A School For Wives by Richard King

Story type: Essay

All marriage is a lottery–that is why the modern tendency is to examine both sides of the hedge before you ask someone to jump over it with you. A single man may be said to have his own career in his own hands; but once married, he runs the risk of having to begin all over again, and recommence with a load on his back. A good wife can make a man, but a bad wife can undo a saint. And how’s he to know if she be a good wife or a bad ‘un until she’s his wife, which is just too late, as the corpse said to the tax collector. You see, a man has nothing to go on, except to look at what might be his mother-in-law. A girl is far more fortunate. If a man can afford to keep a wife, he’s already passed the examination as a “highly recommended.” He, at any rate, has to take marriage seriously. No man wants to put his hard-earned savings into a purse with a hole at the bottom, nor live with a woman who begins to “nag” the moment she ceases to snore. If only women were brought up with the idea that marriage is a very serious business, and not merely the chance to cock-a-snook at Mamma, marriage would be far less often a failure. But most girls are brought up to regard the serious business of matrimony from the problematical point of view of whether her husband will earn enough money to give her a “good time.” If it be a “serious business,” as Mamma and Papa and the parish priest assert it to be, then let her begin as she would begin a business, by starting to learn it. I don’t see why there shouldn’t be a School for Wives, and no girl be allowed to marry until she has at least passed the fourth standard. After all, it is only fair on the man that he should know that with the sweetest-dearest-loveliest-little-darlikins-in-the-whole-world he is also getting a woman who knows how to boil an egg, and make an old mutton bone and a few potatoes go metaphorical miles. The knowledge would be a great comfort to him when his little “darlikins’” feet-of-clay began to show through her silk stockings. As it is, marriage to him is little but a supreme example of buying a pig in a poke, followed by an immediate slump in his own special purchase.

See also  Damages by David Cory

I never can understand why women immediately become “ruffled” when a mere man suggests that, if marriage be a serious business, the least a girl can do is to learn the business side of that business before she enters into partnership. But “ruffle” they do. Also they think that you have insulted the sex, rather as if you had accosted a goddess with a “tickler,” or stood before the Sphynx and, regarding her mysterious smile, said, “Give it up, old Bean!” For, after all, if the man has to pay the piper, it’s up to the woman to know how to make a tune! As it is, so many husbands seem to make money for their wives to waste it. No wonder there are so many bachelors about, and no wonder there is an outcry to “tax them.” Even then many men will pay the tax gladly, plus an entertainment tax if necessary–who knows? For elder people are so fond of drilling into the ears of youth the truism that passion dies and that marriage, to be successful, must be founded upon something more enduring than a feeling of delirium under the stars. That is why a School for Wives would be so useful. After passion is dead, it would be a poor creature of a husband who couldn’t find comfort living in the same house with a woman who had obtained her certificate for economical housekeeping and sock-mending. You see, the home is the wife’s part of the business. The husband only comes in on sufferance, to pay the bills, listen to complaints, and be a “man about the place,” should a man be required. A happy home, a comfortable home, that is a wife’s creation. But she can’t create the proper atmosphere merely by being an expert on Futurism in music, nor by possessing a back which it would be a crime of fashion not to lay bare. She has got to know the business side of housekeeping and home economics before an indifferent husband can be turned into a good one. You ask, why not a School for Husbands? Well, husbands have passed their “final” when they have earned enough money to keep a wife. The husband provides the house and the wife makes the home. But most wrecked homes are wrecked through ignorance, so why not let wisdom be taught? A well-run home is three parts of a happy one. And if the other part be missing–well, let’s have a divorce. Easy divorce certainly encourages domestic mess-ups, but they are not half such a “mess” as the mess of a matrimonial “hash.” The home is the other side of a man’s business, the side which his wife runs. Well, as he has had to study to work up his side, why let hers be such a “jump in the dark,” for him? Let the home become a study, even a science, and let not so many wives reach a forgivable level of domestic excellence on the “dead bodies” of so many unforgivable “bloomers.” Remember that in matrimony, as in everything else it is the premier “bloomer” which blows up les chateaux en Espagne. Afterwards you have to use concrete–and build as you may.

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