Monday 26 March 2012

Ball and Chain

Previously, on this is how she fight start…

Every so often a British TV channel (usually Channel 4) will show an ‘educational’ documentary about a group or a person with a hideously disfiguring condition or ailment. They’re normally justified as ‘awareness raising’, but frankly they’re just an updated version of a carnival freak-show. Stuff like The Man With Trees For Hands, The Woman With Three Tits, or The Boy With An Arse For A Face.

One example which really stuck in my mind was a programme about massively fat women and their partners. The Women Who Ate ALL The Pies, or something.

The USP of this doc, beyond simply laughing at chubby people, was that the men in question were sexually attracted to morbidly obese women. Now, I’m a ‘live and let live’ kind of guy where this stuff is concerned; as long as all involved are consenting adults I really don’t care how you get your rocks off. Speaking personally, I like to rub my cock with a cheese-grater and curry paste.

That was a joke, by the way. I much prefer horseradish.

But the thing about these relationships, the thing which shifts them out of ‘good clean fun’ territory, is that these men were actively fattening up their partners. Like the Witch from Hansel and Gretel, they were stuffing their girl with food to get her as big as possible before shoving her in the oven. So to speak. As sexual peccadilloes go, it’s certainly a step up from asking your girlfriend to shave her muff.

‘Feeding’ isn’t healthy, either psychologically or physically. The men are obviously motivated to indulge behaviour which is detrimental to both their partners and ultimately themselves. It’s generally not in a parasite’s best interests to kill its host before it can secure another one, and women that huge are – paradoxically – not easy to find.

She's a keeper

But these feeders keep at it, because that’s what they like. And the feedees keep gobbling it down, because that’s what they like, because they’re not right either, physically or psychologically. Let’s be generous and call it an addiction. They’re addicted to food, plus usually the validation and ‘support’ offered by their partners, even if they’d clearly be better off with less of all of them.

Budding pop-psychologists that we all are, I’m sure we’re all familiar with the term ‘enabler’. Seeing someone else self-destruct is sometimes unavoidable. You can lead a horse to water and all that. But enablers take it one step further and actually make it possible for that self-destruction to occur, usually kidding themselves that it can’t be helped, or that it’s the least worst option.

Feeders are obviously an extreme example of this, but it happens all over the place. People ignore what’s really in their loved-one’s best interests and subconsciously encourage their bad habits, all the while bemoaning their lack of control.

It was either him or Lindsay Lohan. Or David Hasselhoff.
Or Mel Gibson. Or Amy Winehouse. Or Pete Doherty.
Or Britney Spears, or , or, or...

If you’ve kept up with this from Monday, I’m sure you can see where this is going by now. A lot of Japanese wives are enablers, and I’m not just talking about turning a blind eye to the pachinko and soapland visits. Any household needs to be both managed and paid for, and if a wife expects her husband to pay for it all it’s hardly unreasonable for him to expect her to make up the other side of the equation.

Of course the balance of labour is negotiable, but surely the time to sort out the basics is before getting hitched? It’s a bit rich chucking in your job straight after marriage then complaining that your partner is too focused on his work to the detriment of the family. Renegotiation is fine, any healthy relationship involves constant readjustment of the scales, but if you’re so keen for your husband to do more round the house then maybe you might want to bring in a bit of cash as well?

The galling thing is that many women I hear making these sorts of complaint have degrees. You don’t need a tertiary education to use a vacuum cleaner. That’s a lot of education going to waste, both personally and nationally.

I first came to Japan a decade ago, and I always remember doing interview tests with the third-years in one of my higher level senior high schools. One of the questions was ‘What is your dream?’ Maybe three-quarters of the girls (all of whom were looking to go to university, remember) said their dream was, ‘To marry a rich man and have children.’ The rest all wanted to be animal trainers.

That's the way to do it

This is where I clarify things so I don’t get lynched next time I go to the supermarket. There is absolutely nothing wrong in wanting to raise a family. Wanting to be a parent and run a home is a totally admirable goal, if that’s what you really want for yourself. It should not be the default option simply because you're female and that's what everyone expects you to do.

Nor do I think that being a full-time parent is an easy job, despite the Hoover jibe above. From the times my wife has cleared off for days out with her friends I can fully appreciate how taxing full-time childcare must be, quite without having to run a household as well. But the more a wife assumes that it’s her role and not her husband’s, the truer that will become. The more she assumes that he’s incapable of looking after a child, the more excuses he has for not trying. If every time he tries to cook dinner he gets patronised then why would he want to expend effort only to end up looking stupid?

Obviously I was exaggerating before when I said that husbands’ problems were all the fault of their wives. I’m fully aware that for all I complained about men being forced into certain roles it’s far, far worse for women. I seriously doubt that 75% of my female students would have wanted to be housewives if they had been properly encouraged to consider all the other directions their lives might lead.

In this respect at least things are looking up. Slightly. I did a questionnaire in class the other month and very, very few of my female students dream of being housewives. They all want to be pâtissières now. Which is a step in the right direction, I guess. More encouragingly, my English Club kids want to be translators or nurses, doctors even.

This picture is totally inappropriate, and undermines
everything I'm trying to say

I know several female teachers well into middle-age who remain unmarried and are quite happy about it. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the glass ceiling is relatively high in the education sector. It’s still there, obviously, shamefully, but it’s a lot higher that in the private sector, where OLs are unlikely to ever rise beyond getting the tea, and are pretty much expected to quit once they get married.

These teachers at least have realized that they don’t have to play the game completely by someone else’s rules. They don’t have to delegate their earning capacity for a vision of domesticity they are neither suited to nor believe in. It is possible to opt out to an extent. It’s hard, of course, but it’s possible.

They’ve taken steps to help themselves, and therein lies the question I want to ask all the wives who complain about their husbands’ hours and misogyny, all the husbands who complain about their wives’ cooking and nagging. In fact anyone whose life isn’t where they would want it to be.

What are you doing to change it?

If you’re unhappy with your situation, you have to change it. If you don’t then the only possible conclusion is that you think, consciously or not, that implementing the change would make you even more unhappy. Often that will be a completely correct assessment, but just as often it will be totally wrong, because people mistake stasis for happiness, and being lazy for being content.

People and circumstances won’t change by themselves, and complaining alone won’t sort anything. If you don’t have a plan, and if you don’t actually do anything to execute it, then you can’t act surprised when nothing changes.

What are you doing to change it?


  1. Watching the boy wrap tape around the model had me laughing so hard it was hard to refocus :)

    The biggest most commented blogs I know are women complaining about their lives and a buncha other women agreeing to varying degrees...that's about it.

    **Let us observe a moment of silence**

    Twitter killed the internet...folks can't focus for more than 10 seconds. Wives can skim other wives posts and get the gist of it...and they do...which is sad. Being a male blogger is like being a middle aged middle class white person....nobody seems to give a fuck.

    Nice post BTW!!

    1. That's always the risk, isn't it? You use someone else's stuff and it's so good it distracts a bit from what you want to say. I don't view the videos as integral as you do, but the two here were just too good to pass up.

      I wrote these posts months ago, and they're based on people I know in real life, but I know what you mean about the blogs. I get that people are more likely to share bad stuff than good; that's normal and healthy. It's just when it's the same complaint every time you do start to wonder. One of the definitions of insanity is doing the same thing every time, yet expecting a different outcome.

      "being a middle aged middle class white person....nobody seems to give a fuck."

      Yes indeed, we are the last bastion of the oppressed ;)
      (I know, not the age bit yet, but it's just a matter of time...)

  2. From my point of view, I've always supported myself (and my son for most of his dependant life). I've worked with women who complain about their husbands doing nothing around the house. They have to iron his shirts, make his lunch, blah blah blah...

    My response is so just stop. I can understand someone getting pissed off and doing say the washing up if their partner doesn't do it and the dishes are getting manky but ironing and making lunches... not hurting anyone but the partner if you stop.

    Usually it's the same women complaining about doing their teenage kids laundry etc.

    It's not part of the wife/mother duties, it's a hobby so stop bitching.

    1. Not a hobby so much as a martyr complex, I reckon. In some cases at least. 'Look at how selfless I am'. And of course no-one actually looks, so it festers and ends up in divorce/therapy/at the bottom of a bottle.

      In the UK single mothers are up there with immigrants as the politicians' favourite scapegoats. I could never really understand either, but as a parent who's finding it taxing in a couple, I can only look on in awe at single parents who raise their kids successfully. I could make a semi-serious joke about at least not having to put up with anyone else's bullshit, but I'd dread not having someone to hand the kid off to when it all starts getting too much. Why would you want to make it harder than it is by not fixing issues when they arise?

  3. Have thrown everything, including the kitchen sink, at a few of those special challenges life seems to dole out from time to time. In terms of dealing with dear Wifey, we have yet to try shock treatment. But now that I'm thinking about it, we do have a decent set of jumper cables.

    1. Statistically speaking, something's got to work sooner or later, right?