“Do you want to go walking earlier Monday?” The text came from my exercise partner and BFF. (Can you use that term when you’re over 50?) She spends her days solving complex problems in a research laboratory.
“Earlier??? Off tomorrow?” I’ve lost track of holidays.
“YES.” She must think I’m nuts to forget Labor Day. The unofficial end of Summer.
“Mmmmm….Off from work. Must be niiiice.” I texted back with subtle sarcasm. I had just returned home from yet another grocery store run. Parking in the driveway I winched at the uncut grass. This is the week to do yard work.
“Speak to your HR dept.” She smirked back.Who says scientists don’t have a sense of humor?
“My HR dept is taking a nap with an orange cat lying on his belly. I’ll just check my employee handbook.” Who says housewives don’t have a sense of humor?
Its a good thing too! If I had an employee handbook the HOLIDAYS/VACATION section would have one entry: PUT ANOTHER LOG ON THE FIRE.
I recently heard this titled Country Western novelty song the end of a long day of Housewifery – Laundry, Ironing, Meal Prep, General House Keeping.
It was evening. I was wrapping up chores: gassing up the SUV, checking tire pressure – after visiting 2 gas stations to find a working air pump – delivering clothes to the dry cleaners and shopping at two grocery stores. On the way home I was bemoaning the fact that the task of unloading and putting away groceries still awaited me. But then this song came on the radio.
Laughed waaaay too much! Good thing I was alone in the car.
So to all my working sisters – kick back, enjoy your day off.
I just might join you and spend the day making art!♥
FULL DISCLOSURE: My hubby is nothing like Tompall Glasser’s song. I am the “kid sister” and he has taken me fishin’ – once. HA! HA!
“HOUSEWIFE: A married woman whose main occupation is caring for her family, managing household affairs, and doing housework.” – Oxford Dictionary.
“Denise, do you work anywhere now?” A neighbor asked, evidently curious about my constant presence at home.
“Yes. Yes I work very hard as a full-time Housewife.”
There was a pause. A puzzled but pleasant smile. Finally “Well good for you!” ended the brief conversation. Other responses have been:
“Must be nice.”
“It can’t be THAT much work.”
“No. I mean WORK. You still WORK somewhere don’t you?”
Thanks to popular t.v. shows, the perception of the American Housewife has often been misguided. Be it the shapely 1950’s mother who did all her housework effortlessly in high-heels. Or the current “real” Housewives who pass the day in a glut of lush extravagance and bickering. I am neither young, desperate or have a rich husband. I can not afford to squander precious resources like time and common sense.
My past roles – Art Curator, Artist In Residence, Art Teacher, Caregiver – needed little explaining and were often met with respect and empathy. However the term Housewife is little understood and is sorely in need of rebranding. To help clarify matters, here are a few personal Q & A.
When did you retire?
I didn’t retire. I still work. I work very hard as a full-time Housewife.
Do you work part-time?
No. I work full-time as a Housewife.
O.K. But don’t you do things online?
Sure. I have a blog and a couple of online shops. But…
Oh! You’re an Entrepreneur. Right?
Not really. Earning extra money for the family budget is just part of my work as a Housewife. Everything I do from cooking from scratch to making our laundry products is part of my home management. Similarly, gardening and canning supplements our food stuffs. Learning to sew and crochet adds to our wardrobe. Collecting kindling and burning firewood during the winter saves on heating. Growing and using medicinal herbs in teas, tinctures and salves keeps our immune systems up and medical bills down….
Gardening. Sewing. Herbs. Cooking. You’re a Homesteader! Are y’all gonna get chickens?
“Can I stop wearing The Patch?” I wondered out loud.
That rhetorical question sent a panicky shiver down my Beloved’s spine.
I’m going through what we Southern women graciously refer to as The Change. “The Patch” – an adhesive dose of estrogen – has become a type of pharmaceutical marriage counselor. It restores peace to our home by lessening mood swings – tears accompanied by sullen quiet followed by a healthy dose of outrage. Can’t relate? Before continuing, watch the following video clip from That 70s Show . It accurately demonstrates the challenges of The Change. Thanks Retired Army RANGER for posting on YouTube!
My husband loves The Patch. My first inkling of Billy’s devotion to it came when he was laid off during the “Great Recession.” We were able to enroll in a discount health care plan. Such plans are like grocery shopping with coupons when you really need food stamps! With no real health insurance, I offered to sacrifice The Patch. I could tough it out for a few months. But Billy could not.
He spoke to the pharmacist.
“Hey. Will y’all honor this discount card? Good. Because WE really need those Patches. They are for my wife. WE have got to use them. Everyday.” Knowing giggles were heard from behind the counter as Billy unhesitatingly plopped down $40 – double the insurance co-pay – for a month’s supply!
More recently, I had been complaining to Billy that The Patch seemed to no longer work as well. I was wearing the maximum strength and yet menopausal discomfort was returning – headaches, hot flashes, night sweats just for starters! Why continue to wear the thing if its not working?
So there WE were sitting in the GYN exam room waiting for Cindy (Female Health Nurse Practitioner) and Peaches her assistant. After a brief exchange of pleasantries, Billy stepped into the adjoining dressing room. As my annual exam proceeded this is what he heard:
“Any new concerns Miss. Denise?”
“Yeah. I’m wondering if I should continue wearing The Patch. Its been several years now and I’m starting to worry that I’ve been wearing it too long. Besides it doesn’t seem to be working as well.” I proceeded to go into all the sweaty, details. Cindy listened patiently as she probed my nether regions, checked breathing, heart rate, etc. Finally she said.
“Well Denise its certainly up to you to decide. But you were only peri-menopausal when you started on The Patch. You’ve recently turned 50. Welcome to menopause!” Cindy assured me that my increased discomfort was quite normal. Still the decision was mine. Then she left me with Peaches.
“Miss. Denise, how long have you and your husband been married?”
“Well if you want to be married 15 more years I suggest you keep wearing that Patch! Menopause will make you so mad at your husband, even his breathing will get on your nerves. You think you have problems now? Stop wearing The Patch and see what happens.”
Billy emerged from the dressing room grinning from ear to ear.
“Oh so what did y’all decide about The Patch?”
“I guess I’ll keep wearing it.”
“I think that’s a very good idea Shuggy.”
What do you do to make life more pleasant for you and your Beloved during The Change? Helpful comments welcomed!
I decided to give the short answer: “He asked me out.”
“Really? Billy? But he’s so quiet and shy.”
I laughed hard, perhaps a little too hard…”Well you’ll just have to get to know him better.”
“Its the quiet ones you have to watch.”
Some years ago, a new acquaintance of ours asked me how I met my husband. To the casual observer, we certainly don’t “match.” My husband is a quiet, reflective introvert and I’ve been described having a “bombastic” personality that I’ve learned to tone down over the years into a modified extrovert. Then of course I’m Black and he’s White. And that, my friends, is very different the farther south of Atlanta you travel. Then again he’s 12 years older than me. I’m tall, he’s well…not. Oh yeah, folks are always staring and wondering. And sometimes total strangers just ask. So I’ll tell you-
Billy and I attended the same Bible study group for many years before we started dating.
While romance was lacking in those early years, what I knew about Billy, I admired. He was a spiritual man who was well known for his willingness to help others out. A skilled mechanic and electrician who volunteered to make home repairs for the elderly, build places of worship and help with disaster relief.
Also I admired Billy because he was a single dad. His eldest, a dear son, had left home soon after graduating from high school. But his daughter, a tween, was still with him. And she loved her father as Southern girls are prone to do with an almost worshipful admiration. No wonder too. Billy spent quality and quantity time with his daughter Annie. She was his constant companion, a hard worker at his volunteer construction jobs.
It was Billy’s daughter Annie that first captured my attention.
“Billy, I’m having some of the girls over my apartment for a little get-together. Can Annie come?”
So I sat about to “rescue” Annie from the constant dust, dirt, and hardhats of her father’s world. A series of “female” Southern socials would be a welcomed diversion to a girl who was blossoming into a lovely young woman. Annie and I became friends. And to me Billy was simply “Annie’s Daddy.”
A few years went by and one night when the Bible study group was breaking up for the evening, “Annie’s Daddy” came up to me:
“Wait Denise. Are you fixin’ to leave already? “
“Yeah. I had a rough day at work and I want to get home early.”
“Well, um…I have a question for you.” Billy smiled.
“O.K. its a serious question.” Billy smiled bigger.
“O.K.” I repeated with a slight annoyance.
“I’m not joking now. This is a serious question.”
“O.K. then what’s your question?” Seriously? Seriously? This is taking too long I just want to go home. I’m tired.
“If I asked you – would you go out with me sometime?”
“Sure!” I readily said. Is that all? Good grief! Maybe I can go home now.
I really didn’t mean to be that flippant. I was just trying to leave. Yet Billy had charmed me with his boyish stammering. Besides, he used the word “sometime.” That’s a very safe, ambiguous term.
“How about Friday?” He asked.
“Wait a minute. Today is Monday and you want to go out Friday? THIS Friday?” This was no shy boy. This was a grown man who knew what he wanted.
So we went out Friday January 7, 2000.
And Saturday, January 8, 2000.
And Sunday, January 9, 2000.
Billy kept asking me out and I kept saying yes. Four months later I was saying YES again to my marriage vows.
The minister who eventually married us had known both Billy and myself for decades. When he found out that we were dating, he said-
“I’m so tickled you and Billy are dating! It makes perfect sense that the two of you should get together. Y’all are so much alike!”