Designer Bride – I

I just finished a great book called How to Create the Perfect Wife. It’s a non-fictional account of Thomas Day, a Georgian-era gentleman, and his attempt to, well, create for himself the perfect wife.

Thomas Day knew exactly the sort of life he wanted to lead. He wanted to retire from the shallow, frivolous contemporary society and live in a small cottage in the woods. He would spend his day reading philosophy, writing poetry, dispensing charity, and trying to make the world a better place. And he knew exactly the sort of woman he needed as a life partner.

She had to be smart and educated in all the same interests as he, but not so ambitious as to write her own novels or poems. She had to have simple tastes and spurn the frippery of the times. She’d wear her hair loose and unstyled. Her neckline would be high, her sleeves long. She would not own earrings or, preferably, any jewelry. She would be strong and capable, willing to endure his difficult life of privation and philanthropy. She would not engage in trivial pursuits like music and dancing, and she must have plump white arms.

Crazy, isn’t it? I mean, what kind of guy dictates the way his wife does her hair or what she does her spare time? Oh wait…

I once met a guy whose first criteria for a potential date was “doesn’t have Facebook.” His second was “will only cover her hair with a scarf or hat.” It only got more detailed from there. Another guy had a list of acceptable college degrees for his wife-to-be. I asked what he’d think if I found him the right girl, but she came with her own list, like how many times a week he has to learn, and maybe something against the way he asks random girls like me to call him by his nickname. His response was that if their lists didn’t match, clearly they weren’t meant for each other.

This is how many of us date. We have a dating pool of perhaps a few hundred candidates, but we still reel off detailed criteria down to how many years he should want to learn and what he can do bein hazmanim. And heaven forbid he should show up in a pink tie.

But if you know what kind of life you want, and you know what kind of spouse it will take to make it happen, why shouldn’t you insist on exactly what you need? Such hubris led our hero Thomas Day to attempt to create the woman he could not find.

Continued in the next post: Designer Bride II and Designer Bride III

HT to the Kansasian

Know Thyself (and Thine Man)

Don’t get emotional, but today’s post is about hormones.

We have an uneasy relationship with hormones. They affect our behavior more than we’d like to acknowledge. They interfere with our perceptions of self, personality, and free will. Quite frankly, hormones can be a little creepy.

It would behoove us women to know the average hormonal levels of the men we date. High testosterone men tend to be more aggressive, ambitious, obnoxious, and likely to chase other skirts. Lower testosterone men are more passive, thoughtful, family-oriented, and likely to exhibit borderline deadbeat behavior. It’s a sad fact, my lady friends: you can’t have it all. But you can choose.

Truth is, you can sort of tell which end a guy leans to. Those with stronger jaw lines tend have higher levels than those with more effeminate features.

Now, at this point someone is probably thinking that I’m stepping over a line here, talking about people’s hormones like this. Well, I believe it’s important to understand hormones, and not just once you’ve been married for two years without a child. Knowledge is power, and hormones are the key to understanding yourself – and your spouse.

For example, did you know that men have daily hormonal cycles? When they wake up they’re flush with testosterone. This is when they’re ready to jog and go to work and beat up the world to bring home the bacon. (For Jewish men: bring home the brisket.) If you have a male boss, the morning is a bad time to ask him for a raise. Nor is it a good time to discuss your Macys bill with your husband.  If you’re a guy, mornings are a good time to start big projects.

Levels drop by as much as 43% over the course of the day, so afternoon finds men feeling mellower. Now’s a good time for a mid-year review with your boss or to discuss remodeling the kitchen with your husband. If you’re a guy, evenings are a good time to hang with your wife.

It gets even more interesting, though. Because testosterone levels fluctuate depending on circumstances. Playing video games, team sports, or watching a favorite team win raises them. Watching their team lose, on the other hand, drags levels down.

It makes one wonder, really: which came first, NYC or the Yankees?

It also makes one wonder why women get the bad rap as the hormonal ones. At least our ambition and mood isn’t decided by who wins the World Series.

So why am I telling you this? First, because it’s my intro to what I really want to say, which will be tomorrow’s post. Second, because I do think this could improve shalom bayis. Just imagine the following common scenario.

Guy comes home from work and flops into armchair, tired. Wife comes and massages his feet, feeds him supper, and then reminds him that he promised to fix the step before someone falls down the stairs and breaks something. He says he’s really tired and just needs to unwind and he’ll get to it. She points out that he’s said this every evening. He points out that he’s tired every evening. Begin squabble.

Now imagine if this couple understood the effect of hormones in their life. The conversation would go somewhat differently.

Her: “Can you fix that step tonight? Moishela tripped over it on his way up to bed. He was crying for five minutes straight.”

Him: “I’m tired, I just need time to relax and unwind.”

Her: “No you don’t. You’re just in a hormonal slump. Why don’t you go play a half-hour of Duke Nukem to get your testosterone pumping and then take care of the step?”

Him: “Oh well, if you insist, dear. But I’m only doing it for you.”

There, you see? Knowledge is power. And “Know thyself” is among the most important knowledge you can have, after knowing thine spouse.

Part 2: Know Thyself