Having inundated you with parageography of late (look back a couple days for a parageographical writing prompt if you must), I’m going a little lighter this week for Throwback Thursday. This is an article from Housekeeping Monthly dated 13 May 1955. I used it with my Shakespeare students when we were studying Taming of the Shrew. The title of the article: “The good wife’s guide”
•Have dinner ready. Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal ready, on time for his return. This is a way of letting him know that you have been thinking about him and are concerned about his needs. Most men are hungry when they come home and the prospect of a good meal (especially his favourite dish) is part of the warm welcome needed.
•Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so you’ll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your make-up, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh-looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people.
•Be a little gay and a little more interesting for him. His boring day may need a lift and one of your duties is to provide it.
•Clear away the clutter. Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives.
•Gather up schoolbooks, toys, paper etc and then run a dustcloth over the tables.
•Over the cooler months of the year you should prepare and light a fire for him to unwind by. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift too. After all, catering for his comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction.
•Prepare the children. Take a few minutes to wash the children’s hands and faces (if they are small), comb their hair and, if necessary, change their clothes. They are little treasures and he would like to see them playing the part. Minimise all noise. At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise of the washer, dryer or vacuum. Try to encourage the children to be quiet.
•Be happy to see him.
•Greet him with a warm smile and show sincerity in your desire to please him.
•Listen to him. You may have a dozen important things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first – remember, his topics of conversation are more important than yours.
•Make the evening his. Never complain if he comes home late or goes out to dinner, or other places of entertainment without you. Instead, try to understand his world of strain and pressure and his very real need to be at home and relax.
•Your goal: Try to make sure your home is a place of peace, order and tranquillity where your husband can renew himself in body and spirit.
•Don’t greet him with with complaints and problems.
•Don’t complain if he’s late home for dinner or even if he stays out all night. Count this as minor compared to what he might have gone through that day.
•Make him comfortable. Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or have him lie down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him.
•Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soothing and pleasant voice.
•Don’t ask him questions about his actions or question his judgment or integrity. Remember, he is the master of the house and as such will always exercise his will with fairness and truthfulness. You have no right to question him.
•A good wife always knows her place.
You can imagine how amusing my students (ages 10–14, roughly) found all this! But it opened up good conversations about why, exactly, Taming of the Shrew is considered a comedy when it largely consists of Petruchio abusing Kate. I’ve found Shakespeare to be a good starting point for a lot of serious discussions with teens: heartbreak, suicide, forms of abuse within relationships, relationship problems in general, family problems . . . Literature makes a lot of these topics “safe” because the kids can disguise their personal concerns within the context of “the story.” You just have to lead them into the work so that they connect and identify with that story and the characters. You have to bring it in close to them. Shakespeare—and a lot of literature—seems very far away to young readers. Sometimes it’s the language that creates the gulf, and sometimes it’s just preconceived prejudice, but that’s the big obstacle. Once you bridge it, the kids often really get into it. And that’s fabulous to witness.