This is annoying. An article on “Brokelyn” about “How to Survive as a SAHG (Stay-at-Home-Girlfriend.” The author lost her job shortly after moving in with her boyfriend, and her article — illustrated with a woman in a French maid outfit vacuuming while daydreaming about martinis — is a retro riff on the joys of staying home cleaning and cooking for one’s man.
The annoying bit is that the article is actually really good advice for a person who is in the difficult situation of being unemployed and living with someone who isn’t. It’s advice men and women, straights and gays, could use. Or, for that matter, people who have had to move back in with their parents. (Except for the part about having lots of sex with the person who’s putting a roof over your head.) The author suggests getting up when the employed person does, which keeps you on a regular schedule and reduces the other person’s resentment; take good care of yourself physically; get out of the house at least once a day; make a contribution such as cleaning the house or cooking; make physical pleasure a priority in your relationship.
This is great advice. It’s hard to be provided for. It’s hard to be the provider. Straight up, it’s hard for relationships between adults to be unequal.
So why couch this good advice in such “oooh I’m so daring by being a 50s housewife” language?
Is it because a straightforward article on how to cope with unemployment and the relationship strains it inevitably produces just isn’t sexy enough? Not edgy?
I mean, French maids’ outfits and martinis. Oooh la la.
I don’t even think it’s sexism that’s underlying this. Sure, sexism gives this article its shape. But I think, deep down, it’s pure economic terror. Unemployment is fun if you can say breezily, “The thing is, even though I?ve gotten the whole domestic thing down to a science, the idea of being an actual housewife is not at all appealing. I still fully intend to have a career of my own. Until I land that new job, I?m doing the best job I can as a stay-at-home girlfriend.”
But what if it’s not a fun, erotic power game any more?
What if you never find another job?
If we can pretend it’s all a game, it will go away. Playing house until the next $70K gig lands in our lap.
When it gets real — when your boyfriend wakes up in the night wondering if he still loves you, or merely feels obligated to support you until you get back on your feet; when your contribution isn’t fixing martinis and meals from the Whole Foods deli section for your hot boo, but cleaning out your mother’s sewing room; when the friends who used to so happily give you manicures start to smell that whiff of desperation that comes out of your pores — that’s not so very much fun.
The hell with the sexism. I started writing this post because that part made me angry. The more I think about it, the more I think the article’s worst sin is in the way it whistles past the cemetery.
For some people, unemployment means something other than a chance to engage in regressive fantasies.
Filed under Uncategorized | Comments (11)