Tuesday, March 10, 2009
HOH & WLM
The Sacramento Bee recently ran an opinion piece by a part-time documentary filmmaker, William Preston Robertson,* titled “Head of Household? Let’s Talk to my Wife”.
The crux of the piece:
“I'm proud of my wife. She is the breadwinner in the family. She's a brilliant, dynamic, powerful woman. She works incredibly long hours and is compensated for that in a way that your average ukulele documentarian could never hope to be.
“But when my wife and I file our taxes or apply for loans, the computers, by default, make me the head of the household and my wife the ‘spouse.’ And they do this despite all of the usable data being located in her section of the form and all of the goose eggs being located in mine.
“I find this annoying… because it bestows upon me an unearned status and it robs my wife of a status she has not only earned, but worked hard to attain. And as I've previously mentioned, bizarre as it may be, I'm proud of my wife.
“We live in a society that presumes in subtle and not-so-subtle ways that men are and should be the breadwinners in a household and that any other arrangement is wrong and shameful.”
I had the same feeling of annoyance, plus awkwardness and inauthenticity, when my wife and I went to our tax guy last month and I was given a tax return to sign as “Taxpayer” while my wife signed as “Spouse.”
This after my wife, the obvious CFO (and CEO) of our family, did all the talking, responded to all the questions, produced all the documents with explanation, from mortgage interest to charitable deductions, conducted a sidebar conversation with the tax guy’s loan expert on doing a refi of our house. I said almost nothing, a couple of jokes, really, and was acknowledged only occasionally out of politeness by our tax guy.
Like the filmmaker, I’m proud of my wife and her leadership. What’s wrong with wives being the head of their household and family? Aren’t they almost always, in fact if not in name? Isn’t it about time that they be allowed to take that pride of place?
Now I’ll climb down from my mini-soapbox (my version of an op-ed) and, as is my wont, let some other loving female authoritarians and happily led husbands do the rest of the talking:
“We both would like to try out the ‘female head of household’ concept,” a Norwegian husband writes to Emily Addison, the better half of the Around Her Finger
team. “Two HOH’s in a home is one too many, and I think my wife is the better manager. Serving her and taking on much more of the domestic chores are only fair, and if I can be wrapped around her finger - that is all the better.”
Sounds pretty mainstream to me. As does this sensible husband: “My wife has been essentially Head of Household since we were married twenty years ago. She was a Navy officer and I an enlisted man, and to say she is smarter than I am is an understatement. Valedictorian of her high school class, and so on. Since the beginning, she has controlled the finances and many more aspects of the marriage. I'm not submissive, in fact by many measures I am a man's man. But I have come to nearly worship my wife.”
“My wife is unquestionably the leader of our marriage,” agrees another wife-worshipper, “but she tries her best to show me how much she appreciates my role as her husband. It's like she controls me without having to be bossy or bitchy, and I know deep in my heart that I would die for her if I had to.” By the way, this guy’s cybernym is “Mr. Jenny.”
Most female-led hubbies don’t object to a bit of bossiness, even a superabundance thereof. On their above-mentioned blog, Emily Addison, speaking for husband Ken, recommends a candidate wife-leader assume a clear authoritarian tone: “We believe that an open and ongoing acknowledgment of the wife’s authority combined with orgasm management are the fundamentals of a successful female-led relationship… You are entitled to consider his requests and then accept or dismiss them as you see fit. You are the head of household, you make the rules, and you set the guidelines… period, end of story.”
Usually it is the husband who proposes the wife be HOH, less often the wife. Even less frequent are those idyllic matches when the marriage role reversal is by mutual consent from the get-go:
One guy, signed “Obedient Husband,” told LFA psychologist Elise Sutton that both he and his bride agreed during their engagement that she should be undisputed head of household and take the lead “sexually, socially, emotionally, and fiscally. I regard her authority completely without question… I have been very happy in our three years together and would not seek to change a thing.”
Another wife informs Ms. Sutton that her husband “recognized from the beginning that both my native intelligence and career ambitions were superior to his own and he willingly conceded to my preeminence as Head of Household. It was thus with relative ease that our marriage soon settled into its essentially Matriarchal pattern that enabled me to launch my own legal career—and also helped establish the First Rule of Our Relationship: We discuss; I decide; he obeys. In cases where my mind is already made up, or I feel strongly about a particular issue, the need for discussion is obviated and [he] is simply informed. This eliminates the need for discussion in about seventy percent of all cases, allows [him] to concentrate on his career and leaves other issues in my far more capable hands.”
The marriage of “Mr. Louise” to “Mrs. Louise,” described on the old Spouseclub message board, epitomizes living this lifestyle to the hilt: “We were fully aware of our roles before we walked down the aisle. I took her name. No, not secretly and not just on paper. We walked into our reception as Ms. and Mr. D. (her name) and I've never looked back. Our union is wife-centered and wife led. She is the authority I recognize and submit to and in turn she loves, cherishes and supports me. Our friends know just what I mean when I jokingly say I am under her skirt and that our marriage is ‘a petticoat government.’ They can see her obvious maternal/matriarchal control over our house and accept us.”
Another female-empowerment psychologist, Paige Harrison, also advocates the matriarchal aspect of the wife-leader: “The Woman as the Matriarch in a love relationship can redefine family and romantic attachments. Many males tell me their strong desire to live with their Wife as the Head of Household and Domestic Disciplinarian. The Mommy-child relationship works especially well If your Wife is an extremely Maternal Woman.”
And this final amen on the subject from an old standby, Au876: “More and more women are becoming the head of their households. I am proud to follow my wife’s lead with my service, my actions and my heart. I may often disagree with her when we reach a fork in the road, but when she makes her decision it becomes mine and I devote myself to making it work.”
* Mr. Robertson is identified below his op-ed as “a writer, filmmaker and well-kept man who lives in Sacramento.”