrashim and exploring evangelical perspectives on Proverbs 31 until I nearly threw my laptop across the room. But none of those things are really relevant to me; my life is too secular. Being a good wife isn't defined for me in relation to God. It's defined in relation to all of the other roles I hold. I'm a wife, yes, but I'm also a daughter and a sister and a friend and a college graduate (and the proud recipient of an MA that required me to parse medieval French on top of studying Latin, for crying out loud) and a fundraiser and a singer and, one day, I hope to also be a mother. That sounds like a lot of things to be, when I write it all out.
I wonder if men feel they they have to juggle all of their identities, too. They don't have any fewer - not the ones I know - but they don't seem to be plagued by the same questions, at least not to the extent that women do. I wonder if they have to ask themselves what they need to do to be good husbands. (I really like Deborah Spar and I do want to read her most recent book, Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection, but I can't imagine men feeling they have to tackle the issue of satisficing.) A few weeks ago, my blog friend Julie published her own "The Good Wife" post; it's what inspired my suggestion that we use the topic as our prompt today. She concluded,
What I’m getting at (if there’s anything to be gotten) is that, to [my husband]: all of these things are just chores to be done... but I feel like there’s some phantom paradigm that I’m not living up to. I’m supposed to be able to handle everything with grace, and more often than not, it’s more: close enough/kind of sweaty.I, too, have felt that phantom since I started thinking about what it means to be a good wife. But again, if I asked Jon if he expected me to be a good wife with grace, he'd laugh, as I bet Julie's husband would. Grace is not my strong suit. He knew that when he proposed to me. He expects me to be a good wife just as I approach every other role I own: making things more complicated than they need to be while simultaneously trying to maintain order and sense with some cursing, a lot of coffee, and all the love in my heart. It would definitely be kind of sweaty, and Jon wouldn't ask for anything more or less.
So maybe it is that simple.
I think I can work with that.
How about you, dear readers?