Continuing our Woman UP conversation about what women want, I feel compelled to respond with a defense of men, and my man especially. In this era of bad-boy husbands, as my colleague Judy Ellis calls them, it was refreshing to hear her praise
Jeff Bridges, after he paid public tribute to his wife of 30-plus years when he won a SAG award for his portrayal of an over-the-hill country singer in "Crazy Heart.''
But Christine Wicker raised questions
about the sincerity of men who lavishly and publicly praise their wives, saying her mother had warned her that such men "had to be guilty of something or they wouldn't be carrying on so." (Well, we did have reason to be suspicious of Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards . . .)
In another post on what women want, Wicker pointed to a poll
showing that women overwhelmingly (87 percent) prefer a man who communicates well, can be intimate and who shares the housework to someone who makes more money than they do. She said that was a tall order. "If you want a hot guy who's in touch with his feelings and your feelings, ready to talk about them, AND does his share of the housework, you aren't looking for a man, you're looking for a wife. A spectacular wife."
And Delia Lloyd, on a typically hectic day carting kids to their activities and tending to their dinner, homework and baths, understandably forgot
to go to the supermarket. She and her husband had canned sardines for dinner. That's when she concluded that she, too, needed a wife, and wrote of five things she would have an imaginary wife do: cook, iron, wash dishes, buy clothes and model lingerie.
Well, my wife (husband) does all the cooking – and he's really a good cook – most of the dishes, buys clothes for me, and like Delia, doesn't iron. But that's because he takes his shirts to the cleaner, which works for me. (And OK, he doesn't model lingerie.) My wife doesn't just do his share of the housework, he does my share as well. He's chauffeur, housekeeper, laundress, gardener and chief morale booster, and probably a few things I've left out. He is definitely in touch with my feelings and has become more and more willing to express his own.
In sum, he's the best wife anyone could ever have.
"Is that a compliment?" he asked me when I explained, sort of, what I wanted to write.
"Damned straight," I said.
How is this possible, you ask? In part because he's retired, which makes it a lot easier and is obviously not an answer for everyone. But also because of my condition – an incurable marrow cancer that gnaws at my bones and makes me weak as a little bird attacked by my kitty, that began 10 years ago. Much of that time I have been in remissions that have allowed me to live a fairly normal life. When I relapse, though (I'm now on my fourth), that always means fractured bones, of which I currently have many. Even the radiologists refer to my "moth-eaten" bones in their reports.
Needless to say, it's hard to be useful around the house. On instruction of my orthopedist, I can't lift anything heavier than a dinner plate. Or shopping bags, or push a shopping cart. I can wheel a travel bag through the airport, but it becomes too heavy when I strap on my laptop.
But enough about me. Let's hear about my wife. Because I'm so laid up, he drives me everywhere I need to go – lots of doctors' appointments – but also to lunches with friends that don't include him. He does all the grocery shopping, although I go with him sometimes, and he loves to take me shopping for clothes (that's the one that gets most of my women friends salivating). He's got very good taste and often finds me great bargains (last Christmas he gave me a $750 black leather dress at a Saks sale – there was only one on the rack and it was my size and $220.)
Does he sound too good to be true? Maybe. But I know many sensitive men who certainly would do the same if their spouses were in my situation. Think of the husbands you know – your own or other peoples'. Wouldn't they run to their wives' sides, not just to be with them but to serve as their caretaker-guide in this scary new world?
Now think about John Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth, coping with a terminal illness. Admittedly this is an extreme case, as he was running for president and having an affair with a campaign worker who even had his child, something he denied for close to two years. But his political ambition was so big that it rated higher on his scale than a wife who had already suffered tragedy by losing a teenage son and now will lose her own life, probably far too early.
With all the bad-boy publicity of late, it becomes a bit too easy for women to say (or think) that men, as John Hiatt likes to sing, are so easily led when their little head does the thinking. Don't they ever learn, we hear ourselves saying? Well, come on. Let's admit we know they're not all like that.
Probably not even Jeff Bridges, who invited his wife, Susan, on stage after he received his award. After explaining that he was on the road a lot, like his dad, Lloyd Bridges (anyone old enough to remember "Sea Hunt"?), he asked her to describe her role in raising their three daughters. Susan answered succinctly: "He was fun, and I was constant."
My wife is constant, too, especially when I'm constantly needy. And I hope that the praise I've lavished on him doesn't mean that people are suspicious because I've carried on so. My motive is simple: I want the world to know that not all husbands are bad boys. And that some are even as spectacular as mine.