PAMPERING AND PITCHING IN
Is it unmanly to pamper your wife? Is it insulting to a woman, or infantilizing, to open doors for her when she's perfectly capable herself? Should a husband stick to gender-specific choreswashing the car, raking leaves, pounding nails, hauling garbage?
The courtship model makes quick work of these debates: You can't do enough for her! Waiting on her hand and foot is, in fact, a turn-on to lovestruck suitorsand lovestruck husbands. Testimony on this is eye-opening, to say the least. Macho guys giving pedicures?
Absolutely! "My wife accused me of having a foot fetish, said one, but I told her no, I have a wife fetish.
At first I didn't know what I was doing, said another, but in time I got to be damn good at it. Her feet looked like a professional had done them. And for the guys who say, 'Oh, that must have been hell'Wrong! I was in complete heaven.
A less challenging pampering project is the bedtime foot rub. Or back rub. With the slightest wifely encouragement, these can easily segue into full body massage and who knows what-all.
Pampering, obviously, is ripe with erotic possibilities.
Which is why well leave it for dessert and instead begin with the vegetable coursethe other half of this chapter, namely Pitching In.
Irons and Diapers and Brooms, Oh My!
Pitching in is an issue easily framed in terms of equity. In today's two-income marriages, ought the woman be expected to tie on an apron the minute she parks her briefcase at the front door?
Of course not. Yet, typically, that is what happens.
Shouldnt the husband voluntarily turn off the Big Game du Jour and lend a hand?
Of course he should. Why not let his work-weary wife log a few hours of her own in the La-Z-Boy with a magazine and a Merlot?
It's time husbands did more than take out the garbage, declares home-cleaning author Jeff Campbell. His books and Web site3 promote a system called Speed Cleaning, where husbands and wives team up on housework. It's still hard to get husbands to participate, Campbell notes. That makes it doubly hard for women to keep their homes clean.
Australian feminist writer Susan Maushart4 goes farther. In the English-speaking world, Maushart writes, wiveswhether employed or unemployedperform 70 to 80 percent of the unpaid labor within families. She adds: Wives also contribute 100 percent of the husband carethe myriad tasks of physical and emotional nurture that I call 'wifework.'
I love my man, I really do, one English housewife told Ms. Maushart, but if only he would pick up the sodding hoover!
No surprise, then, that Fumika Misato calls her wife-empowering Web site (with tongue only partially in cheek), Real Women Dont Do Housework.5
So, romance aside, in the interests of simple fairness, husbands ought to haul themselves off their couches en masse, relinquish their remotes and take up their honey-do lists.
Agreed? All right. In that context, the whats-in-it-for-me questions can be addressed: What does pitching in have to do with a return to courtship rituals? And is there likely to be an erotic payoff?
Youd be surprised.
Ask any man, goes a joke I heard somewhere, and hell tell you a woman's ultimate fantasy is to have two men at once. While this has been verified by a recent sociological study, it appears that most men do not realize that, in this fantasy, one man is cooking and the other is cleaning.
On an Internet survey one hard-working careerwoman described her ideal mate as Betty Crocker, Martha Stewart and Suzy Homemaker packaged into a tall, dark, studly, handsome frame.
Another put it even more plainly: What I really need is a wife.
A husband can step up to the plate (as it were) and be that that helpmeet without endangering his masculinity (even if he dons an occasional apron). By doing so, in fact, he will be more a man in her eyes. Yea, verily, he may assume the radiant and transfigured status of championher champion.
And, yes, it may pay erotic dividends down the road.
Gone are the days when my husband just plops in front of the TV after work, a wife writes of her reformed couch potato. Now he actually looks for opportunities to do household chores, volunteers to go shopping with me and helps me with carrying the purchases. All of this does wonders for my self-image, and allows me to feel, dress and act sexier, which in turns fuels his lust.
My sweetie enhances my happiness and well-being in so many ways now, another wife boasts. This includes doing dishes, or any other housework that he sees needs doing, so I don't have toand without my asking him to. And I love him for it!
Get the picture? The husband is on hands and knees, scrubbing the Spanish tile or removing Play-Do from the broadloom, and the wifes heart is going pitter-pat. Not because of his exposed butt-crack. Its because hes helping! The big galoot is finally pitching in against the domestic dragons shes been battling singlehandedly--ever since the honeymoon. And probably during.
These are not atypical wifely reactions. The formula is nearly foolproof. If a husband sets out to make his mates life easier by taking on everyday chores, he will have a very pleased and contented mateafter she gets over the initial shock.
Its even been validated by science: Men who do more housework and child care have better sex lives and happier marriages than do unhelpful husbands, according to marital researcher Dr. John Gottman. 6
But do we really need a research study to confirm that being the sole person in a marriage to clean the toilet and scrub the floors is definitely not an aphrodisiac?7
Another old joke: Whats the sexiest thing a young dad can do for his wife? Answer: The dishes.8
But arent there more traditional, macho ways to win her heart?
Maybe. If you live in a jungle, with real predators roaming the back yard, forget the dustmop, grab the nearest lethal weapon and go out there and protect your bride. Shell love you for it. Or, if you brings home enough bacon from the competitive jungle, you could hire a large household staff and decree that your princess bride never lift a finger.
In most neighborhoods and at most income levels, however, youll accumulate more hero points converting wifework into husbandwork. Just start picking upmesses, dry-cleaning, the kids after school, or after yourself. Or pick up on one of the thousand routine tasks she does every day to make a homeand do it yourself.
Problem: Most men dont know really know what those thousand tasks are. Theyve worked hard, since their swaggering diaper days, to keep from knowing. As one fictional detective puts it, It scares me to see the way single guys live. 9
But men can learn. Well, maybe not all men. Maybe not bachelors who use empty pizza boxes as room dividers. But theres hope for well-motivated married men. If thats you, dont wait for further inspiration. Check out a book, do a Web search (Google or Ask.com) on how to clean a bathroom or iron a shirt. Or ask your wife to show you. Start following her around, watch what she does and how she does it.
Then go thou and do likewise.
You can even try to do it better, if youre motivated by competition. Think of it as a new hobby, like golf or fly-fishing. Turn it into a macho mania, become a fanatic Mr. Kleen. Show your wife how you can field-strip and degunk a stove in record time, standing proudly at attention as she performs the white-glove test.
Cooking seems to be one domestic duty many husbands actually enjoy. Not just searing steaks on the barbie, mind you, but the whole nine yards--meal-planning, preparing, serving (and cleanup). If you already wear the family chef cap, bravo! If you dont cook, however, you should start. Being rescued from the kitchen ranks high on the wish-list of many a domestically distressed damsel.
Take a cooking course. Get a cookbook. Ask for her help. As with other domestic befuddlements, you get points for trying, as long as you persevere and make incremental improvements.
How about cooking her favorite meal, then serving it with flowers by candlelight? If so, voila! Youre into the enchanted realm of courtship cuisine:
Having dinner waiting when she gets home. Handing her a glass of wine. Serving and waiting on her. Refilling her glass. Creating a romantic ambiance with candlelight and soft music. Listening to her, connecting with her. Then, after dinner, allowing her to relax while you tidy up.
See whats happening? Pitching inshopping, cooking, scrubbing potshas morphed into pamperingserving her in style and letting her luxuriate.
Thats because pampering and pitching in are a continuum, complementary phases of courtship...
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