Sunday, 16 September 2012

Matrimonial Bliss - the old-fashioned way.

Before my wedding one of my friends gave me two little books. Published in 1913. Both written by the same author. One Blanche Ebbutt.  They're red and blue. The Red One is called 'DON'TS FOR WIVES'.  The Blue One, can you guess? That's right! 'DON'TS FOR HUSBANDS'. 

I expected these books to be cover to cover hilarity but as I've browsed through them I found myself nodding at few times, passing on some of the wisdom to my husband from whom I just get a 'Yes Dear'  and laughing out loud at advice that even if I tried to follow my husband might think I'd gone completely loopy.  Now I'll admit I'm a bit of an old fashioned girl in some things - I didn't think my thinking dated back to 1913 though.

The Red Book is divided into 12 chapters: Personalities; How to avoid Discord; Habits; Financial Matters; Evenings at home; Jealousy; Recreation; Food; Dress; Entertaining; Household Management; Children.
The Blue Book is divided into 11 chapters: General Habits; Personal Relations; Jealousy; Hints on Finance; Household matters; Recreation and Holidays; Health; Dress; Hobbies; Food; Children.

Some of my favourites from the Red Book:

  • 'Don't vegetate as you grow older if you happen to live in the country. Some women are like cows, but there is really no need to stagnate. Keep both brain and body on the move.'
  • 'Don't 'manage' your husband too visibly. Of course, he may require the most careful management, but you don't want your friends to think of him as a hen-pecked husband. Above all, never let him think you manage him.' 
  • 'Don't open the door for yourself when your husband is present. He would open it for a lady guest, let him open it for you. Besides, your boys will not learn the little courtesies that count nearly so well by precept as by example.'
  • 'Don't be satisfied to let your husband work overtime to earn money for frocks for you. Manage with fewer frocks.'
  • 'Don't omit the kiss of greeting. It cheers a man when he is tired to feel that his wife is glad to see him home.'
  • 'Don't be jealous of your husband's acquaintance with other women. you don't want him to think you are the nicest woman in the world because he never sees any others, but because he sees plenty and still feels that you are the only one in the world for him. Have nice girls about the house pretty frequently.'
  • 'Don't object to your husband getting a motor-bicycle; merely insist that he shall buy a side-car for you at the same time.'
  • 'Don't forget to 'feed the brute' well. Much depends on the state of his digestion.'
  • 'Don't talk to your husband about anything of a worrying nature until he has finished his evening meal.'
  • 'Don't let your husband wear a violet tie with grass-green socks. If he is unhappily devoid of the colour sense, he must be forcibly restrained, but don't be sarcastic about your husband's taste in dress. Be gently persuasive and train his sense of fitness.'
And from the Blue Book:

  • '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.'
  • 'Don't flourish a grimy handkerchief about because you have forgotten to take a clean one out of your box or your drawer. If your wife provides you with a reasonable stock, you might at least take the trouble to remember to use them.'
  • 'Don't omit to bring home an occasional bunch of flowers or a few chocolates. Your wife will value even a penny bunch of violets for your thought of her.'
  • 'Don't object to your wife going out with another man if you can't take her yourself - so long as you know and approve of the man.'
  • 'Don't be afraid of lending a hand in the house during a temporary servant difficulty, or if you keep no servant. It will do you no harm at all to learn to light a fire or clean a pair of boots, and be sure your wife will have to do plenty of things she is unaccustomed to.'
  • 'Don't say it is no fun to go out cycling with your wife because she can't "scorch." It will do you no harm to ride more slowly than usual, and your company will give her a great deal of pleasure. Her "going slow" is one of the secrets of her chances of longer life. Take her with you, and you will avoid that overtaxing of the arteries which leads to premature old age.'
  • 'Don't insist on wearing your hair or your moustache in a style you know she hates. Just try it another way to please her.'
  • 'Don't get up too late to eat a decent breakfast before starting out for your day's work. It is bad for you go without, and will worry your wife.'
As much as we may chuckle at some of the advice there is something to be said for heeding it - perhaps adapting it into a more modern context. Bringing back some old fashioned courtesies could make this modern, fast paced world a kinder, happier place. 

Do something without expecting anything in return for someone else today. I guarantee that seeing someone else smile at the smallest gesture will make you smile too.

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