Friday night is an evening of the week usually punctuated with Jager-shots and one-night-stands for the rest of the twenty something sect. I stayed in with the intention of writing a set of bios for a design firm and some taglines for an apparel company. Instead, I did three loads of laundry, including the house linens (dish towels, bath mat, guest towels). I cleaned the kitchen and the bathroom, dusted furniture, dyed my hair, and went grocery shopping. Twice.
When I suffer through writers’ block, I usually don’t notice until the house is spotless. What begins as “one or two” chores quickly becomes the sort of Martha Stewart-level anal retentiveness rivaled only by those who have just committed a serious crime for lack of Adderall.
After I exhausted myself with everything but what I was supposed to be doing, I realized that the only thing missing from the picture was an appreciative spouse. It dawned on me, somewhere around the time I was taking an Oral-B to the oven grates, that I was being one damn good wife. I’m only kidding. I’m kind of gay and sort of against traditional marriage.
Also, I usually don’t have writers’ block.
But I found myself wondering if it would be easier to just buckle down and shack up with some gentleman (or lady, in California, or those other lucky states) and dedicate myself to domesticity instead of the curse of the cursor. So, for the sake of this blog posting, and probably to feel slightly more at ease with my late-twenties and freelancer’s salary, I found the article “How To Be A Good Wife” from a 1954 Home Economics textbook. Here are some key nuggets of wisdom:
Minimize all noise. At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise of the washer, dryer, dishwasher, or vacuum. Try to encourage the children to be quiet. Be happy to see him. Greet him with a warm smile and be glad he is home.
They didn’t include “Encourage your roommate to turn off New Order. Make sure that the revelers at the party next door don’t throw up on your porch. Maybe stop humming the Halloween theme incessantly to calm yourself down.” Also, other than a plant kept in a coffee mug, I don’t have any children.
Some don’ts: Don’t greet him with problems or complaints. Don’t complain if he is late for dinner. Count this as minor compared with what he might have gone through that day. Make him comfortable. Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or suggest he 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, soft, soothing and pleasant voice. Allow him to relax and unwind.
I’m glad my nonexistent spouse is going to be allowed to relax and unwind. Maybe he should pay attention to the fact that, while he was at the office, his wife almost gnawed through her bottom lip wondering if there is a synonym for “interactive” and how to reformat her technical writing samples to make herself seem slightly more knowledgeable than a lobotomized housecat.
Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so that you’ll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your makeup, 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. His boring day may need a lift.
I think it’s safe to assume that my make-believe other half would find me plenty gay.
Apparently young wives in the 50s applied the same sort of forethought to being a good spouse that careful freelancers attempt to put towards projects. So I decided to see if there was a resurgence of this sort of domestic obsession anywhere on the Googlenet. That’s when I found…charm school.
No, not just the Flavor of Love reality TV show, but actual etiquette classes.
There are schools in this country enrolling right now where you can learn to be “perfectly poised,” with a “positive attitude best suited for first impressions.” You learn how to talk on the telephone, how to set a table, and “tea-room modeling,” the later of which I’d hoped included Eames chairs, but instead wound up being some sort of 1980s throwback mannequin schtick where you hock the wares of local stores.
I looked up how to become an Etiquette Consultant on a whim. Certainly my use of profanity, body art, and general bitchy demeanor wouldn’t put me at the top tier of the candidate pool, but I was interested.
Essentially etiquette consultants train people how to behave themselves. And, apparently, how to use hairspray. The majority of sites I clicked on featured eye candy like this and Vaseline-smeared, soft-focus shots of forks, doilies, and roses. It was like the dregs of every mall’s Glamorshots.
One of my favorite scraps of enlightenment (other than the fact that, according to one website, The New York Times has declared etiquette consulting to be a “booming” industry) came in the form of this paragraph:
“Etiquette consultants have many career options. You could specialize in coaching adults or children on proper etiquette. For example, with your help, the sloppy eater who used to offend people could be transformed into the charming gentleman who everyone wants to invite to dinner.”
They didn’t say a single thing about the dude paying for you to help them. It’s just like insulting someone, only you’re calling it “coaching” and tacking on a ridiculous title and then holding out you palm, expecting a dime.
If I could have my way and charge for my “consultations” regarding the etiquette of strangers I would be writing only as a hobby and this blog would be about which variety of fabric for the interior of an Escalade feels best against my bare ass-cheeks. Ainsley Drew, Etiquette Consultant, would offer classes in Waiting On Line At The Bank and Leering Proper. The first consultation is always free.
When I asked my companion in work and play what sort of etiquette classes he’d like to see, he said Twitter Etiquette (don’t send a message “@” a user if what you’re trying to say can simply be direct messaged or email) or DJ Etiquette (don’t lean over the turntables to request a song, don’t ask for “real rap, like the stuff that’s on the radio,” no more Prince or Michael Jackson requests).
More or less, I think everyone would have an etiquette class that they’d like to be at the helm of.
I continued to research guidelines for being a good wife and proper human and found that Emily Post basically sealed my fate back in the 40s with paragraphs such as this one:
“How many times has one heard some one say: “I won’t dress for dinner—no one is coming in.” Or, “That old dress will do!” Old clothes! No manners! And what is the result? One wife more wonders why her husband neglects her!….The woman of charm in “company” is the woman of fastidiousness at home; she who dresses for her children and “prinks” for her husband’s home-coming, is sure to greet them with greater charm than she who thinks whatever she happens to have on is “good enough.” Any old thing good enough for those she loves most! Think of it!”
I write this without having used a hairbrush in the past twelve hours. Needless to say, housewivery and etiquette are even more insurmountable than regular writers’ block.
AinsleyDrew at gmail