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Sick, Soup, and Sexual Narratives
house
catvalente
Today I am sick. I woke up feeling like absolutely hell, the kind of waking up where you sort of swim up towards consciousness out of the black and knock your head on it.

I'm am curled up on my couch, dumbfounded to discover we have no throw blankets. At all. What the hell, me?

I feel that this will be a day of staring dumbly at things. Possibly I will have the intelligence to knit. Possibly not. I was supposed to go meet a friend on one of the other islands today, but good lord is that not happening.

What my comfort-seeking body really wants is curried chicken soup. But my husband is working from home and I cannot trouble him to make it. I found an easy recipe and am now stuck with the eternal conundrum:

If I hurry, I might be able to get soup made before the real, ugly sick kicks in. And then my sick self would have delicious peanut curry chicken soup. But I would have to expend the energy now, and that might make me sicker. What to do? This is usually where that old joke about how I need a wife comes in. What we mean by that joke, obviously, is that everyone could use the old-school kind of wife that existed for about half of five minutes. We could all use a human being shaped like something we want to have sex with whose whole being is devoted to our comfort, happiness, and pleasure, who keeps our home clean and cooks wonderful meals and makes killer cocktails and raises the kids and looks beautiful while doing it, doesn't complain or feel unsatisfied with the work.

What that is, really, is a high-functioning robot. And the social/economic/time machine operating standing necessary to own one is and always has been crazy. But I want one. Where's my Roomba that makes me peanut curry soup? And makes sure we have throw blankets in the house? In this world where we are slowly, achingly slowly passing beyond gender determinism, many of us are discovering just what a good deal having a wife/robot really was for el patriarchy, and still is for a lot of humans who don't want to pass beyond anything. How many jokes are there still about how awful marriage is and how women trick men into it--usually from the same folks who demand that old wife-robot set up in action. Yes, marriage is and always has been awful, menfolk--how terrible to get a sexualized, enormously trained, capable, devoted servant in exchange for feeding, clothing, and occasionally putting up with her unfortunate power of speech.

Ok, I may be reading a Victorian-era novel right now. And I may have been watching a lot of stand-up comedy on Netflix. But don't believe for a second that a large segment of the population doesn't still buy both halves of that ugly cabbage: marriage is awful for men and awesome for women, and marriage means thankless backbreaking work for women while her husband complains about her to his friends and occasionally on national television, and men...have to listen to her talk sometimes. Thank god I don't live in a world where those are the rules. But I brushed by it, in my Navy years. I brushed by both those expectations and that attitude toward marriage--that it is a burden for the groom. It chills the soul. In the world I live in, there's a lot more uncertainty, because someone has to do that work, always. The care of the home cannot simply be undone, and if both partners work, well, some other method of splitting up the second shift has to get figured out. The figuring out usually ends up more fluid and hack as hack can than not. Sometimes it just doesn't get done. I mean, being poly, it's not inconceivable that I could have another partner someday. Even one who lives with us. But it still wouldn't be his/her automatic job to make me soup and clean the house. Like kink, all that stuff is constantly negotiated, and must be consensual. Maybe if we treated it all more like a scene it would go easier with our postmodern brainz. Is this work service or is it dominance? If you care for something, it's yours. Maybe that's the root of the marriage is evil canard. You can never tell if that beautiful AI in a bustle is your slave or your master. How unsettling.

Wow. That got odd. This is my head on a summer cold. And The Terror, Bright Star, and Carlos Mencia. (I actually prefer Joe Rogan for my uber-manly comic pleasure, but on Netflix Instant, beggars can't be choosers.)

The point of all this meandering is that today I really want a Soupba. But I'm gonna have to make it myself. Welcome to the future. We have cookies.
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Yes. That. And now I feel bad for not being able to form anything more coherent in response to this, because you are so right and it's everything that's wrong with today's narrative about marriage -- this idea that it's the enemy, or that the spouse is the enemy... I dunno. Not coherent (yet, hopefully), but thank you, and word.

I think this is why the stories all close on the wedding with "and they lived happily ever after." Because they are designed to seduce girls into marriage - the work involved afterward is glossed over.

I can't even listen to comics who diss on their wives. Talking about the give and take of marriage is one thing, but if they start talking like they're the victims of someone they were so generous to have taken on as a wife, I'm done. It's not that marriage - and child rearing - aren't sometimes really funny. But acting like your wife is the ol' ball and chain? I'm DONE. You're lucky she puts up with your sorry ass, dude, and if I knew her personally I'd tell her to kick you to the curb.

D sat me down a few weeks ago and out of the blue said: "I want you to know I NEVER say bad things about you when you're not around." Because so many he has mild social contact with do. I felt it was an amazing thing to say, because it is seriously so common, with men and women, to badtalk the spouse.

I like your brain on summer cold...which makes me feel vaguely guilty...and wish I could assuage that guilt by making you soup.

I may have to ponder the idea of thinking of life as a scene, though, that one stood up and barked.

I hope you feel better soon.

I'd rather make out with a hobo than subject myself to Mencia's stolen crap.

"Is this work service or is it dominance? If you care for something, it's yours. Maybe that's the root of the marriage is evil canard. You can never tell if that beautiful AI in a bustle is your slave or your master. How unsettling."

THIS. You bet.
It's all connected, even to simple comfort-seeking.

...and I'll tell my engineer family to get right on that Soupba. Wishing you many feelbetters.

In case of Summer Cold Emergency, break glass and access Star Trek: The Next Generation class food replicator. Speak in a clear voice, "Curried Peanut Chicken Soup, Hot." Average response time is 5.73 seconds ±0.38 seconds for variance in speaker's voice identification patterns due to Summer Cold Emergency.

Thank you and have a pleasant day.

Dr. Phil

(Of course if you end up in the Red Dwarf universe, you may have to settle for "Piping Hot Gazpacho".) (grin)

I'm sorry you're sick today. The soup you're craving sounds delicious and comforting, and I'd love a link.

The negotiation of housework and being a "wife" is one I'm constantly evaluating. My husband and I share a home with two of our friends. Of the four of us, two work outside the home, one is disabled, and my husband works from home. He also ends up doing most of the cleaning by virtue of him being the one with the lowest mess tolerance. And while I appreciate it, and do contribute myself by cooking and doing laundry, sometimes I feel guilty for not being able to have a job and be a hyper-perfect wife.

Because my own mother was the domestic goddess everyone loves to look fondly back on, right up until she divorced my father a little over a year ago. And even though I'm aware of how personally damaging it was for her, I feel like there's something that should be there that I'm not living up to. I wouldn't really like a robot or a wife, or even the time to do it all, but occasional instant convenience would be nice.

My cubicle at work is near those of a couple married men who are constantly ragging on marriage like it's a joke. I finally lost my ability to suffer through it when they both started in on some guy, telling him, "No! Don't get married! Don't do it! Marriage is awful!", and demanded to know why. They started in on exactly that attitude -- "Marriage is for the girl", blah blah blah.

I finally told them, "Look, if your marriage is unhappy, I don't think that is marriage's fault. If she makes you crazy, then you shouldn't have married her."

I can't listen to comics whose entire acts are about how much a burden their wives are, and I don't understand why these men are getting married if it's not something they want.

Oh for most of your post I thought you meant the men were married to each other. How disappointing.

Yes.

I'm actually working on a post about why our marriage is the way it is just this moment. Your post is highly emotional on it own since I've discovered my sister-in-law willingly insults me by using that exact carbon-copy of old-school wife as a scale to show how I'm a lazy selfish person.

Thank you for this.

Having been brought up in a time (50s/60s) when what you describe was commonly presented as the template for a wife is probably the main reason why I didn't get married until well into my 30s. The idea of spending a great portion of my time with someone who had no existence beyond 'home-maker' struck me as being a terrible fate.

Very slowly my brain started to consider that maybe my interesting female friends would NOT suddenly do the Stepford thing on reaching the altar. (Unfortunately, I'd witnessed a few who had gone that direction, so my conversion was not a pure and unquestioning one.)

Things eventually worked out, and I'm very glad to be with someone who has interests, ideas, friends...an actual life!

I think some of the complaint from the male side of marriage traditionally came from the idea that the man had to provide all the financial support. An outdated concept, but still fodder for comedy.

He didn't, though. That only works if you consider domestic work to have no monetary value. In fact, even in the most restrictive of times, women usually embroidered, knitted, cooked, or did other things that brought in household money. In fact, by saving the cost of a servant to do all the things a wife does, plus a prostitute for sex, the wife contributes a great deal through her labor. The problem is that that labor is not considered labor, but a woman's angelic, divine duty, and something that by her very nature she enjoys and is built to do. That's crap, but that's how a lifetime of backbreaking labor goes unpaid and unpraised.

The fact that you wrote that coherent, logical, painful analysis of marriage and the AI in a bustle concept while swimmingly sick is really very impressive. I wouldn't be at all surprised if you invented a Soupba while in this state.

If you do, can I borrow it? Peanut curry chicken soup sounds divine right about now, and i'm not even ill.

Feel better soon! And good luck with the soup!

Feel better soon, my dear!

It's weird, but my household actually has a dedicated homebody, in the form of my sister. She lives with us, takes care of my girls during the day, and in exchage, me and my husband make the money, pay the bills, buy the food and shelter and make sure that when we get home, we take over on childcare, so she can write and draw. (She's a writer and fabulous illustrator.)

More than once, people have pretty much flat out called us crazy. All I know is that, even with our occasional difficulties, we pull together as a family in ways that make us all happy. My husband jokingly refers to the Ant (my sister's nickname) as his Cookie Wife, because she's a champion baker and when he's depressed, she makes him chocolate chip cookies.

All I know is that expecting two people who work to take care of a house and kids is the definition of insanity. We'd never survive if it weren't for the Ant. And we very much know it.

That doesn't sound crazy to me - that sounds like an awesome and beneficial arrangement for all parties involved. I'll never understand why people criticize other people's life arrangements, especially when they seem to be working beautifully. Unless it's some weird jealousy thing.

Heck, sometimes I wish I could be someone's Ant. :)

Ew, feel better. I wish I were closer and could deliver soup, although sadly I don't have a chicken curry soup recipe! I have to echo the other comments -- such a lovely, coherent post considering the cold!

audra

ps -- your post about renewing your writing on LJ inspired me to at least log in; not sure I'm writing but I will be trying to be engaged with my friends again.

I'm reminded of a short story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, in which a woman sort of inhabits her husband's brain/body for a short while. When his friends start ragging on their wives, she proceeds to shred their arguments.

I've a soft spot for Gilman's works. Earliest Feminist-SF and yet all anyone ever reads is "The Yellow Wallpaper." It would have been incredibly radical for its time.

Do you know the name of that story, perchance? I'd really like to read it!

Feel better soon!

I usually get around this whole conundrum by wanting a Jeeves. Sigh.

I love your description of an AI in a bustle and who's in charge really?

If finances were different, I'd love to experiment with that more. *I'd* like to be an AI in a bustle. For me there's something really really delicious about subverting the second wave I grew up with in an apron and a skirt, baking and cooking and *enjoying* in. Even housecleaning is a strangely zen experience for me of late since we downsized and have been working on doing a little every day.

However, I will also fully admit that I am really interested in this *because* I have a partner who really genuinely sees homemaking as a job (in his last relationship, he had the full time job/full time homemaker thing going on) and because he would expect to take care of me when I'm having fibro problems and he's v. genuinely appreciative of what I do when I am able to do it.

Sometimes I just get sick of everything being so neubulous and I wish for the "housewife" structure along with the third wave option to do something else if it turns out I'm crap at it. ;)

I don't want a wife so much as a Bunter. Where's my gentleman's gentleman?

This is why I shoot fire out of every opening in my head when I get spam snailmail addressed to "Mrs. [husband's full name]." The sooner that cute little archaic convention dies in a ditch, the better. In fact why didn't it do that, oh I dunno, several decades ago? Ugh. I'm getting twitchy now just thinking about it.

And I may have been watching a lot of stand-up comedy on Netflix.

Any stand-up comics you can recommend?

Edit: I posted before I got to the bottom. Mencia & Rogan. Thank you.

Edited at 2010-06-30 08:32 pm (UTC)

I don't actually recommend Mencia. Cho, is of course, awesome.

I just got over a summer cold--not fun, that. Feel better soon!

How odd, I was just considering writing a post on this topic today--and then got distracted by yours so it didn't get done. :)

I know several D/s couples in which the submissive partner serves as the butler/housewife/beautiful-AI-in-a-bustle. And the interplay of power is fascinating, because often the submissive is the keeper of the schedule and the budget and so forth, so although the dominant is technically in charge of the final decisions they end up having to clear itineraries and purchases with the submissive because it's their job to keep track of it.

re: blankets-- What you need is an afghan. (We've got two that live on the couch and get treated as throw pillows in times of non-blanket-need.) Didn't you have a lot of palimpsest-tour knit blocks you were sewing together?

I often find myself not wanting a wife, but a mom - someone whose lap I can crawl into and ask about extra blankets, and who will make me soup and pet my hair. I am feeling poorly myself today, and I have been wanting this VERY BADLY.

As to the husband/wife thing, I am constantly being asked why my boyfriend and I aren't married (something we fully intend to do); the only thing I've ever been able to say to shut people up is "I don't want to nag my boyfriend into marriage; I want him to be excited to marry me." And they get this great look on their face, like I never thought of that!

hahahaha. That is an awesome answer to naggy busybodies.

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