As I look back on my life, I realize that one of the biggest misconceptions I had when I was younger was that wives actually existed. Like many men, I learned the hard way that they do not, and now I realize I’d simply been scammed. Far too many men have fallen victim to this con, and it’s about time that we put some effort into eliminating it.
First, what is a wife? As many of us see it, a wife is a female who partners with a man and provides intimacy and support, and who contributes to the well-being of a family. Above all else, she is devoted to the family, and will sacrifice time, effort and even desire to hold it together. In short, she is the complementary image of a husband, with whom she cooperates in furtherance of this family ideal.
Such a naďve, flawed view of contemporary women came from a general lack of understanding about what they are, and ultimately from a projection of our own masculine attitudes about what is good and desirable in this world. This is why so many of us, as young men, had such a difficult time understanding why weddings are so important to women; to us the wedding was simply the gateway to this idealized world of the family — it was just a first step, a beginning.
For women, a wedding is not a beginning, but an end. It is a culmination of years of longing and preparation to be a bride, and marks a triumph and achievement. To understand this from a masculine perspective, think of the athlete who spends years training, dreaming and striving for victory. After all those years of struggle and discipline, practice and sweat, he finally gets the chance to compete in a stadium full of spectators. If he is the victor, he stands on the podium in front of the crowd, and is given his medal to his national anthem. This is a very emotional experience for many athletes, and a great joy. The bride standing at the altar is experiencing the same thing. It is her triumph — her wreath of laurels.
Little breeds a sense of entitlement more than victory, so marriage is tainted from the beginning by this triumphal celebration of the bride. Therefore, Western women go into marriage not as a wife, but as a conqueror. After that, to ask her to submit to – or even cooperate with – her husband would be akin to asking the triumphant athlete to resign himself to working the same dull, boring jobs his friends who never made the cut had to settle for. Some athletes may have the humility and grace to accept such a life without regret and bitterness, but obviously many will not.
But it doesn’t start there. Wives are made, not born. Just as a wild mustang colt must be broken to the saddle, so must a woman be broken to wifely duties from childhood. And how is the woman-child made into a wife? Traditionally, methods varied by class, but what they all had in common was that she was put to work or kept very busy from a young age. A farmer’s daughter would milk the cows, help her mother in the kitchen, sweep, sew, mend and tend the fire. Often, she would look after her younger siblings as well. Both her mother and father would hold her to her duties and warn her against vanity and daydreaming.
One might think that the daughters of the wealthy were spared such a regimen, but they had other matters to attend to. Thomas Jefferson, for example, outlined a very specific (and very busy) program for his 11-year-old daughter:
With respect to the distribution of your time, the following is what I should approve:
From 8. to 10. o’clock practise music.
From 10. to 1. dance one day and draw another.
From 1. to 2. draw on the day you dance, and write a letter next day.
From 3. to 4. read French.
From 4. to 5. exercise yourself in music.
From 5. till bedtime, read English, write, &c.
Not only did he make sure to occupy her time as fully as possible, he demanded regular updates as well:
I expect you will write me by every post. Inform me what books you read, what tunes you learn, and inclose me your best copy of every lesson in drawing. Write also one letter a week either to your Aunt Eppes, your Aunt Skipworth, your Aunt Carr, or the little lady from whom I now enclose a letter. . . . Take care that you never spell a word wrong. Always before you write a word, consider how it is spelt, and, if you do not remember it, turn to a dictionary. It produces great praise to a lady to spell well…
In addition to all these duties, he inculcated a sense of propriety, or, one might even say, shame:
A lady who has been seen as a sloven or slut in the morning will never efface the impression she has made, with all dress and pageantry she can afterwards involve herself in…
I do not wish you to be gayly clothed at this time of your life, but that what you wear should be fine of its kind; but above all things, and all times let your clothes be clean, whole, and properly put on…Nothing is so disgusting to our sex as a want of cleanliness and delicacy in yours.
Looks pretty harsh, doesn’t it? In fact, these letters have been taken as proof of Jefferson’s misogyny, but it may simply be that Jefferson, a very prolific letter writer, was raising his daughters according to norms of the time. Rather than being exceptionally strict, I suspect he was simply exceptionally prolific in his written correspondence, and when modern women read the reality of the time they are horrified because they can’t possibly imagine what hell it must have been to be female before being spoiled became a “right.”
It wasn’t any better for contemporaneous Virginian men, who were subjected to a great deal more physical brutality than women, and expected to sacrifice their very lives on principles of honor. Minor infractions such as soldiers filching an extra few drams of whiskey were punishable by brutal lashings, and insults often occasioned fatal duels. They were different times — times most of us are happy to leave in the past.
Perhaps women raised before the 1950s – women whose parents would have been strongly affected by Depression-era values – were still raised to be wives, but after postwar prosperity took hold the inclination waned. It was seen as unnecessary cruelty to treat girls in that manner, and while boys, whose fathers were often psychologically (and sometimes physically) scarred war veterans, still took a drubbing for some time, the natural human tendency to indulge children, and girls in particular, took hold. By the 1970s, only a few fundamentalist Christians and Orthodox Jews were still raising their daughters to be proper wives, but these women are generally off-limits for your typical secular or lightly religious Westerner. That may be for the best, because I doubt your typical Western man would know how to handle a wife any better than he knows how to ride a horse.
However, despite the dramatic changes in society, the idea of the “wife” still persists. Although we know that the cowboy on horseback is largely a thing of the past, most of his duties replaced by trucks, feed lots and barbed wire, we still persist in this notion that there is such a thing as a wife, that they are all around us, and that they can be found easily, attracted by shining amulets of crystalline carbon, whereupon they begin magically cleaning house, preparing meals and producing children.
If someone were to tell young men that with a little pixie dust they could fly like Tinkerbell, they could hardly be making a more absurd statement than in telling them that a contemporary Western woman will, upon marriage, become a helpful, cooperative and cheerful wife, but I suppose hope springs eternal.
One could say that part of the blame lies with the amulet and dream dealers – the media and corporations who profit from the marriage industry – but that would be to miss the big picture; these people are simply taking advantage of a demand, like all businessmen. In fact, what they sell tends to reflect rather than influence society. Take two Disney movies for example: Snow White and Cinderella.
With a couple of small children under my wing, I’ve had a lot of time to catch up on old Disney movies, and they speak volumes about the times they were produced.
Snow White was released in 1937, during the Great Depression. She is a modest, but cheerful young beauty who hides when she first sees the prince. Menaced and nearly assassinated on the orders of her wicked queen stepmother, a powerful, aggressive seductress, witch and prototypical feminist who hates Snow White for her kind, tender ways and youthful beauty, she flees into the forest, where she finds the hard-working dwarves, who are bachelor miners. Needing some protection she endears herself to the little men by cheerfully cleaning, cooking, baking pies, singing, dancing, etc. Finally, she wins over even Grumpy Dwarf, the Ur MGTOW who has little use for women. Much adventure ensues, in which she is poisoned by the feminist queen, who is subsequently chased to her doom by the furious dwarves. Sad to lose their pretty little helpmeet, the dwarves construct a glass coffin so that her beauty will not be hidden, and her prince finally finds her and awakens her from her slumber with a kiss, upon which they leave to presumably go on to become husband and wife. Note that there is no wedding in the movie.
Snow White, a girl who cheerfully cooks and cleans for short, stout and bald working men and brings some feminine grace and genuine kindness into the mix as well is an example of the old ideal wife. Not every man would get a Snow White, but he could at least expect that women aspired to be somewhat like her as wives and, most importantly, were expected to be so.
Just 13 years later, after the war that changed everything, Disney released another fairytale movie: Cinderella. Like Snow White, Cinderella was the victim of a cruel stepmother who forced her to work as a maid, but her attitude shows a marked difference. Not only does she bitch and moan about housework, she even indulges the household pests, bringing them food and protecting them from the cat.
The plot in Cinderella revolves around a royal ball in which the prince must choose a wife at the insistence of his father. The ball therefore represents female competition along the lines of the modern mating ritual, where females deck themselves out in all manner of finery and compete for the alpha male’s attention. Again, here is another departure from Snow White. Rather than the modest, bashful young princess waiting for a prince to sweep her away, we have a horde of women descending on a giant dance floor competing for the prize, a desirable male who is reluctant to commit. It’s a scene one can see today in clubs in big cities.
After a catfight and some subsequent hocus pocus, Cinderella emerges victorious in the contest to win the prince’s affection, and the king tracks her down by means of one of the high-heeled shoes she left behind. A fabulous wedding in a palace ensues, and the movie is over.
Cinderella is the template upon which today’s girls structure their dreams. Their overriding goal is to win their reluctant prince and stand victorious over the other women at the altar. That’s it. Once it’s over and they are married, it’s all a big letdown. The man is no longer a groom and princely, there are screaming kids and filthy clothes and dishes, no more people are honoring her and the gown is in a box. Drudgery was never part of the bargain, and who the hell is this schlub sitting on the couch watching football to expect a princess to fix him dinner?
So there we have it: there are no more wives, only brides; no more marriages, only weddings. And this change in our society happened over half a century ago.
It’s time we took the concepts of the wife and marriage put them in a museum. Some will say that you can keep your wife and marriage if you run Game on your wife, but let’s be honest here: if you have to Game her to keep her she ain’t your wife – she’s your girlfriend at best – and you aren’t married in the real sense of the word, but shacking up.
As for the Christian preachers out there who say that all you have to do to obtain and keep a wife is provide and be godly, they are liars and fools who pervert the message of their professed religion. It is akin to a Christian saying that salvation can come from good works alone, i.e. Heresy. Their message to young men is dangerous and reprehensible, as young Christian men are no better protected than anyone else, and actually serves as justification for women looking for a convenient excuse to annihilate a family.
So, to the young men out there, I’ll say this loud and clear:
Wives and marriages are like unicorns and leprechauns. If you want to grow up and get on with your life you’d best quit looking for them. You might find a woman, maybe even a decent one, but you’ll no more find a wife than I’ll catch a mermaid in my crab pot.
Expecting the impossible is always a recipe for disaster, so I sincerely hope that young men take this lesson to heart.