"I tell you there is no love sweeter than the love between a mother and a child. Now I know my wife loves me but I am reasonably sure that she doesn't look at me the same way she looks at them. You know, it's kind of humbling because you realize at some point that you're just a date that worked out."
The sun was sliding her fingers through the wooden blinds in our bedroom when I awoke to the sounds of birds chirping. I turned over and saw the bedspread next to me was flat.
"Oh yeah," I thought through an addled pre-caffeine haze. "She's at work."
"What day is it?" I remember wondering. It was a Saturday and I was off work. Usually at 6:45am the pitter-patter of little feet has turned into the thunder of the Plasma car floating around the hardwood floor downstairs. But today it was quiet. And it was the little guy's second Tee-ball game.
Days off with the kids are always bittersweet for me because I love them and want to spend time with them but I also need time to write. It would be easier to drill through a glacier with an Emory board than to chisel out some time for myself, most days.
After Tee-ball I decided to take the kids to Old Orchard. It meant that they could play on the outdoor "dragon" that's there, they could duck in to the Disney store and satisfy their House of Mouse addiction, and Daddy could wrap his chilly hands around a hot grande-mocha-cappuccino-with-2-shots-no-fat-no-whip at the Barnes & Noble bookstore. The best part of it was I could go to a bookstore and browse ~and~ get the coffee. Ah yes - the inspiration came to me in such a rush it was like the Muse was standing there massaging my shoulders and breathing breathlessly into my ear.
The minions and I stroll through the solid oak doors at Barnes & Noble and I'm met by an end-cap display of this:
I'm immediately smitten by the cover. A smiling red-head with the bubble of "150 secrets to a Happy Wife." I slide over, check the status of the little ones as they run to the coffee counter, and pick up one of the books and read the back jacket.
After quite a few years of marriage I had often wondered if my wife was happy. If I asked her, she'd certainly say 'yes' but I'm sure I could do better as a husband.
With a decade of service to the city as a police officer, you can safely assume that our marriage has seen its fair-share of conflict, fights and aggravation; and that was all just the day before yesterday!
Early on in my career I received the usual "you've changed" mantra from my better half. I finally realized she wasn't mad that I'd "changed" but that I'd grown.(Yes boys - you can use that.) The wonderful thing about being a "first responder" is that you get a solid sense of your own authority. You have to - that's what they pay you for. The problem is when you bring that "I'm always in control, and always right" attitude into the home. Your wife doesn't want to feel like she's Second in the family; she wants to be your equal. She wants to share things 50/50. Some guys don't get that. They think that the woman is the servant and is there to cater to his every whim. Yea, I know it's not 1951 and "Father Knows Best" has become a laughable bump on the road to our still-on-going Feminist Utopia, but it is no longer a one-way street - or is it?
I bought the book and I want to share some of my thoughts on Mr. Gumm and his "make wifey happy at all costs" book. For you guys who don't like to read - it only has 205 pages. You can knock it out in a weekend. And, for clarification, some parts won't relate to you - baby stuff, dating, and pre-marriage do's & don'ts. So you can skip all the things that don't relate to you.
Overall I can say that some of what he writes is spot on - women do smell better than men. Women emote, guys rationalize. Women are mysterious and complex, men are direct and simple. Want to keep a man happy? Feed him, have sex with him and let him enjoy sports. That's about 90% of the formula.
Want to keep a woman happy? There's the rub, and thus the book.
The book contains 150 tips on how to do things that will make, or keep, your wife happy. "Happy" is a relative term, and I'm sure there are wives out there who'd never be happy if their husbands did all 150 of these things in one day. But Joe Gumm, a former-ESPN sportscaster, writes with humor and self-deprecation - emphasis on the self-deprecation...There's a lot, I mean A LOT, of apologetic nuances in this book. So much so that it made me wonder - Why?
I don't know Joe but there is a toxicity weaved throughout. It is almost dysfunctional in its scope. The book makes me think that he's one of three things:
1. He screwed up BIG TIME and is making amends - ie. infidelity, left the cap off the toothpaste, left the toilet seat up, got caught flirting on Facebook ~or~
2. He's burdened with some over-arching guilt; either from family of origin issues, or from the Feminist brain-washing that every Male in the United States has had to swallow for the last 50 years.
3. He's trying to get on Oprah, and before she pulls the plug to jet around the world with her BFF 'Gail', he wants a shot at getting the book skyrocketed onto the NYTimes best seller lists.
Why do I say that he's either dysfunctional, a door mat or greedy? Because there is a certain undercurrent of phoniness, an insincerity, that dominates the writing. The book oozes with the uxoriousness. Uxorious is the term meaning "Excessively submissive or devoted to one's wife." (I had to look it up too.) It flows off each page like ocean waves lapping on the shore. Let's start with the dedication because it sets the tone.
To the smartest, most creative, most loving and caring person in our household; my wife. I won't ever understand how you can have four unmedicated child-births, with a baby as big as a basketball coming out of an area as big as a golf ball, and still be afraid of a roach crawling around on the kitchen floor, but that's okay. That's what makes you a great wife, mother, and friend. You're unique and special, and I love you dearly.
The very next page in the Acknowledgments sections he writes,"I give all the credit to God for helping me marry out of my league. I would also like to thank my in-laws Jim and Jackie, for creating my wife and making her available to date and marry so we could have four beautiful daughters." Again he's compelled to put himself down by saying he "married out of his league". By the way, there is also an entire chapter devoted to this topic.
Gumm is also compelled to point out that men don't have uteruses (page 1), which I take to mean that a woman in his life at some point invalidated his opinion on a topic related to childbirth by pointing out that he dare not say anything because he wasn't born with the "correct equipment" - ie. to have a viewpoint that she agrees with.
Excuse me for saying, but that sounds a bit unrealistic and harsh on the part of the woman. What if I told a woman she couldn't criticize Men because she didn't have a penis? (I actually had a black friend of mine tell me that I couldn't criticize Barack Obama because I wasn't black. Under that logic, I told him, you can't criticize George Bush because you're not white.)
When discussing Marriage on page 3, he writes "Most of the time women are disappointed in the way we act as husbands. We say dumb things, noises come out of different parts of our bodies, we drool, our hairlines are receding, we're out of shape, we stink, and we have hair on our backs."
I'm reading this and I can't help but think "Come on!" We all know women share almost the same physiology as men. So why put all the blame on the male gender? Women don't fart? Women don't defecate?
Apparently in Joe's world all they do is crave adoration, and cry.
He then goes on the paint an overly optimistic picture of women as compared to men - "We run yellow lights, they stop. We care about cars; they worry about the cargo in the cars. They can have full-blown conversations with other women while a screaming baby is in the background; we hear a screaming baby and we start to cry ourselves. They can hold a baby while they're eating; we can hardly eat without smearing food on our faces and clothes. They want the children's clothing to match; we're lucky if we can get out the door without clashing. They write legibly, we scribble. They pay attention in church, we fall asleep." The self flagellation continues and I won't bore you with it. Let's just say that I was surprised he didn't just write - "women are caring and compassionate nurturers, and men are violent despots with delusions of world domination." I mean it's that over-the-top, and unrealistic.
Just today my wife and I were cleaning the garage. We took everything out of the garage, and then cleaned it, then put everything back. It took 5 hours. At some point my wife asked me,"Can I wipe my nose on your shirt?" Of course I let her, but Joe's wife apparently never has a bowel movement, or flatulence or a day in which her husband can't be so loving to his wife that he might notbeteem the winds of heaven visit her face too roughly.
He even claims that "depite our differences, men and women end up doing the exact same things in life, but they [women] just smell better than we do" and "Women are obviously the better occupiers of their time on Earth, but unfortunately a lot of men just don't want to admit it." He then references "Adam and Eve" as the crux of why Men are just too closed minded and deny that women are better occupiers of their time. What does that mean exactly? Joe never says.
And that's the problem with this book, and the unspoken assumptions that lie just beneath the surface. In Joe's world, Men are to be blamed, vilified and pitied. We are just dumb sex addicts who can't feel their emotions and who only shed a tear when Old Yeller plays, or their football team loses the Superbowl.
Did someone say Generalizing???
You can hardly pick up the book, open a page at random, and see some petty example of why the author isn't fit to wash his wife's underwear. On page 69, in the chapter entitled How to marry out of your league, he writes "Although I'm only 90% free of the rough edges, I'm still a work-in-progress (He apparently has to do more - much more - to obtain the good graces of the Lady of the Manor.), but I work hard at trying to attain 100% status (something that may or may not happen in her lifetime Joe writes)."
Ugh! Are you kidding me? Is this guy pathetic or just wallowing in Stockholm Syndrome?
Chapter 6 in the book is even more maddening. It is entitled "How to talk with one foot in your mouth" and each entry is prefaced by the words "It's All About Her" ... like "Its All About Her idea #46 - Quit using terms like fat, chunky, obese, lard, plump, hefty." Or "Its All About her idea #50: Stop using terms like old lady, ball and chain, nag, whipped, and the wife or the boss." Or my personal fave "Its All About Her idea #51: Tell her she looks pretty."
What fawning! What fatuous obeisance!
The publishers should have called this book "It's Her world, We just live in it." Mr. Gumm should have taken a picture of himself with a big toothy grin, with a door mat strapped across his chest, and tire tread marks streaked across his forehead as the cover picture.
That would have been more intellectually honest.
To be fair there are some good suggestions in the book. I like #39 (Slow Down), #40 (Take her advice), #43 (Don't drink and smoke for one day) and #44 (Don't go to bed mad.) All solid advice, and let's face it, sometimes we men do need the obvious pointed out to us. And Chapter 7, entitled "Lazy is as Lazy does" is a call to husbands that they should step up and do more around the house. I can agree on that one. It's all too easy to get comfortable, and expect your wife to do the shopping, the cleaning, the laundry and hustled the kids to soccer, piano and ballet. All the while you're catching the last half of the Cubs game and downing a six pack.
So I can recommend this book ONLY if you want to improve your marriage by scoring points with your better half by groveling, and DOING more things around her that don't include sex or TV. Joe should know (maybe he doesn't) that marriage is more than just dumping on your husband and pushing him to do more things; or using sex in a tit-for-tat game.
This book rings true for women. At the B&N book store, the barista told me that Joe Gumm was going to be at that very store signing the book and that "woman love him."
Gee no kidding. What if a man wrote a book called "What Women need to know" and then wrote something like, oh I don't know, that to guarantee a happy marriage a wife had to embrace the "F Trinity" - "flatter him, feed him, and fuck him." (Actually Doctor Laura already wrote a book with this premise. Of course the Femi-Nazis went berserk.)
So outside of Mr. Gumm's personal issues, why is this book getting so much hype? Because it feeds into all the non-sense that has been trolled into our public dialogue vis-a-vis the Feminist Movement.
It all comes back to Feminism - that long walk to the tool shed that Men have had to endure for the last 50 years. The feminist movement has successful demonized men and cast women, not as unique and separate individuals, but rather representatives of an oppressed class defined by a group identity. The Equal Rights Amendment was written in 1923 by radical suffragist Alice Paul, but the ERA didn't pass both houses of congress until March of 1972.
It failed, thank God, to ever get ratified.
The defeat of the ERA was a victory, but the ideology that it espoused leached into the collective dialogue of the nation. And what the feminists couldn't impose by constitutional amendment they have imposed through the schools, college faculties and the culture. Like the rest of the radical Left, if they couldn't win at the ballot box, they took to the media, the courts, the "4th branch of the government, and academia to do their dirty work.
The Feminist Movement has done much damage to the male gender because they've found it easier to demonize men, than to take the time to understand what our motivations are and where our impulses lie. We're continually pigeon holed into categories and blamed for just about everything that is deemed "inappropriate" in this world - from violence, crime, War, drug addiction, pollution and family dysfunction.
The Bureau of Economic research released a study a few years back which found that since 1970 women are becoming less happy. The brilliant Phyllis Schafley chimes in with her opinion over at the Eagle Forum:
"One theory advanced by the authors, University of Pennsylvania economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, is that the women's liberation movement "raised women's expectations" (sold them a bill of goods), making them feel inadequate when they fail to have it all. A second theory is that the demands on women who are both mothers and jobholders in the labor force are overwhelming.
I'm neither an economist nor a psychologist, but I'll join the conversation with my own armchair analysis. Another theory could be that the feminist movement taught women to see themselves as victims of an oppressive patriarchy in which their true worth will never be recognized and any success is beyond their reach.
Yes - exactly. Just like we have seen with the "minorities" in this country since the 60's, the template employed is simple and cunning:
1) "Blame someone other than your racial or gender enclave" - This means Caucasians, Men, corporations are used as foils to claim victimhood.
2) "Claim you have no control over it or your own life or circumstances" - If you believe that you can't get ahead, can't improve your life, and can't ever crawl out of the hole of your life, then why bother? Sign up for a government handout, have some babies, sling some weed and lay back and enjoy Jerry Springer re-runs, right?
3) "Demand more laws, money or resources to 'fight" the alleged discrimination" - Thus the ERA was pushed, Hate Crime laws are touted, the Feds dump money into urban communities and all we get are more of the same.
This template is motivated by feelings. It makes the politicians pretend that they're doing something constructive, and it makes the community organizers feel like they're accomplishing something. However, a policy based on these two outcomes is doomed from the start to be effective. You can't have the government pick winners without actively creating losers. Shackling the Free-Market with rules and regs only creates dislocations and misery. Bureaucratic Master-Minds always ignore the immutable law of economic incentive: "Whatever you subsidize, you get more of."
The "blame game" and adopting the lexicon of victimhood has achieved nothing except to handicap more and more of our population and enslave them to Big Government entitlement programs.
Back to "150 Secrets to a happy wife" - save your money. While I salute Mr. Gumm for being a successful writer, for choosing to honor his wife and children, and for standing up for the Family: I can't help come to the conclusion that the book is decidedly one-sided.
My suggestion on making your wife happy?
Keep the $12.99 cost of the book. Use it to buy some floor cleaner, a rack of beef ribs and a 12-pack of Sam Adams Boston Lager. Clean the floors, put the dishes away and make your wife a delicious rib dinner. At the dinner table you can tell her that she's a wonderful wife, mother and friend - and that the rib dinner is a reminder that you and she share more than just a last name.
The radical egalitarians assume that we are all the same. The fact is that we are all equal under the law, but we're not all the same. We are definitely different in hundreds of way - and those differences should be recognized and honored: not be condemned.