Friday, November 21, 2008
I Get Letters
A blog reader named Steve asks, “One question that I have is that many women feel uncomfortable being put up on a pedestal. How does a man deal with this?”
Good question, Steve, and one I’m still wrestling with in my own wife-worship marriage. I tell you, it was a pretty awkward and non-sequitur moment when, after ten years of conventional marriage, I suddenly dragged that stubby, Corinthian-capped pedestal into the living room, placed a small utility ladder beside it and encouraged her to climb up and be worshipped as a domestic goddess.
My bride categorically rejected the notion of female superiority or female dominance. She is a very egalitarian person, and indeed is very proud of my accomplishments, such as they are. “Don’t be a sycophant!” she scolded me once, when I apparently was getting a bit too servile, carried away with a campaign of what is often called “stealth submissiveness.”
And we husbands, newly converted to the gospel of wife-worship, can go to extremes. As I wrote in my book (Chapter 5, “Pampering and Pitching In”), “Are we getting slightly carried away? Advocating a kind of chivalrous silliness—opening doors and standing when she enters a room? Traditional feminists routinely label such masculine behavior as infantilizing, even insulting.”
So I dragged that pedestal back out to the garage with the old cobwebbed exercise equipment. And I’ve learned in the decade since to curb my courtly impulses, not to throw my cloak over every encroaching mud puddle. I walk a fine line these days when it comes to catering to, or anticipating her wishes.
The trick is to do her bidding in a kind of macho, easygoing way. Call it the Moving Van guy, nodding when the lady of the house tells him where to set down the dresser he’s hefting and what to bring out of the van next, and where to put it.
If she sees me calmly alter my course, from whatever I’m doing in order to comply with her request, without the usual husbandly delaying tactics, she’ll eventually get the desired message – that she is controlling me. I am, in other words, her servant, and she certainly realizes now that she has only to express a wish and I comply. Just so long as I don’t act in what she regards as an unmanly way.
And that, I think, is what Lady Misato’s Queen-Knight metaphor is all about. Courtliness. Being milady’s champion, not her lackey. Milady’s knight in combat, her dragon-slayer in chief.
To quote a husband who put that paradigm into daily practice, “I believe this is why the Knight to Queen analogy is so popular. Although the knight is subordinate to his Queen, he is still expected to retain the traditional ‘manly-man’ role to her of providing strength, security, and protection.”
And, yes, there is a pedestal inherent in that Knight-Queen or Knight-Lady dynamic. He kneels before her, which does result in an incremental elevation of her status. Again, the trick is to ratchet up that elevation just a millimeter at a time, till eventually she’s up where she belongs, regally empedestaled.
Again to quote my book (Chapter 3, Perpetual Courtship”), “What wife can hold out against continuous, insidious courtship? How can she not be susceptible?”
As the oft-quoted (by me) Au876 put it, “…most if not all women love to be pampered, adored, worshipped and listened to.” So do all those ultra-romantic things, guys, but, you know, be a mensch, not a mouse.
Back to “Perpetual Courtship”: “If a marriage is to be a compelling and continuing love story—and that's the goal here—romance must be reinvented, with new romantic challenges thrown in the way of the suitor (lawful husband though he be).
“The truth is, perpetual courtship is not an artificial contrivance, a trick foisted upon credulous husbands. It is an arrangement in harmony with our own biological natures, male and female. And even if it wasn’t, who cares? It works!”