Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Don't Fall Down Laughing...Don'ts for Husbands--Don'ts for Wives--1913-Style...marriage humor...

March 24, 2010

Don't Fall Down Laughing

Recently I bought a gift for my husband that has provided hours of laughter for both of us. Nope, it’s not a mirror. It’s a book that was published in 1913 called, Don’ts for Husbands and Don’ts for Wives. You have to note the year to get a feel for what’s coming and also to get a feel for the kind of hilarity that can ensue when you realize that this book was taken seriously back in its day.

First, let’s just take a look at how the chapters are broken up, according to the perceived concerns of a wife and the burning issues for the husband. The “topics” of the day for the husband were:

I. General Habits
II. Personal Relations
III. Jealousy
IV. Hints on Finance
V. Household Matters
VI. Recreation and Holidays
VII. Health
VIII. Dress
IX. Hobbies
X. Food
XI. Children

Women were going to concern themselves with:

I. Personalities
II. How to Avoid Discord
III. Habits
IV. Financial Matters
V. Evenings at Home
VI. Jealousy
VII. Recreation
VIII. Food
IX. Dress
X. Entertaining
XI. Household Management
XII. Children

Please note that the overlap seems to be along the lines of food, children, dress and, well, that’s about it. There is the word “household” in two areas and I guess under “children” it would be safe to say that they might not want to deny that it took two parents to make them, so they must be dealt with. It seems that it was important to keep up appearances during that time period, as well, so there is lots of talk of shirtsleeves not being rolled up and women making some sort of effort, lest her man think she doesn't care about her appearance.

Without further ado, I would like to excerpt a few choice passages from the best humor book I’ve read in YEARS!

“General Habits.” For Men.
DON’T drop cigarette ash all over the drawing-room carpet. Some people will tell you that it improves the colours, but your wife won’t care to try that recipe.
(I’m not sure which part of this amuses me the most; a drawing-room in which to smoke, the visual of a landed gentleman casually launching ashes willy-nilly, someone actually offering up a “this will improve the drawing-room” argument or a wife not liking the “recipe.” That last term just slays me.)

“Personal Relations." For Men.
DON’T keep her in cotton-wool. She isn’t wax—she’s a woman.
(Damn straight, Sparky, and it's a good thing too because, frequently, I get so heated up, I’d be rendered into a puddle of waxy goo in no time.)

“Jealousy.” For Men.
imagine your wife never wants to see any other man than you. However nice she thinks you, it is possible to have too much of a good thing.”
(Is it just me or does that look a lot like advocating for dating within the marriage?)

“Habits.” For Women
DON’T be everlastingly trying to change your husband’s habits, unless they are very bad ones. Take him as you find him, and leave him at peace.
(Okay, I’m liking the wiggle room provided with, “unless they are very bad ones.")

“Financial Matters.” For Women
hesitate to plan out large expenditures with your husband. Usually a woman is very good at small economics, but often a man has a better grip of essentials in spending large amounts.”
(You hear that girls? Guys can go large and we can go small. Boy, it seems that stereotypes might have changed a bit in this regard. My husband and I had quite a bit of fun spouting this one at each other whenever anything came up about money. It did tend to provide us with the most financial fun we’ve had since we discovered that if you just make the minimum payment on a credit card bankruptcy looms.)

“Evenings at Home.” For Women.
DON’T let him have to search the house for you. Listen for his latch-key and meet him on the threshold.
(I think it would be much more interesting AND amusing if we – just one time – changed the lock and waited just inside the threshold, listening for the aforementioned latch-key, knowing it's not going to work. Of course, that would make for short-lived amusement and a tense evening at home, I suppose. How does a latch-key differ from a key, anyway?)

I bought this little beauty at Barnes and Noble, and it was written by Blanche Ebbutt, whose name even sounds as though it’s from a different time. It was published in London, so you’ll notice the requisite spellings with a “u” and what-not. It’s the best $6.98 I’ve ever spent – hands down! For Men and Women: DON'T miss it!

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