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Advice From a Happy Wife to Young Women

“One is born female, but being a woman is a personal accomplishment.”

by
Leslie Loftis

Bio

July 13, 2012 - 9:35 am

A book offering insight into being ourselves while also being wives and mothers. What might have been if it had been published before The Feminine Mystique? I lament the need for Tracy McMillan's book, but needed it is. For young women, not yet so jaded as to need Why You're Not Married, however, I highly recommend Advice to a Young Wife from an Old Mistress.

Recently, Kathy Shaidle posted about whether women talk too much and kill relationships. She concluded that it isn’t that women talk too much or are too smart, but that they are often too critical. True enough, but that isn’t what caught my attention.

A new advice book, Why You’re Not Married…Yet, by Tracy McMillan prompted Shaidle’s post.  From the description of McMillian’s book:

  •  You’re a Bitch: How defensiveness and anger can hide behind a tough, take-charge exterior, and why being nice is never a sign of weakness.
  • You’re a Liar: How to stop lying to men—and get honest with yourself—about the kind of relationship you really want. It’s the only way.
  • You’re Shallow: Being a woman who insists on a tall guy is no different from being a man who demands big boobs. Learn why you should let go of trying to get what you think you should have and focus on getting what you need.
  • You’re Selfish: The big secret about marriage: It’s about giving something, not getting it. The other big secret: You will have to go first.

Shaidle compares McMillian’s book to other advice books of the past, one of which I devoured in my 20‘s, Advice to a Young Wife from an Old Mistress. I am struck by the differences in the advice. The old advice focused on how to be a good woman. The new advice, however, focuses on how not to be a bad person.

The really short summary of Advice to a Young Wife: have a life and don’t nag. More eloquently, Advice to a Young Wife maintains, “One is born female, but being a woman is a personal accomplishment.”

How did it come to pass that the generation of women who have more opportunity than any generation of women in history have to be reminded not to be bitchy, selfish, shallow, or a liar? Wait, forget reminded — they have to be taught not to be bitchy. We think it is such a good thing that we have an anthem about it.

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Advice to a Young Wife was published a few years after The Feminine Mystique. Both books advised young wives of the Sixties, those who were college educated and, thanks to the post-war technology boom, freed from the essential and time and energy consuming chores of housewives of the past. Looking back, it is no surprise at all that these women were bored. The question was, what to do about it.

Both The Feminine Mystique and Advice to a Young Wife told women to do things for themselves. Advice to a Young Wife told women to be something of your own in addition to being a wife and mother. The Feminine Mystique, however, told women to be something of your own at the expense of others, most especially, husbands.

That sense of selfishness has permeated every aspect of feminism since. Fast forward 50 years, and is it any wonder that advice books essentially have to remind women not to be that bitchy, selfish, shallow liars?

Leslie Loftis is a recovering lawyer, a housewife, and a mother of 4. She is also a serial Texpatriate, most recently returned from London, England.
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