What does a “wife” look like?
Becoming a wife was never something I aspired to. Marriage, yes, but not a slumpy, frumpy ‘wife’. Even the word promises little, being wider than it is tall and regularly lumped on the end of equally stout prefixes – house-wife, fish-wife. Compare it to ‘girlfriend’ – suggestive of kissing, fancy lingerie and shiny hair – or even ‘partner’, which strides forth beaming and biker-booted, full of equality and modernity.
But a wife I am. In fact, carelessly, I’ve been one twice: Once very badly; the second time – hopefully – a bit better (a fortune-teller told me there would be three husbands, but she also said I’d be rich, which I might be were I not so stupid as to pay fortune-tellers).
Enamoured, then, by marriage but not my marital status, you’d think I’d be nonplussed by Kate Moss’s recent comment that her husband “would go mental” if she dressed “like a wife”.
But I am bothered. Because it’s all very well for Ms Moss to prance around in skinny jeans and brag about being all rock‘n’roll. But in one flimsy, flyaway line, she’s painted all of us shackled to a wedding ring as big, fat polyester-clad nobodies arm-deep in cheese sauce. OK, she didn’t really say that, but we know what she means.
You’ll notice Kate doesn’t often give interviews. I could be nasty and point out a correlation between her last helpful comment – “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” – and a lack of nutrients to the brain, but then I’d be guilty of the same stereotyping as her.
Fact is, I need to thank Kate, because her inference that being “like a wife” is somehow deeply unfashionable and uncool has prompted me to rethink its significance.
Eleven years in, I’m finally happy to be a wife. Why? Because it means:
•Being known – deeply, irrevocably known. Not so known that he doesn’t occasionally buy the most God-awful gifts, but known enough that when my good sense stumbles or my world tumbles, he’ll try his damnedest to fix it. If he can’t, he’s there, a head-and-a-half taller, a shoulder broader, telling me, “No one’s going to care in a year.”
• Being wrong, most days. Putting a ring on it doesn’t ensure instant harmony. Sometimes, being married is like being rubbed over with sandpaper. But, over time, the sharp bits soften or, like walking on creaky floorboards, you learn to step around them.
• Being there. When his mother succumbed to mental illness, there was nothing that could be said and little that could be done. So I anchored myself – for him – as someone who knew her and what she’d been before.
• Being us. No one else cares a jot about our daughter becoming school captain, but we do because we made her.
• Being second. While I’d much prefer to munch on a block of Lindt Orange, I usually buy Dairy Milk Fruit & Nut because that’s his favourite. Likewise, he’s given up cooking kedgeree because the fish/rice/egg combo makes me puke.
• Being able to wear a fleecy blue dressing gown with a hole in it and skintight black jeans with ‘shag me’ shoes (not usually at the same time, though). Sorry, Kate, but if “like a wife” means me going to a 40th birthday dressed as a licorice allsort and him going as a jar of Marmite, then fab-diddly-oh.
• Even though sometimes I don’t want to be a wife and, more specifically, sometimes I don’t want to be his wife, the fact I still am says everything.
Catch Angela Mollard every Sunday at 8.45am on Weekend Today, on the Nine Network. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her at www.twitter.com/angelamollard
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