“Hey, do these jeans make my butt look big?”
I’m not sure whether he’s kidding. Just the other day I found my truck-driving, manly-man husband surfing the ’net looking for skin-care tips.
“No dear, you look perfect.”
For as long as I can remember I have subscribed to a commonly-held notion that women need wives. I advocate that women in the dating game should insist on courting only those men who possess a dash of culinary prowess and a liberal measure of kitchen skills. A good rule of thumb: If the object of your affection doesn’t know how to work the washing machine and isn’t willing to learn, it’s time to cut and run.
The idea, however, that sometimes men need husbands took me by surprise. Just as there is more to being a wife than housekeeping, there’s more to being a husband than carpentry. In my evolving glossary of terms I called this emerging marital understanding “bispousal.”
An adjective, bispousal describes a person who possesses emotional characteristics generally associated with a spouse of the opposite gender. My husband, you see, was acting bispousal when he complained that I had tracked in dirt after he had cleaned the floors. I, on the other hand, was acting bispousal when I didn’t remove my shoes immediately upon noticing the mop in his hand.
Need more proof? His bispousal tendencies are elevated when he makes a four-course meal that includes items that are stuffed, braised, broiled or deglazed. I show mine by cleaning the kitchen floor with the sink hose and a roll of paper towels.
There are so many ways in which I see role reversal in my marriage that I have even begun to counsel other women on how to deal with men as if I am one.
“It’s not that he doesn’t love you,” I say to my friend, who had just posed the primordial question: Why it is that once the marriage takes place the courtship fades? “It’s just a kind of an emotional laziness. He still thinks ‘Wow. I am so lucky to be with her. She is the light of my life,’ just not in those exact words. His vocabulary is limited to something more along the lines of an “Oh, Yeah!” and a few grunting sounds.
It sounds dismissive, I know, but I’m not really being critical. I think that if the emotionally giving one (whether they be a woman or man) understands that the emotionally distant one (be they man or woman) isn’t purposefully trying to undermine them, a lot of marital discord could be avoided.
As usual, though, in terms of counseling prowess, I am the pot calling the kettle names.
In our family, I am the one who lumbers up the stairs after the end of the workday grumbling, growling and praying that no one speaks to me until I decompress, which usually never happens until the weekend. My husband would love for me to share my day. He would love to have me sit at the counter while he cooks dinner and tells me about his. It takes the kind of effort that a person sitting in the dark with a beer and the television blaring just doesn’t have.
Of course this is also how I am sure my theories won’t be heading to a bookstore near you. Whole forests have been plundered already to provide pages for self-help manuals to tackle this very subject. And while I suppose I’ve heard that men are from Mars and women are from Venus, I’m fairly certain it’s not true. After all, I’m from Troy and he’s from Kennebunk; I don’t need a map to know that you can get there from here. But perhaps a few “yes, dears” now and again, along with an occasional “you look nice,” wouldn’t do any harm.