April 4, 2013 by lucieromarin
Ambling past the shelves in a bookshop today, thinking about a post related to food, health and money, my eye caught the title of a new book: How to Create the Perfect Wife, by Wendy Moore. I reached for a copy, and read the first paragraph of the blurb, as follows:
London, spring, 1769. Like many people, Thomas Day dreamed of meeting the perfect partner. In fact, Day knew eaxctly the type of woman he wanted to marry. Pure and virginal yet tough and hardy, uncorrupted by society yet fully schooled in the discoveries of the day, she would share his dream of living in rural seclusion, attending to his every whim.
I thought: Gaaaaah!!!
Does this sound familiar?
See, I kind of thought this attitude was mostly particular to contemporary religious cults, but here was an irreligious man inspired by Enlightenment thought, thinking the same thing as your twenty-year-old Catholic agrarianism aficionado, and doing exactly the same thing as your cultic-Protestant-homeschooler. (He was allowed to take two 12-year-old orphans into his home and subject them to a training programme, which included, for one of them, having a gun fired at her skirts.)
Well, I know that this is supposed to be a blog about recovering from burnout and disappointment, rather than about what Some Groups of Americans Do Wrong. I also know that it’s customary to read a book before you write about the thoughts that it’s given you, and I’m only up to the blurb. However, I’ve already started having thoughts, and here they are:
1) As soon as I read about Day’s setting bizarre tests for the girls (such as offering clothes to one, and then making her burn them), I remembered the words (more or less!) of one of the trafficked girls quoted in ‘Girls Like Us,’ as she came to understand the meaning of mind-control: “You mean like when he makes you do weird sh*t just to see if you’ll obey?”
What do a Georgian bachelor, a trafficker, and a cult-leader have in common? In a word: training.
2) Education is unto the good of the one educated. Training is unto the good of the trainer. This is why you educate a student and train an employee. It’s nice that you get a career out of your traineeship, but really, it’s not offered to you because your employer cares about your career. If you do badly, you’ll get fired, because your training is, from his viewpoint, for the sake of his business.
To a certain extent, you own the thing (pet dog) or the person (employee) you train. This is why, if you google ‘training wives’ you will not find any programmes listed at your Diocesan chancery or parish church. This is why a man who longs to meet an educated woman is not creepy, while a man who wishes to own a trained wife is.
3) I bet that, despite Day’s desire to take his virginal-yet-hardy bride to his rural holding, he didn’t do a thing to actually acquire a farm. It reminded me of the many happy occasions when I received unsolicited emails from urban would-be intellectuals about the beauty of farm life. I have a friend whose boyfriend (an unemployed city-dweller fond of reading about Catholic agrarianism) told her in all seriousness that, if they were married, he hoped she would choose to do all her laundry by hand.
However, this led me to another thought. Just as there’s a difference between a woman with bad taste and a woman with bad morals, so that a wholly inappropriate outfit can be worn in all innocence, there’s a difference between a dodgy thought and a dodgy thinker. When the boyfriend quoted above was rejected, he didn’t cry, “Feminist! Hoyden!” or any such thing. All he did was shuffle sorrowfully into the sunset. Some of this thoughts looked like the thoughts of abusive cult-husbands, but, ultimately, he wasn’t one of them. He was like the teenage boy fed a steady diet of pornography, who discovered to his surprise that his first girlfriend didn’t like any of his tricks. The Catholic man had enjoyed a diet of modesty-porn and domesticity-porn, which blinded him to what women really were. But he wasn’t evil.
Let’s not immediately assume that persons who say irritating things are evil. They might just be in need of a little education!
4) Having said that, and ‘fessing up to the fact that I too am one of those useless city girls who thinks she’s getting back to nature if her pot-plant doesn’t die, I’m going to say that, if you are going to advocate homesteading and self-sufficiency to me, you need to 4a) not dismiss sermons preached by priests who hail from the country, on the grounds that ‘they’re from the country, so, like, what do they have to say to intellectuals?’, and 4b) be able to drive, and 4c) probably also be able to kill animals and dig for more than half an hour before going inside to write a paper on G.K Chesterton as the Archetype of the Catholic Male.