Monday, August 2, 2010

Housewives?

What's all this about housewives on TV?
I know my readers will think me daft, and maybe I am, but I don't have time for much TV. Occasionally I get wind of some show or the other and recently there seems to be a plethora of shows about "housewives."

I heard about a show called "Desperate Housewives" when Laura Bush made fun of it in a 2005 speech to the White House Correspondents' Dinner.  I could tell by the name that it wasn't my sort of thing, so I never bothered to watch it, but my general impression of it is that in the plot line gorgeous women want more sex and power than they want other things and after they do anything to get it, they have lots and lots of teen angsty drama from doing so. I understand that it is a satire of traditional roles and that one of the "compelling" thing is that these "wives" keep secrets.

I'm surprised by the use of the word "housewife." But I guess even Shakespeare used the word wife to mean a spirited women of a certain age.

Because I'd never actually watched it, I looked it up and found that the show had lots of mysteries where the "housewives" were involved in sleeping with or murdering someone or both and covering it all up. Lots of divorces and corpses and entanglements. Here's a summary from Wikipedia:  "Edie sees her chance to make her move on Mike, who is suffering from amnesia, while Susan moves on to a handsome Englishman whose wife is in a coma. " I guess these women must really be desperate.  It's clear they never learned anything fun like reading or sewing or cooking.

Next I read about a show where four or five women land in Cleveland when they planned to go to Paris, France and they decide to stay.  This show is supposed to be about Cleveland housewives.   The writer of the article seemed pretty steamed at the show's premise because it fails to recognize the beautiful individuality of people in that city. No one likes to be stereotyped. What I think is also weird (other than these "hot" women not being able to find another flight to continue to Paris, France as planned-- in this case "hot" does not include the intelligence to regroup) is that it this show is another dramatization about "housewives" though the women are single and mad about it.

Then just today, I saw a headline about a reality show called "Real Housewives of DC." The woman pictured looked anything but real.  The dress she wore looked like something Ginger Rogers would have danced in except that the decolletage reached down to her knees. I live close to DC and I just don't know any real people who dress like that.  My neighbor's gardening nightgown may be see through but it is not glamorous.

But the show is about "real" women who live in our nation's capital, called "housewives" I suppose to build from the popularity of the show about the desperate ones. There are shows like this based on many locations in the country! From what I read, these women are extraordinary, all of them "heavily" involved in charities including starting their own. They do real, normal things like own vineyards, crash presidential dinners, and date England's Prince Harry.  Odd for a "housewife" to date someone isn't it, but then this is "reality."



The thing that puzzles me is that I thought "keeping house" was what housewives did.  I thought they turned their hearts and minds to all the things that have to do with making a warm and beautiful home: creating healthy, inviting meals in a place where feelings are soothed, where souls are refreshed.

I thought this because I had been living with the understanding that being a housewife was not a popular thing. In fact in years past, it seemed like -- it was a disgrace. The media and other thinkers objected to women being "housewives" because being a housewife meant that your role in society was determined by your sexual status -- in this case just being married, not being married and dating.

I can understand the objection if it is made on behalf of equal rights. I was raised by a feminist and I enjoyed being a professional.

Once, (true it was more than 30 years ago before the term meant staying home and getting hot and dramatic), I was on a plane bound for Okinawa, Japan.  We were delayed for absolutely hours and then the flight was thirteen more hours.  So people got to know each other and some of us made friends.  One woman (with whom I was unable to make friends) sat down next to me while we were waiting and waiting and said, "I can't figure you out.  What is your profession?"

I guess there were good reasons why I didn't have a job at the time. My husband was a lieutenant in the USMC. We had moved five times in two and a half years. I had just suffered a miscarriage and was going to join my husband in a foreign land to seek our adventures together.
by the way, I sewed my dress and wish I still had it!

Oh, I had worked briefly for a temp agency and I did babysit for my friends' kids and I was super involved with the churches at each of our duty stations; I was building relationships, reading, learning to cook, learning how to sew, learning how to be hospitable. I volunteered in political things that I can't remember anything about anymore (now I hate politics) and was busy and happy, hoping for a child, moving every few months.

It was later in life (I'm a late bloomer) that I decided to return to college and seek a teaching degree, a master's degree and etc. as has been described in detail on this blog.

I can never say all the background a person needs to know quickly enough so to answer my fellow passenger's question, I just said, "I'm a housewife right now."

She got up and walked away. Didn't say a word. Nothing.

Whatever.

But you can see that I never forgot that incident.  What I was doing was so offensive to this woman (who was earning her PhD. in some kind of Asian studies) that it eclipsed to her the genuine, creative, idealistic, flesh and blood person I was back then. It think it left me a bit of a scar, too, as I always feel uncomfortable when I don't have a job as I sometimes don't. As my grandson, Jack, says, "it scratched my feelings."

Maybe she misheard me and thought I'd said "hooker." No, that can't be it; if so, she would have stayed and talked to me.

And I think that's why this television reinvention of "housewifery" seems so odd.  Now it's hot to be a "housewife" of a sort -- the sort who is not only defined by her sexual choices, but is fascinating because of her own obsession with her sexual self.

If I met, again today, the woman who was flying East with me so long ago, she'd probably be so thrilled to meet a "real housewife of America" that she'd ask for an autograph, but I'd give her a cookie, instead.



3 comments:

  1. Do you remember how Hillary Clinton in the early 1990's said with a sneer that she didn't have time to stay home and bake cookies? And even conservative housewives (that "h" word of the 1990's) felt so sorry for Bill that there was a cookie-baking crusade to get homebaked cookies to our much pitied and neglected, though politically estranged, President.

    Lovely thoughts, Loris. Truly lovely.

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  2. I LOVE your sense of humor and the more I read of your blog, the more I wish we could sit and chat over a cup of tea like we did when I was your student. :-)

    I much prefer the term home maker, but whatever you call me house wife, home maker, stay at home mom... I must say I LOVE my job!!

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  3. Living the life that you know is true for you is hard to do. Its easy to do what everyone thinks you ought to do. You are an inspiration and an example to many. Look at your amazing family, your sweet and beautiful home, your talents that you take pride in and take the time to teach to others....anyone who shunned you for being yourself was really just afraid to be themselves...you carry on, sister...

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