Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Wife Test: Domesticity

It’s amazing how many women don’t really understand that “wife” is a job description, not a title.

One of the key components of being a wife is being a homemaker.  That isn’t to say that housework therefore is her responsibility, only that one of the things a man seeks and finds value in when he is looking for his wife is someone with whom he can make a home.  Even in our post-industrial take-out culture a man wants to feel that he’s coming home to his wife, not going to the apartment where he sleeps with his roommate.

Many women these days, thanks to feminism’s dark shadow, have equated domesticity with slavery, for some reason.  They look with disdain on their grandmothers and great-grandmothers who saw value in building a home fit to raise children in.  As women have entered and come to dominate the workforce, they proudly eschew the domestic skills that are their maternal legacy in favor of corporate achievement and “personal fulfillment”. 

But a man who is serious about taking a wife wants a wife worth taking.  And a woman who cannot manifest her domesticity is a poor bet for the position, regardless of how hot she is or how impressive her resume is.

What is domesticity?  Simply put, it’s the discipline and art of building and developing a comfortable and attractive home for your family.  It is a task shared between husband and wife, ideally speaking, but just as a husband’s primary duty is to secure the home, the wife’s primary duty is to make it worth securing.  That doesn’t mean scanning Pinterest for hours until you have just the right catalog numbers, that means investing the hours of study, planning, and execution necessary to slowly convert the house you live in into an enjoyable home.

So how does one measure domesticity?  How does one wrap a rule around warmth and charm?  Can modern men even recognize it for what it is when they see it, or appreciate it properly when it is called to
their attention?
As part of the vetting process for your future bride, pay careful attention to a few key factors that may indicate her domestic inclinations.  In particular, be on the lookout for the following:

·                    Houseplants.  Not everyone has a green thumb, but most domestically-inclined women tend to collect houseplants.  Their condition will tell you a lot about her domesticity.

·                    If she has a pet, look to see how well she cares for it.  While the Manosphere disparages the Cat Lady, kitties do have the advantage of showing you just how attentive a woman can be to the task of keeping it properly.  A woman without much domestic inclination will often have a messy litter box or feeding area.  Dogs are even better for judging this.

·                    Is the art and decoration in her place personal, professional, or commercial?  A woman with a well-founded sense of domesticity will often have art of a personal nature, or reflective of her domestic aspirations.  Professional art demonstrates taste and culture, but could also signal aspirations of affluent status that could be contra-indicative to domesticity.  Commercial or popular art shows an investment in her social presentation, which isn’t exactly non-domestic, but it does show that she’s subject to social pressures.  If she has a Twilight poster in her room, for instance, that is telling.  And not particularly domestic.  A good mixture of all three demonstrates balance, and how they are presented will tell you how she feels about herself and her home.  An ambitious display of aphorisms and affirmations demonstrates a low self esteem and idealism more suited to corporate life than domesticity. 

If her place lacks art entirely . . . go for a one-night stand and move on.  Nothing to see here.

·                    Décor.  It doesn’t have to look like a magazine article, but are you comfortable when you go to her place?  Are the colors jarring and discordant, or warm and comfort-building?  Does she even care about the décor, or is she blatantly utilitarian?  A couple of small touches that are designed to make a noticeable difference indicate a good domestic sense.  If she has brick-a-brack, what kind and how much?  Collections of clowns, angels, kittens, frogs or ducks are generally warning signs.  Displays of her childhood and teenage achievements, family photos, and tasteful presentation are all good signs.  If you don’t understand why something is there, ask her.  If she doesn’t have a funny story or anecdote about it, that doesn’t bode well.

·                    Does she cook?  While culinary skills are no guarantee of domesticity, and their lack does not mean a lack of domestic impulse, they are nonetheless a fair indicator of her inclinations.  Mrs. Ironwood hates cooking, but that doesn’t make her any less domestic.  If a woman has a decent set of cooking utensils, actual ingredients in her refrigerator, and a pantry that contains shortening, flour, and yeast, those are good signs.  Her offering to cook you a meal within the first three dates is also a good sign.  Even if you plan on cooking for your future family, as I do mine, ensuring your future bride knows her way around the kitchen is highly recommended.

·                    Does she have people over?  There is a decidedly social component to domesticity.  Women who build nice homes want to show them off and claim the points.  If your prospective wife doesn’t ever entertain, then one potential reason is her lack of domesticity.

   ·                 Does she know her neighbors and their names?  Corporate drones can live next to someone for ten years and never know their names.  Domestically-inclined women want to know who lives around them.

·                    How often does she change her sheets, and is her laundry up to date?  Do her towels match? Piles of dirty clothes and perpetually-drying laundry are bad signs.  Clean towels and sheets are good ones.

·                    Is she careful to lock up when she leaves and not leave windows unlocked?  If she is not that conscientious about her home, she’s not going to be about yours.  Being security conscious is a domestic ability.

·                    Is her trash and recycling in order, or is it overflowing? 

·                    Has she done anything toward the presentation of her front door?  Domestically-conscious women are as into making the entrance of their homes attractive as socially-conscious women are at making an entrance.

How can you actively challenge her domesticity?  Here’s a few ways:

1.                  Tell her to make you a pie . . . but don’t give her any more details than that.  See how she approaches the matter.  If she refuses outright, get used to a lot of take-out.  If she buys pre-paid shells and fills them out of a can, or buys frozen pie, then she might be teachable, but probably not.  If she sees it as a challenge and cranks out a homemade apple pie made with fresh Granny Smiths and lard, then you have a winner.  Make sex noises while eating pie.

2.                  Ask her how she would plan your sister’s/niece’s/cousin’s emergency wedding for sixty people next weekend with a budget of $2000.  See what she comes up with.  A corporate zombie will snort and say hire someone.  A domestic goddess will have a themed action-plan and budget projections put together in an hour.

3.                  On a whim, go see a house for sale together.  As you go from room to room ask her how she would decorate it.  Along the way find out whether she would prefer city or country life, and what style of house she wants.  If nothing else, the idea of seeing a house as a “just pretend” exercise will get her thinking about your potential as a husband and start the panty-dampening process.  Plus you’re there, in a big ol’ empty house with no one else around.  You’ve got a 50/50 shot at a quickie if you have decent Game.  More, if the house is affluent enough.

4.                  Check out her mother’s place.  Domesticity isn’t hereditary, but if her mother has a strong domestic streak, then it might just be dormant in her fit of corporate rebellion from gender stereotypes.  Put a ring on it and she often goes the way her mom did.  So see how comfy your potential future mother-in-law’s place is and keep that in mind.

Even a strong sense of domesticity is no guarantee of a happy life or a good wife, but without it your marriage will suffer.  Perhaps terminally.  Figure out in advance what levels of domesticity you crave in your future and then screen accordingly.  Or get used to Lean Cuisines around the television, bub, and occasional nights of lackluster sex.  Because in my experience there is a correlation between domesticity and approachability for lusty shenanigans. 

Once the dishes are done, of course.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Ironwood Rules Of Engagement

In celebration and acknowledgement of a Manospheran, Morpheus, taking the plunge into matrimony, Vox Day gave a beautiful list of instructions to him and all newly marred fellas.  I can heartily endorse all of what he said, when taken with a healthy dose of wisdom.  Badger followed up with an instructive commentary.  Athol Kay's post today is also helpful in determining when a fight is underway and when someone is just being a cranky-pants.   And as an OMG (Old Married Guy. "old" meaning you've managed to hit that ten-year anniversary without separation, divorce, or court-ordered rehabilitation) I am bound by custom to pass along my own insights on the institution.

Remember, advice is like a drink: it can only affect you if you accept it.  With that caveat in mind, one of the things that has been a pillar of the Ironwood marriage has been our Rules of Engagement for Fighting.

All couples fight.  It is inevitable that conflict arise between contrasting perspectives.  Even Commander Riker disagreed with Capt. Picard from time to time.  That being said, how you manage your conflict can make or break the stability of your union.  A lot of young couples find themselves in trouble very quickly because a) they didn't do a good job of mate selection or b) just don't know how to run a healthy relationship dynamic.

I'm not faulting them - in all honestly, realistic portrayals of well-functioning married couples in popular culture are pretty thin on the ground, and its unlikely they can look to their parent's generation for insight.  But part of managing a relationship is understanding how to manage conflict.  And in marital conflict, like any other conflict, there can be agreed-upon and religiously-adhered-to Rules of Engagement to keep things productive.

I've blogged about these before, back in the mists of time, but they bear repeating, and I'm not above stealing from myself when I think it is timely.  And no, not because Mrs. I and I have been fighting recently.  I just know a lot of newly married people.

All couples fight.  You can't avoid it.  But you can choose how you fight.

Mrs. Ironwood and I  came up with these before we ever got married (we lived together for 6 years first.  I was pretty sure I wanted to marry her 4 years into the relationship, but when you're planning on only marrying one girl . . . better to wait two more years and be sure.).  We had the help of a highly skilled marriage counselor, one of the very, very few I've known worth the money.   These Rules were mutually understood and agreed-upon before we got married. They are designed to keep things productive.  

They are:

1) No yelling. Reasonable tones only.  Over-shouting the other person is rude and does not lend weight to your argument.  NO YELLING is the very first rule. Yelling is a clear attempt to establish dominance without having
won an argument. That's disrespectful not just to your partner, but to the marriage as a whole. Worse, when a man yells in an argument it demonstrates he has lost his cool.  (Yelling at your children to get their attention, or increasing your tone to denote emotional emphasis of a particular point, is different than yelling in a fight with your wife).  As an axiom to this, I'll add "No interrupting".  Interrupting is as much of an attempt at conversational dominance as yelling.  Indeed, just as yelling is the masculine preferred method of establishing social dominance, interrupting is how women usually do it.  Maintaining reasonable tones and allowing your partner to finish their thought without your input is fundamental.

2) No name calling. That's disrespectful. This is your spouse, and calling them names is hurtful and unproductive.  If some behavior is unacceptable, call it out as such.  Don't just say "You're such a cunt!", because you shouldn't let anyone call your wife a cunt without repercussions.  That includes you.

3) Stick to one topic at a time. Don't fight about that thing you did last week.  Or last vacation.  Or last year.  Or on your wedding day.  The conflict is here-and-now, and unless there is a reason to bring the past in as
prologue, expanding the scope of your argument does no one any favors.

4) No ultimatums. That's contrary to the spirit of the discussion. You are having an argument.  It doesn't mean the end of your love for each other, the end of your relationship, or the end of your marriage.  It's a fucking argument.  Keep your emotions under control and deal with things productively and move on.  It's not a sign of the end, or a reason to say "I'm unhappy".  Married people fight.  Happily married people fight.  Hell, happily married people fight the most, sometimes.  Allowing your ego and your feelings to be a springboard to some bullshit ultimatum that can't be un-said is in no one's best interest.  If you feel like throwing out an ultimatum, give yourself 24 hours to think about it.  If you still feel that way, start a separate discussion about it.

5) No chase-and-follow. Handle your business face to face in your own home without involving other people.  
No running to your mother, your brother, your sister, your best friend, a hotel, a bar, or a brothel.  It's twice as bad if you expect someone to follow you there, and see a failure to do so as a lack of endorsement in the relationship.  That's attention-getting bullshit game playing, not mature and thoughtful attention to your responsibilities as a spouse.  Sure, we all need support, respite, and refuge from time to time, but if you flee in the face of an argument, you are abrogating your responsibilities to the relationship.  That's not to say you can't call a time out.  But a time-out is a cool-down period, not an excuse to flee.

6) No involving other people. This is between us.  Trying to get other people to support your position against your spouse is a recipe for a general social shit-storm, and repercussions that last far beyond the argument itself.  When the Female Social Matrix gets involved in your marriage, you have problems far in excess of what you asked for.  Keep private things private, by mutual consent.  Unless someone needs to affirm or deny as a witness - in which case you have some trust issues to work out - your argument is your argument, no one else's.

7) No ad hominem attacks. They are rude and intellectually dishonest. As a man it is a good example of a loss of control - DLV.  As a woman, it is a demonstration of disrespect contrary to the spirit of the discussion - DLV.  You may disagree with their behavior or their perspective, that does not make them less of a person or unworthy of your respect and love. Even if the problem is habitual, it is not usually indicative of a flaw in someone's character.  

8) No kidney punches, i.e. hitting the other person's acknowledged weak spots. After nearly 20 years, we know where those are. If your husband/wife had an alcoholic parent, for example, comparing them to that parent would be considered a kidney punch.

9) No involving the children. This is a debate between adults.  It should not be held in the presence of children, nor should children be privy to the after-effects.  Your first responsibility as parents is to ensure a safe and happy childhood for your kids, and watching parents fight is rarely a good thing.  Especially in an age where their friends' parents are divorcing so rapidly, it is unfair of you to inflict your sophisticated adult discussions on minds who lack the adult context to understand them properly.  All they know is that mommy and daddy are fighting, and they're anxious, and they're worried that they'll have to take sides.  Do your fighting in a room with the door closed.  Like your love making, it doesn't require witnesses.

10) No profane language. If you can help it.  Emotions get high, and invective will of course be used in an adult discussion.  But don't go overboard.  Emphasizing a point with a calmly-delivered f-bomb is one thing; having "motherfucker" fall too oft from your lips undermines your credibility.  And it detracts from your point, whatever that is.

That's the general guideline. 

Our friends think we never fight, but we do -- we just agreed to the rules ahead of time. We've managed to stick to this set of rules for two decades, and maintaining them has helped us get through some dark times, even when the Rules worked against us, personally.  And that's not to say that both of us haven't occasionally violated one of the less-important of the above rules at various points, including Yelling. When that happens, it's time to call a "time out" and walk away for some silent contemplation, marshal your resources, etc.. It stretches out the fight, but it's better than a trip to the emergency room.

(If you want to improve the efficacy of employing these rules, you may gain considerable leverage by fighting naked.)

Oh, and the unofficial #11?

Make-up sex. Righteous.

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Wife Test: A Good Worker

Once upon the time, during the glories of the old Patriarchy, one of the astute measures of a woman’s worthiness as a wife was her ability to be a “good worker”.

That rankles the tender ears of feminists who see traditional matrimony as little more than chattle slavery (though quite a few have entered into the institution themselves, although not always successfully or gracefully), but at one time it was recognized that a woman came to a marriage to work, and part of her value to her husband and his family was her willingness and capability to do so.

Understand that at the time agriculture reigned supreme, and that before the Industrial Revolution the sheer amount of labor required to keep both farm and home running was impressive.  It required the combined and complementary efforts of both husband and wife to keep it going.  As this was usually done in the context of a greater community of kin, such labor could be shared commonly.  That meant that a woman who came to her husband’s family’s farm would not only be expected to tend her husband, but join in the general work-pool of his female kin.  Therefore a woman wasn’t judged as much by the men in her life on her ambition and industry, but by the women.

When industrialization and urbanization transformed the role of farm wife to urban housewife, she retained the need for industry merely because urban living before electricity still mandated a lot of labor.  Add to that the social expectations implicit in urban life, and the wife as “homemaker” became the 1920s standard that hardened into the 1950s ideal. 

As electricity and innovation and pre-prepared foods reduced the amount of time required for actual housework, that time was frequently filled by an increase in social obligations.  She continued to be judged, but no longer on how hard she worked, but how effortlessly and tastefully she decorated and entertained.

As the ideal shifted away from wife as a “good worker” and toward wife as “homemaker”, the social pressure increased.  Nascent feminism sneered at the bourgeois ideal of suburban living and attacked the traditional wife as a slave and a prostitute.  Seeking to “liberate” these women, the successfully changed divorce laws and family courts into social weapons – against their own “oppressive” husbands.

In the 1960s and 1970s calling a wife a “good worker” in an admiring, Old World agricultural sort of way was to invite an estrogen-filled savaging from all corners.  Feminism dictated that a woman have value outside of her sexuality in a marriage, yet they riled when hearing praise a given woman’s industry because such views were seen as “patriarchal”. 

Men who ignored that Old World advice in the post-feminist world have reaped the consequences of their folly.  Ignoring a woman’s capacity and willingness to work has frequently been a tragic mis-step in a marriage, and usually one of many on the road to divorce.  Yet to verbalize a desire for a woman who is ambitious about her life without being arrogant and industrious without succumbing to career burnout or workoholism is to invite just such an attack by misguided women and feminists.  If we even think such things – as too few of us do – then we keep them to ourselves.

But the truth is we value ambition and industriousness in a woman, among other traits.  A woman who won’t work is a curse on a hard-working man.  Far from being an “equal” relationship, a wife who suddenly becomes unemployed, under-employed, or unemployable after the wedding is going to hang around the neck of the marriage like a boat anchor.  Unfortunately, such lack of industry usually comes in tandem with a higher desire for material signs of her “success”, almost always at her husband’s expense. 

On the other side of the coin, a woman who doesn’t know when to stop working, or forgets sight of why she is working, is also a danger.  Pledging your life to someone who is already married to their job is a recipe for marital disaster.  And some women feel about their jobs the way they do about their relationships and treat them with similar gravity.  If she’s unwilling to shift her career to accommodate the needs of the marriage, then that’s a serious down-grade.

Being “a good worker” isn’t just an evaluation about her employment status and potential, it’s an evaluation of her character when you broaden your scope to include old-fashioned housework and industry in general.  If she cannot plan, start, persevere through and finish a job, and then clean up her materials, then that is not a good sign.  If she is unwilling to learn or display this skill, doubly so.

It is hard to judge how good a worker your prospective bride is without significant acquaintance.  The fact is, it’s as easy to fake the perception of being a good worker in the short term, but after a few months of hanging around you should be able to spot some trends one way or another.

Here are a few things to look for:

Does she ask for help even if she doesn’t need it? 
Does she try to get you to do her work for her?
Does she have a hard time planning the project?
Does she have a hard time starting the project?
Does she have a hard time finishing the project?
Does she clean up after herself?
Does she take breaks . . . and how many?
Can she stop the job short of perfection?
Can she do the job without invoking nasty self-criticism?
Does she take pride in the work she does?
Does she seek your approval for her work?
Does she doubt herself and look for validation from you?
Can she accept constructive criticism when it is invited?
Does she need you to watch and/or act as a cheerleader for her efforts?
Does she know when to stop, or does she insist on continuing long after she was finished?
Does she work efficiently?  How long did it take her?

There are other things you can glean about a woman by the way she works.  How ambitious she is, for instance.  If she's not ambitious enough to even want to impress you, then she's unlikely to be ambitious on your behalf.  You should not judge her the same way you would judge a man, for women and men take different approaches to work, in aggregate. But you can judge her on demonstrating her mastery of the basic elements of work and prosecuting a project through to its conclusion.  

So how do you judge how well a woman works?  Have her paint a room.

This is the simplest method of determining how she approaches the mundane but necessary tasks of normal life.  Painting does not require a high skill level, it has a very common-sense set of instructions, it has a definite preparation and clean-up, and unlike the challenge to bake or clean, it is safely gender-neutral. 

But you can tell a lot about a woman by how she paints a room.  To conduct this test, pick a fairly small room, select the paint, and acquire the tools.  The next time you have some time to “hang out”, instead of rewatching Walking Dead on DVD, pull out the bucket, brushes, rollers and tarps and ask her to paint the room.  If she tries to plan something, tell her that you plan to paint that day and invite her over to help.  If she tries to avoid the work all together, then she's not serious - a woman who wants to spend time with you won't care much what you will be doing.

If she looks like you are crazy, tell her that you want to see if she can do it.  Be honest that this will be an assessment.  If she presses, admit that it is a test, and if you feel confident enough to pull it off, go ahead and call it a Wife Test.  Sure, it will put her on her guard, but she will also – hopefully – understand the utility of the test, and jump to the question of why you might be evaluating her for such a position.  If she doesn’t, that, too, is valuable data for you to have.

Don’t judge her too harshly on the ultimate job.  The test is not of her painting ability, but her ability to start and finish a job, preferably without your help.  If she needs you to do everything from open the can to showing her how to use the brush, then you know she will likely not work diligently without oversight. 

If she tries to bribe you into doing it, or tries to change the plan to do something else, then you know she isn’t eager to tackle a real bit of work.  If she complains bitterly about it every step of the way, sloshes paint on everything, does a half-hearted job and tries to make it everything else’s fault – from the brush to the roller to the kind of paint you selected – then you know that you will be bearing the brunt of the responsibilities for the rest of the relationship.

If she doesn’t think painting a room is indicative of her wifely skills, and acts indignant about it, then she doesn’t understand what marriage is about yet.  She might not ever. 

But if she presents you with a well-painted room without any splashes of paint, a cleaned-up work area and put-away tools, then you may just have a winner.  If she does so without complaint or the need for direction or hand-holding, then move her to the head of the line.

It’s the little things like this that make proper vetting so vital.  A man who knows what he’s getting has no excuses later on.  A man who thinks that his “helpless” girlfriend will suddenly transform into a hard worker with the application of a little wedding cake is a fool. 

Ambition & Industriousness are two of the most important elements that a man looks for in a woman, according to recent polls.  That doesn’t mean he wants a corporate warrior who never has time for a husband, but it also doesn’t mean he wants a fainting flower who can’t make the bed without management.  Good wives know that a working on their relationship implies a fair amount of good, old-fashioned work.  

If they aren’t willing to do that, what makes you think they’re going to treat their husbands right later on, when he’s the only one who knows how to work?

Any other ideas about how to judge a woman's industry and ambition?