During an otherwise uneventful drive, I said to my boyfriend about a man we know, “He makes the perfect husband, he is loyal and dependable.” My boyfriend laughed, glancing at me and away from the road for longer than I was comfortable with, and said I was crazy, “And besides, no man would want to be described that way. It’s insulting.”
I looked up the word ‘husband’ – The definitions seem to all point to the same thing – a person (male implied if not explicitly stated) married to a wife. While I will concede we can’t separate the word husband from the word marriage, it obviously doesn’t imply male anymore. Just look at the etymology of the word – originally it just meant the person in charge of the house, not gender explicit at all. When we use the phrase, ‘who wears the pants in the family,’ aren’t we talking about the husband, the master of the house, regardless of gender?
But back to my description of the ‘perfect’ husband. In my own mind, I’m imagining the person in a relationship who makes sure the bills are paid on time, who remembers that it is garbage day. The breadwinner – which doesn’t have to mean the person who makes the most, just the person with the steady income and the health benefits. The rock of solid loyalty, the calm foundation, the ‘always willing to work on the relationship even when the shark has been dead for years,’ person.
I asked a few friends and family, “How would you describe the perfect Husband?” A 60-something year old uncle who’s been married for about 40 years said the perfect husband is, “A Knight in Shining Armor,” (he is a total romantic, which is probably why I asked him.)
A woman, also in her sixties, and in an enviable relationship with her second husband said, “A best-friend, a lover, a partner.”
A single, thirty-something man said the perfect husband was a balance between the romantic lover and the dependable bread-winner.
My boyfriend answered this question with no hesitation: “Wealthy and Deceased!”
The best description by far came from my 39-year-old cousin. I’m not sure if he was describing himself or his husband, but then, they are still newlyweds… “Affectionate. Supportive. Generous. Embracing. Tender. Strong. Consoling. Understanding. Sympathetic. Amusing. Available. Attentive. Engaged. Ambitious. Motivated. Industrious. Callipygian*.”
Most of the people I spoke with did agree that my ideal was a little cold. What is it about me that completely dissociates the word romance from the word husband? Is it wrong to think of marriage as primarily a business relationship?
My ex-husband (in fact the very same man we were speaking of earlier) is entirely loyal and dependable. Romance wasn’t a part of my thinking at all when he and I decided to marry after six years of dating. The lease was up on my apartment and he owned a house, it seemed impractical to continue to waste money on rent for another year, so we eloped.
But that marriage, based on sound financial sense, eventually ended. Perhaps when one is choosing a husband, one should think with their heart rather than their mind.
I’ve discovered that the internet is full of quotes about husbands but none of them are helpful. If you learned everything you knew about a husband from ‘wikiQuote’ you’d quickly believe they are good for nothing but as the butt of many, many jokes. Not a single quote used the word ‘perfect’ and ‘husband’ together in a serious manner.
I did however, stumble across a number of references to the play by Oscar Wilde, An Ideal Husband. I decided to watch a recent incarnation from 1999, starring Rupert Everett and Minnie Driver. A most enjoyable hour and a half, but not really helpful either. Again, the ideal, the perfection, is not found and is proven an impossibility.
“Why can’t you women love us, faults and all? Why do you place us on monstrous pedestals?”
I don’t believe Loyalty and Dependability are such high ideals. I think they are practical, even average sort of ideals. A loyal and dependable person isn’t being placed on a pedestal. It is more likely they’d be placed next to a Volvo (or whatever is the most practical car theses days.)
Yup – the perfect husband… boxy, but good. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. But the lesson I’ve learned is that the practical side is not enough. The word must also imply the softer side, the best-friend, the companion.
In conclusion, dear reader, here is my new and improved definition of the perfect husband:
loyal, dependable, and romantic.
Doesn’t mean I want one another though. I get all that and more from my boyfriend without all the damned paperwork.
*Callipygian – adjective – having well-shaped buttocks.