27 Oct 2010

That'll Be $2 A Feeling, Ma'am

This is an account of Day 2 of the 50s Housewife Experiment: Husband Obsessed Edition

A key inspiration for this experiment, Mrs. Dale Carnegie (who even had a first name of her very own - Dorothy), was the wife of a very successful self-help author. Dale Carnegie wrote a book you've likely heard of: How To Win Friends and Influence People. This book was written in 1937 and was immediately a huge success. Today, it's still selling well (at the time of writing this post, the latest edition is ranked #162 on Amazon). Apparently, the socially awkward and power hungry are an enduring, timeless lot.

I couldn't help but wonder just how much under her husband's influence Mrs. Carnegie was when she wrote How To Help Your Husband Get Ahead, especially when it came to a section on nagging. Along with driving home the point that nagging could lead to the downfall of marriage, family and society as we know it (all under a section charmingly called "Why Men Leave Home"), Carnegie provided tips for wives to curb their habits of griping (something she referred to as a disease). These tips boiled down to:

  • Just stop nagging. Learn to only ask once and forget about it if he doesn't do what you want him to do.
  • You catch more flies with honey than vinegar - be sweet and use flattery to get him to do what you want
  • Stop being a bitch Get a sense of humour - realize that most things you nag about don't really matter, otherwise, he'd have done them! (OMG)
  • On the odd chance you nag about something important, talk about it calmly at a separate time
But the tip I was most convinced to have actually come from Mr. Carnegie was the following:

I simply can't envision any woman in any time in history coming up with such a horrible idea on her own. It's basically punishment for not constantly faking happiness, even when someone does something that deserves your annoyance. If anyone is going to have to pony up, shouldn't it be the person who failed to follow through on whatever chore or obligation he or she was supposed to do (rather than the person who reminds them of it)?

Apparently not. And so to my absolute horror, I present to you, The Nag Jar:

$0.25 in 1953, when this advice was viciously seared into print, is worth about $2 in today's market - and so that's my fine if I'm caught nagging or ... "showing irritation" ... *grits teeth and attempts to turn it into a smile. Fails miserably. Throws two loonies into the jar*

The jingle-jangles from my 'fines' are like Christmas bells to Patrick. He thinks The Nag Jar is the most hilarious thing to ever enter our house - and that includes the time I bought a poncho. He fully envisions a few trips to Starbucks next week will be covered compliments of this jar. I think not, but I'll let you know the damage at the end of the experiment.

Now that you know what's been in play at our home, onto the day's run-down:

Still riding that white cream sauce kick from the day before, I attempted to make something called Eggs a la Goldenrod for breakfast. Basically, you hard-boil a couple eggs. Once they're done, you separate the yolks from the whites. Meanwhile, make liquid heart attack a medium-thick white sauce (butter, flour, milk, salt). Cut up the cooked egg whites and toss them into the sauce. You then pour this sauce over buttered toast and complete the dish by crumbling the goldenrod-hued yolk over it all. Here's a picture of it from my Betty Crocker cookbook:

Ridiculous, no? And yet, mine did not turn out nearly as glamorous (and it's not just the bad lighting of my photo). The lack of enthusiasm(!) that was put into the making of this breakfast is slopped all over the plate: Grilled tomatoes instead of asparagus. A complete disregard for the garnishing power of the mighty radish rose. Toast just strewn there in a manner that says, "Sorry, but I haven't had my Valium coffee yet." Oh, for shame, 50s housewife. Fortunately for me in the context of this experiment, Patrick didn't really care what it looked like and happily ate it.

After breakfast, I did my 1950s cleaning routine, including getting all of the laundry done. Patrick was swamped at work, so he didn't make it back home for lunch; we were just having leftover Ring of Plenty anyway, so it wasn't a big deal. Afternoon was more chores, a quick dash to the grocery store and then I got started on dinner.

My thinking with dinner was two-fold:
  1. I didn't want to make anything overly heavy and creamy as Patrick had soccer that evening (envisioned the scene were Michael Scott "carbo loads" on Fettuccine Alfredo for his Rabies Awareness Pro-Am Fun Run Race and later suffers the consequences)
  2. Patrick claims to not really care for pie. I'm thinking that if I combine pie elements with something he really loves, namely bacon, I can turn him to the dark side
And so, I took a pork tenderloin, wrapped it in bacon and then wrapped all of that in pastry dough - essentially making a wellington. It was still baking when Patrick arrived home from work.

Emotional! Antennae! Activated! Husband Status: Hungry, pleased to be home

While things were finishing in the oven, I gave Patrick a tomato juice cocktail to tide him over until dinner was ready. You see, according to my Betty Crocker Picture Cook Book "the clever wife has a simple appetizing cocktail ready for her weary husband when he comes home at night." If all it takes to appear clever is to put some kind of liquid in a glass, consider me a Ph.D.

The pork wellington turned out really well - many compliments from the so-called pie hater. I accompanied it with boiled potato and Sweet and Sour Green Beans (from the Good Housekeeping Vegetable Cookbook) - which turned out rather brown looking for a green veg. Ah well.

As mentioned, Patrick had a soccer game later in the night. To "encourage him in his interests", I had washed and laid out his uniform on the bed, gathered his soccer stuff together and put a bottle of water in the freezer so he could have a cold drink during the game. How ever so thoughtful of me (and the gesture was indeed appreciated by the Mr.).

While he was out, it was a good chance for me to foster my own interests. So, for a few hours, I sat on the couch, numb, staring off into space worked on some freelance stuff (not really an interest, I guess, although I am interested in keeping my business afloat), and tried to do a bit of embroidery. If I have the chance to work on it more, I'll show my attempt at craftiness when this experiment wraps up.

And that was that. Onto Day 3!


Joe,  11:19 am, October 27, 2010  

I read that as "$2 a Feel" and thought to myself, "Oh God, what kind of experiment is she up to now! Did the 50's housewife REALLY charge her husband for "that"?" Thankfully, I had simply misread the title.

Anonymous,  11:42 am, October 27, 2010  

My husband better never find out about this blog as he probably wouldn't get the tongue-in-cheek humor of it and actually want to do some of this stuff for real!... I'll keep reading though - it's so funny!

Jodi,  2:30 pm, October 27, 2010  

Mrs. Dale Carnegie is the devil.

Katie Gregg 5:15 pm, October 27, 2010  

Oh my. I can just imagine how my 1950s houewife grandmother would have reacted if my grandfather had ever suggested such a thing!

dinah34 6:01 pm, October 27, 2010  

i've been thinking that it would be awesome to see a series about 'the 50s husband'. i'd read that.

Anonymous,  10:24 pm, October 27, 2010  

I love reading about this whole experiment. I can't believe you're actually surviving it--the nag jar, my god! I would love to hear your husband's perspective about what this experience is like for him. Does he (and do you) experience your relationship and your connection to each other differently during this 50s flashback?

Marsha,  12:05 am, October 28, 2010  

I'm trying to picture my grandmother with a nag jar. And her laughing at the very idea. I think the rest of her family would have hyperventilated at the thought- although in fear or horrified amusement I'm not too sure. And Joe, I had the same idea reading the title, but I thought he was going to be charging her.

Joe,  10:21 am, October 28, 2010  

Marsha - Of course you are right but when I misread something, I misread it GOOD.

Jen 2:16 pm, October 28, 2010  

Oh, Joe! Don't give me ideas. Ha.

Anon 1: That is definitely a risk. Apologies in advance to anyone out there who discovers a nag jar in their homes.

Jodi: Hmm. Come to think of it, her book *is* wrapped in the skin of the dead. You may have a point there.

Katie: I think like many women, I'm guessing your grandmother would have felt inclined to shove that jar in a dark, tight place, one that would have altered the way your grandfather walked.

Dinah & Nadia: I'll see if Patrick is open to writing a post on his perception of things. He was going to last time but kinda flaked on it. Maybe I can non-nag him into it this time.

Marsha: No doubt! Ha.

Harold Tessmann III 2:21 am, February 09, 2011  

I found your site via Hodg-Man and spent much of today reading the 50s housewife series. Absolutely hilarious, especially since my mom inherited cookbooks from that era.

I had to comment on this one because of the title. It brought to my mind the image of a man of the household, stoic and unemotional, informing his wife that she’d have to pay if she wanted him to show a feeling.

Jen 11:01 am, February 16, 2011  

Thanks, Harold (and thanks, Hodgman!). Ha, I also envisioned someone plainly stating the title of this post to his wife, too. Makes me wonder if anyone ever did do that!

Jennifer 10:57 pm, July 27, 2014  

I am coming to this post SO late, but I just wanted to say that my husband LOVES goldenrod. But we are from Texas, so around here we call it gravy instead of white sauce.

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Need words? I'm a Toronto-based freelance writer who injects great ones into blogs, websites, magazines, ads and more. So many services, one lovely Jen (with one 'n').

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