I have to push myself to say “my husband” when referring to my brand new spouse. I’ve had a month of honeymooning to get used to it, but the words related to this new relationship status don’t fit comfortably at all yet.
“Wife.” Who’s that? Where is she? And will she be pissed that I’m having drinks with her husband?
“Husband.” Where? What? Oh, that’s you? How’d that happen?
And when I have to use that particular pronoun, I feel like I’m stumbling over it. I have to stop, think, then say “my husband.” And I definitely don’t think of myself as “wife.” I know Meg over at A Practical Wedding has written circles about the loaded word “wife” and its centuries of baggage. We can’t help but inherit it a little, or a lot. From the Wife of Bath to Desperate Housewives, the old ball and chain, and too many bad jokes to count, being a “wife” hasn’t really been put in an appealing light. Sure, for a long time it was what every little girl aspired to be – it was almost all she could aspire to be – but we’ve lost that entire cultural context. (If we ever had it – I think people tend to oversimplify the complex lives of our forebearers)
At any rate, we don’t have that cultural context now, which leaves us with what?
It makes me wonder if the whole feminist bent to our society – of which I have lately, and because of wedding planning, become a fan – has killed any and all positive connotations to the word “wife.” Although, it must be said that Meg has long been about “reclaiming” the term, and more power to her.
The word “husband” hasn’t escaped entirely unscathed – there are plenty of jokes about trading them in for cats, small dogs, and oddly, tractors. And for every bad wife joke, there must be two or three jokes that are sexist towards men as a group. Not to mention countless movies and books devoted to the theme of women getting revenge on cheating, crappy husbands (personal favorites include: The First Wives Club, I Love You to Death, and She-Devil).
I’m still sorting out these words. They are so packed as to be stifling. And yet, I’m not about to throw out a useful moniker because it’s gotten tarnished over the years. “Wife” has unmistakable meaning, whereas “partner” “life partner” “significant other” and “spouse” are just different enough as to be muddy. As a writer, I work to make matters clear. But, as a “wife,” I feel a bit like whatever I am has been mislabeled.
It should be noted that Rogue Husband has none of these qualms or concerns. I swear, that man was made to be married.