Sunday, August 22, 2010

Support Staff

No doubt, my mother would be pleased to discover that, at this time, I view my role in life as that of support staff.  Despite the fact that she was always the primary bread-winner in our family, has always worked, and taught me implicitly that one’s life is one’s own, she also impressed upon me that if I learned how to type well I would never be without a job.  She is a wise and practical woman. 
I learned to type in high school and paid my way through college and grad school (not typing, but still, the point remains a valid one). I suffered no fools, took no prisoners, and enjoyed my independence however briefly. Somewhere in there, I became “The Mom” and all that such an awesome responsibility entails.  I still, and will forever, wear my virtual “She Who Must Be Obeyed” tongue-in-cheek tiara proudly, but rather than being simply the Keeper of the 3 Ring Binders, I am the bringer of jollity, the external conscience, and the model of adult behavior for my children.  As the last, I am the example for implicit instruction of my children – a thought which frightens me, and them, only slightly. But whatever my errors in parenting may be, I know that I am excellent bearer, not necessarily of my biologically-derived title, but of the one I earned from the start: I am a kick-ass wife.

Now it may seem self-serving for me to say because I’m saying it about myself, but damn it—it’s true. Also, it might sound strange for the woman who is adverse to cooking, cleaning, ironing, generally waiting on people, and any of those domestic arts to tout her own wifeliness. (That’s actually a word – I know – I looked it up.) In fact, most people who know my husband in real life know that he would make a far better traditional wife than I do. But still, I manage to uphold my share of the relationship. Although I’ve tried before, without success, to explain what exactly my share might entail, the secret of my wifely excellence has something to do with the embodiment of an ideal.

Before you shoot coffee out of your nose, let me explain.  I don’t think I’m the cat’s ass (a curious idiom in that it’s used to denote superiority), particularly not in the fat pants, rather I have an exceedingly strong desire to embody my husband’s ideal wife: to be a reflection of his values. Happily, but not luckily, his values have nothing to do with cooking or cleaning, but require only that I am my happy, saucy, and very demanding self.  The secret is not in the sauce, which I’d guess he could probably do with less of, but in my demands.

I demand that he be honest with himself. That’s it. Oh. Except this: I will kick his ass until he discovers and understands the truth. While this extreme measure is required infrequently, it is sometimes a long and particularly unpleasant process. I am ruthless and relentless when I detect a suggestion of him veering from his values; I have a deep, personal incentive to do so. In one man, he embodies the heroic qualities I previously thought existed only in books. It is completely within my interest to take him to task when necessary. Knowing “when necessary” is a skill he has helped me to develop.

Sure. He is a far better thinker, writer, and producer than I am and has a far, far more benevolent nature than I do; but no one picks at the scabs of self-deceit or evasion when she sees them more relentlessly than I. And while I freely admit serious difficultly not so much in recognizing as in resolving my own contradictions, he mostly leaves me alone to wrestle with them.  I’d fault him for that, but I understand that we can’t all be so fantastically well-suited for the position of support staff. (That, and while I can learn, we agree that I am nearly un-instructable.)

My current job, as I see it, is to occasionally assist my husband in being the great man he is. So far, I’ve really enjoyed my position with the firm, and plan to continue indefinitely. As a bonus for my exemplary job performance, I get to begin and end my every day near him. You can’t beat those perks.

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