Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Do '90S Guys Long for Old-Fashioned Gals?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Do '90S Guys Long for Old-Fashioned Gals?

Article excerpt

Admire him for his masculine characteristics," I read. "His deep voice, his heavy walk, his large hands." I began to snicker.

"What is it?" my husband asked. Mark and I were sitting at a picnic table in a mostly abandoned park, engrossed in our books while our two sons were heaving baseballs against the side of a cinder-block building and running to catch the ricochet.

I laughed. "It's this book. Can you believe this? It says to admire your husband for his manly characteristics." I laughed again. "Isn't that funny?"

Mark was quiet for a moment. "What's so funny about that?" he asked.

My eyes got wide. "You mean it? You mean you'd like it, if I commented on your...." I looked at the book for direction, "on your manly hands?"

He shrugged. "Yeah. It's kind of nice." He went back to his murder mystery as I sat, mouth open, staring through my sons but not at them. This man I have been married to for 14 years, who loves pillow fights and pinball and hurling himself into the swimming pool in the biggest, hugest cannonballs, would like to have his hands admired?

I shook my head in disbelief.

The book I was reading, with its bright pink cover, was about how to be a fascinating woman. It was written 30 years ago and, according to the introduction, originated even earlier than that, as it was based on pamphlets published in the 1920s.

I'm not sure just what I hoped to glean from advice that originated back when bobbing one's hair was the height of indecency (the era when women of marriageable age were advised to learn to play the piano to increase their chances of snagging a good man.)

But here I was, reading with the same air of anticipation I might feel at getting hold of one of Grandma's diaries. I smoothed the crinkly pages that smelled of a damp garage and went on.

The book transported me back to an age when the word "housewife" was used without apology; when nurturing one's family was judged not as a waste of one's abilities but rather their highest fulfillment; when pampering one's husband was seen as a lofty goal.

It was a far cry from the "I am Woman" chorus of the culture in which I grew up. …

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