7 Steps to Dealing With Yourself In Relationships.

Following an article and a response a while back, I decided to construct my own reply.

Biblical Gender Roles began with “7 Steps to Dealing with a Lazy Wife”.

7 Steps to dealing with a lazy wife
Step 1 – Know beforehand that this will hurt her

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” – Proverbs 27:6 (KJV)

Very few women if any will take it well when their husband tells them he believes they have been lazy and neglectful in their duties to their home. But it must be said.  This is the sacrifice of discipline that you must make as a husband.
Step 2 – Speak the truth in love

“14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:” – Ephesians 4:14-15 (KJV)

The “L” word is not a swear word. In some Christian circles a man saying his wife is acting “lazy” is akin to him calling her a cuss word.  The KJV uses two words for laziness – one is “slothfulness” and the other is “idleness”:

“By much slothfulness the building decayeth; and through idleness of the hands the house droppeth through.” – Ecclesiastes 10:18 (KJV)

So yes speak the truth in love – but speak the truth.  If it walks like a duck and acts likes duck – it’s a duck. In fact the Bible says that a godly wife is NOT a lazy wife:

“She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.” – Proverbs 31:27 (KJV)

There is no sugar coating this gentlemen – if a wife is not keeping up with duties of her household she is being lazy and she must be called out on this.
I think that initially you should try and handle this in private with your wife away from your children and with most other issues.  But at a future point if she continues in this sin of laziness it will become evident to the children that mom is doing something wrong.  I will talk about this more later.
Step 3 – Make the consequences for her laziness clear

“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.” – Revelation 3:19 (KJV)

At first give her a warning. But let her know that if you come home and see the house is a mess, laundry is not done, the home is not clean or dinners are not being prepared there will be consequences for her laziness.
I have talked in more detail about how men can discipline their wives in my post “7 Ways to Discipline your wife”.
Step 4 – Follow through on disciplinary consequences if she fails to change her ways

“Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” – Hebrews 12:11 (KJV)

If you thought confronting your wife about her laziness was the hardest part you would be wrong.  Following through on the consequences you promised will be the most difficult part.  But remember why Christ sacrificed himself? It was to make his bride holy and so to you must do this to try and yield the fruit of righteousness in your wife’s life.
Step 5 – Attempt private discipline first
Once you have examined “7 Ways to Discipline your wife” you will notice that most of these methods could be instituted in a way that does not draw attention to your wife from your children.  I would suggest you try these kinds of private discipline first.
One method of private discipline that I added as an update to “7 Ways to Discipline your wife” is using your time as a husband as a method of discipline.  This is especially important to men in Tom’s situation where finances are tight. Many women value their husband’s time more than almost anything else.  A man can use discretion with how much of his free time that he allocates to his wife as one method of discipline.
Step 6- Move to more public discipline if private discipline does not work
An example of public discipline would be turning off the internet or cable in your home. Perhaps you might lock these things out with a code only you know. If you need the internet for work or children need it for school you could put the new code only in your computer and theirs and not your wives so she will have no access while others can still use it.  If you have to do this to shake your wife from her laziness this will get the attention of your children as it affects them.
Contrary to what some Christian teachers may teach – you do not have shield your children from your correction and discipline of your wife especially if she puts you in the position to have to do things that are more publicly visible to the rest of the family.
Some might say that this type of discipline undermines a mother’s authority in the eyes of her children and dishonors her before them in direct contradiction to I Peter 3:7’s admonition for men to honor their wives. But this could not be further from the truth.
The mother has dishonored herself by placing her husband in the position to have to elevate his discipline of her from private to public. Matthew 18:15-17 teaches us this principle that first correction is to be attempted privately but if the person remains in unrepentance their sin is to be made public.  Wives and mothers are not an exception to principle.
Step 7 – If she spurns your discipline then bring her before the Church

“…How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof;” Proverbs 5:12 (KJV)

An now we come to the most public form of discipline a man might have to bring against his wife.
As husbands we have a duty to discipline our wives for sinful behavior. But whether it comes to our wives or our children there is only so much that we can do to discipline them and try and get them on the right path. If they despise our discipline and rebel then we must leave them in the Lord’s hands.
It is only when we have exhausted what we can do and if they continue in steadfast rebellion against our attempts to discipline them that we then should bring them before the church (Matthew 18:15-17).
But again they may not even listen to the church.
We must face the fact that discipline does not always yield the results that we want for those we love that are under our authority and spiritual care. But discipline requires two active parties for it to be successful. It requires the authority to perform the discipline and it requires the one under authority to learn from the discipline and change their way.
However, even if the wife does not learn from the discipline and change her ways this does not mean removing the disciplinary measures.  Once all measures have been taken those measures should stay in place until repentance is made.

VioletWisp then followed up with “7 Steps to dealing with a Sexist Partner”:

1. Insist from the start of a relationship that everything is split equally, don’t fall for nonsense notions of men choosing, paying or opening doors.
2. Once co-habiting, ensure household chores are evenly split, so outdated roles aren’t assumed without thought, and the joy of maintaining a well-kept, shared space is appreciated fully by all.
3. Always stay in some form of employment if possible, or at least keep skills up to date, so that a finance card can never be used against you.
4. Let sex fall within a natural rhythm when both of you want it. Never feel the need to go at it for the sake fulfilling an unwritten quota, and risk it becoming something you don’t look forward to.
5. If your partner ever mentions disciplining you, as if you are a child and he is a terrible parent from previous centuries, run a mile.
6. If your partner ever suggests that the egalitarian teachings of the character Jesus can be used to force you to submit to him, tell him you’re joining the Quakers and kick him out.
7. If your partner suggests you are lazy, get pens and paper out and each write down all the shortcomings you see in each other and discuss if either of you are willing or able to change. If you can’t come to agreement and feel the shortcomings are a deal breaker, go your separate ways.

My own reply was a comment at Violet Wisp’s page, but I felt it might be a breath of fresh air among so much… confrontation.

Seven steps to dealing with a relationship as adults:

1. Observe your capabilities from the start of the relationship and give freely and happily. Do not expect returns on investment other than when you invest love and do not keep score. You know, as though you love them.

2. Once co-habiting, ensure all household chores are DONE, whoever the hell does them. Who cares if you slip into traditional or nontraditional gender roles, the dishes need washing.

3. Stay busy earning or saving, but try and get one of you to work part time or from home, just so someone’s there for money saving tasks, animals, children and general conveniences. Plus, being at home all day is a luxury that the recipient will not leave unappreciated.

4. Talk about sex openly and honestly. Have sex when you both want to. Agree to masturbate or compensate sexually for each other when you’re not quite in the mood for proper intercourse. Hangups and frustration suck.

5. If your partner ever mentions disciplining you, first see if you are being unbearable in your demands or denials. There are very few people who will even threaten discipline without feeling sorely hurt. If they are not hurt, you’re dating a nonempath.

6. Work constantly to move towards a better future as a couple, rather than worry about who is or is not in charge. Disagreements are fine. Final decisions can be made by anyone. But when the argument is one vs the other, it will end in disaster.

7. If your partner finds shortcomings in you, talk about them and see if you can see the same issues and whether they bother you. If they do, change them. If they do not, offer your partner an out. Bringing up lists of negatives about each other, mulling them over and going on about them all the time is a great way to stop loving someone. Slight idealizing results in longer, happier relationships. Besides, what sort of a person are you if you can only bring up problems as a response to someone else’s complaints? Why not deal with every problem as they arrive?

Because there is no formula, Biblical, feminist or otherwise, that will make your relationship work, that will get you the “results” you want out of the independent agent that is your partner, that will make everything awesome all the time. There is only the two of you and your own agency. Your partner is not a puzzle piece in your life, nor a project. Cut loose and work on yourself and your relationship. There is only so much you can control.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

 

For help starting out homemaking, check out The ESSENTIAL Beginner Homemaker’s Guide. For help budgeting all your everday and not-so-everyday essentials, from food to transport to clothes, check out On A Budget: The good homemaker’s guide to economizing.

Being All You Can Be. Part I: Quantity and Quality.

When we hear someone tell us to be all we can be, we often confuse this with “be the best you can be”. If you are a writer, be the best writer you can be, if you are a housewife, be the best housewife you can be, if you are a police officer, be the best police officer you can be. But being the best you can be is only one half of the equation. To be all we can be we not only need to have the quality (be the best you can be), but we also need to fulfill a quantity quota (be the most you can be).

For example, I am sure that when I mentioned the writer, housewife, police officer explanations you imagined three different people. But one person could just as easily be all three. We are not just the thing we do most often, or the thing we make money from, or the thing we love: we are the sum total of everything we do. So not only would this woman want to be the best she can be in all three categories, she needs to acknowledge that all three categories are a part of her and that excluding any one of them to make herself better at another is not being all she can be, it’s simply redirecting whilst staying the same.

Thus, I put forward that whoever you are and whatever you do, in order to be all you can be you must do everything you can and achieve everything your heart desires. Quantity and quality alike. This series will be short, to the point and with plenty of room for thought or addition from you readers, so feel free to chip in! In Part II I will discuss the concept of self-sufficiency and the potential we all have for independence.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

 

For help starting out homemaking, check out The ESSENTIAL Beginner Homemaker’s Guide. For help budgeting all your everday and not-so-everyday essentials, from food to transport to clothes, check out On A Budget: The good homemaker’s guide to economizing.

How To… show care.

Sometimes, for some of us at least, it can be hard to get across that we actually care about someone or something. Or maybe we don’t fully understand or actually care, but we need to not alienate them. If you’re as socially awkward as I can be and need a little help, here are a few steps to showing care and concern.

1: Pay close attention.

Whatever they’re talking about, listen closely and carefully. Details, emotions and hints are everywhere in conversations when someone is in need. Make mental note of everything that seems relevant to them, as it may become more important later on. When discussing sensitive subjects it can be hard to ask people to repeat themselves and clarify, so the more you pick up the first time, the better.

2: Physical contact.

When someone needs comforting physical contact is often the most reassuring thing. Don’t necessarily start hugging someone you hardly know, but a bit of friendly contact like a hand on a shoulder can make all the difference.

3: Meet their needs.

After the conversation you will have a fairly clear idea about what you could realistically do to help. Offer help when you can and make it clear that you aren’t being inconvenienced.

4: Offer food or drink.

More comfort is found in food and drink. If you can’t do much for them, at least bring them a stiff drink, some chocolate or a pizza. Something comforting, easy to consume and that may help even them out a little. It also encourages normalcy by giving them the option of sitting down to a regular meal and gives more chance for conversation.

5: Give them some space.

If there is literally nothing you can do for them, make sure they are in safe hands and give them plenty of space. Having everyone looming around can sometimes make people feel like they’re causing drama, which makes them postpone the natural recovery process. Instead, back off until you’re useful or called upon and try and encourage others to do so as well.

And that’s how I manage when I’m not sure how to react when someone is distressed.

What would you suggest adding? Open to any advice.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

The Butterflies.

Everyone is familiar with that “butterflies in the stomach” feeling you get when you fall in love with someone. The sensation is named that way because your heart is beating faster, your internal muscles, like your diaphragm, are flexing and your adrenaline is shooting up, similar to a fight or flight response, creating a sensation of pulsing or “fluttering” in your chest, an internal tightness or even an urge to vomit. If the sensation is intense enough, the constriction can worsen bloodflow to the head, resulting in giddiness, loss of balance, sweating and a very deep all-face blush. Your body is so excited to see this person that it goes into fight-or-flight mode whilst simultaneously making you worse at fleeing.

It sounds cuter without the explanation, I guess.

Anyway, many people seem to view it as the initial attraction that wanes with the weeks and after the years is completely dead, fixable only with novelty.

However I completely disagree.

Butterflies aren’t attraction. Attraction is necessary for butterflies to form, but not everyone who experiences attraction has butterflies, which instantly disproves that theory.

So what are the butterflies? The butterflies are EXCITEMENT so intense it overwhelms you. And anyone who has ever given a child a piece of cake knows that excitement is not actually bound by novelty. Excitement is bound by good things, great things, things you look forward to, yearn for and relish.

The butterflies, as far as I have experienced and heard, do not have an expiration date. They may be more frequent during the first few weeks. They may be constant for those weeks. This is because humans are neophiles. We love new things and we love change. The excitement you felt with your partner for the first few weeks was in part excitement at them, and in part the same sort of excitement you feel when you meet anyone new and interesting. It was a compound of two sources of excitement, not a lot more excitement of the same kind.

Of course, the neophile excitement has an expiration date. That date being: when the thing in question ceases to be new to you.

If you found that you had amazing butterflies, but the second you were familiar with someone, you stopped feeling butterflies completely, forever, then all those butterflies, every single one, was neophilia. Maybe this person wasn’t actually appealing to you. Maybe they were just the most different anyone has ever been from other people you know. In other words, out of everyone you liked, they had the least in common with all your friends, past partners and relatives. And once they became mundane, all this novelty ceased to excite you, because it isn’t new any more. In fact, if they have so little in common with anyone you regularly see, chances are you’ll like them less than anyone else. Because they aren’t the sort of person you actually like.

“Neophile excitement has an expiration date: when the thing in question ceases to be new to you.”

But the interpersonal excitement has no expiration date. If you love someone’s humour because it clicks well with yours, then it will be as exciting the fortieth time as cake is the fortieth time. The joke may not be as side-splittingly funny, because you’ve already completed it in your head, but you’ll still smile and feel all warm from the endorphins and oxytocin that’s released when someone’s sense of humour matches yours.

The more someone excites you as a person, the more butterflies you will still feel after the neophilia has worn off. If someone is deeply interesting, funny, attractive and synced with you, then you will feel some butterflies forever. You can even learn to trigger them on demand, if you are butterfly-inclined.

Hugging your partner and smelling their scent for a couple of minutes, if you find them sexually appealing, will give you butterflies.

Telling jokes with your partner and laughing together, if you find them funny, will give you butterflies.

Looking them in the eye and discussing something deep and impersonal, if you find them interesting, will give you butterflies.

The sad downside to this is, if you experienced butterflies aplenty at the start of the relationship, but now you’re experiencing fewer than you experienced with any other partner, then the problem isn’t them or neophilia. They haven’t changed and you aren’t driven to find something brand new at their expense. The simple fact of the matter is, you probably never found them that funny, interesting or sexy to begin with. And you probably never will.

“The more someone excites you as a person, the more butterflies you will still feel after the neophilia has worn off.”

Butterflies with your partner don’t actually need to end. The only limiter is how much you like them.
TTFN and Happy Hunting!

Agree or disagree? Are you a butterflier or butterfly-free? Have you tried to trigger butterflies with your partner? How do they excite you (SFW please)?

5 Pieces Of My Own Advice I Should Probably Follow.

I don’t mind admitting when I’m wrong. But considering how often I’m right, it’s appalling how often I fail to follow my own advice, heed my own warnings and do the right or best thing.

5 Pieces Of My Own Advice I Should Probably Follow!

With that said, in a moment of unprecedented honesty, here are five pieces of good advice I give out more often than I act on. I will strive to actually take this advice in the future.

1: Make Yourself Happy.

This is a compound of two deeply set beliefs of mine. The first is that it is nobody else’s responsibility to make you happy, or, indeed, do anything for you. You are born into this world naked and frail and, whatever rights and contracts are formed between you and those around you and enforced, under that veil of civility we are still all barbarians who would stab each other in the kidney for no good reason. Nobody owes me anything, so my happiness should not be in their hands.

The second belief is that optimism is the only way to truly enjoy life. There is a silver lining to most things and a plan B for everything. You may not feel happy about everything, but you can find the more pleasant unintended consequences, the things that at least didn’t go wrong, the things you have left. If you lose your family, your home and your job, at least you’re still alive and have your brain and live in a world full or charitable people and resources. You are alive and will keep on living until such a time as there is nothing left.

Combine the two, and you can see why I recommend to always try and make yourself happy. So long as you’re here, you have something going for you. And the stars will never wholly align to make everything perfect. The best you can do is take things into your own hands and adopt a more positive attitude.

But I don’t really take that advice all that often. Something I’m not particularly secretive about, but don’t really go on about, is I have what we currently believe to be cyclothymia, a mood swing disorder like a light form of bipolar. So when I’m feeling generally good about myself, ie, when I’m on the way down, but well rested and haven’t got much to do, or on the way up and hitting every target, the advice is easy to follow. I slept for twelve hours, but it’s OK because I cleared my work. I lost £200 of income due to a timing error, but money comes and goes and we’re in the black anyway. But part of the cycle is occasional, pretty intense periods of existential depression, which basically amounts to alternating nihilism and anxiety, sometimes to a point where I am in deep despair and paranoid.

And, to be honest, I use that as an excuse. Yes, it’s hard to feel happy when something flips in your brain and you just want the world  to end so you don’t have to face another day on this planet. But you can at least alleviate it by focusing on the good things, relaxing and not getting wound up about things.

2: Let it go.

This one is based off a simple principle. Things will always fall outside your control. You may be lucky or you may not, you can influence the outcomes, but you can never decide them. Sometimes things will go wrong, people will act like idiots or life will just generally be rubbish.

And, just as with making yourself happy, you need to let go of these things. Sometimes being stressed helps you focus and deal with things, but sometimes it’s just stress.

This was related to my #NoNothingNovember challenge and I’m still working on it. The problem is that stress is almost addictive. And once you get it started, it just keeps going. Every single thing becomes straw on a camel’s back, when it should be water off a duck’s back. And the more stress I add, the more I hold onto it.

Releasing emotions is fine. Easy even. I can forgive, forget or despise someone in a blink of an eye. That much “letting go” comes naturally to me. But stress? I’ll hold onto it to a point where I break down and procrastinate rather than get anything done, because if I start working I’ll remember how much I have to do and panic. Not a good cycle.

3: Look after yourself.

Another important one. Often we focus too much on other people and forget to look after ourselves. You know that warning in airplane safety videos? “Please put on your own mask before you assist anyone else”? Well that’s true in all of life. You may think you’re being good and generous, but you aren’t helping anyone if you’re jobless, homeless, penniless and destitute. You need to find a safe place you can work from before you decide what you can do for others.

There are so many little and big ways of caring for yourself, from having a relaxing bath to ensuring you are as independent as you can be. And all of them help us live longer, happier lives, and ultimately help others and society more than if we hadn’t looked out for ourselves.

Which is why I’m confused and annoyed every time I feel run down and realize I don’t have to feel run down, I did it to myself and I’m the only one to blame. I don’t put many people before myself. But the few people and the work I put before myself is enough to weigh me down. And I do love Jon. And we do need the money from my work. But getting so ill I can’t work for a week because I didn’t want to take a day off lessons and I wanted to make his favourite dinner isn’t going to help. It does him no good when I’m ill and I can’t earn when I’m ill. Likewise for stress, undereating or any other way I neglect myself. And I do it because I put every essay, every exam, every meal, every task, every animal, every lesson before my own wellbeing. “Just one thing more” is sometimes too much.

4: Spend less time online.

The time you spend online is the time you don’t spend offline. It sounds simple and obvious, but I think it actually needs mentioning and giving some thought. When our entire world is connected by assorted websites, programs and devices, we forget how much time we spend connected. Especially so when more and more work is done online and online content is so easily accessible and engaging. You log on to check your emails or Skype or do some research and you stay online watching videos and looking at daft pictures on reddit.

But all that time doing mindless things online is taking away from your time in the real world. And whatever some people feel, most of us would rather be in the real world. We would rather talk to friends and family than argue with strangers online. We would rather care for our homes than blog about them. We would rather watch a film than trawl YouTube or go to a park than click through Facebook.

And that was the main reason I chose to eliminate timewasting websites and restrict access to useful websites that lost their productive value as part of my #NoNothingNovember. And I am sticking to that.

But I’m still easily spending far too much time online. I need to get myself more focused, use my time online sparingly and wisely and try and spend more time with Jon and out in the open. It’s so easy, even when you’re being productive, to assume the online time isn’t having much of an impact. But even if it’s work, if I spend a week writing scheduled blog posts, forget to do my work and have to spend one of Jon’s days off catching up on work, that impacts our life negatively.

5: Ask yourself why.

Often it’s easy to get wound up, stressed, distracted and not notice why. We find ourselves in a state and just get caught up in it and don’t ever track it back to its source. Sometimes when we track a problem back far enough we find a root cause that is completely unfixable, such as the genetic lottery or someone or something else’s actions. But most of the time the cause of our troubles can be found and fixed on our own.

For example, we may find our health suffering because of poor diet. If we just look at the ill health, we may see no solution. But if we track it back we see all the causes. The ill health is caused by a bad diet, that was caused by a childhood eating disorder, that was caused by depression, that was caused by an internal malformation of the brain you were born with. You can’t fix your brain. You can’t undo the eating disorder. But you can work with the depression and you aren’t doomed to eat a bad diet.

Likewise, we rarely ask ourselves why we are in a situation. We need to ask how we wound up there, what we did to contribute to it and how we can remedy it. It’s no use to stay focused on your problems if you aren’t looking for a solution.

And somehow, knowing all this, I manage to get het up about problems that often have very simple solutions. I don’t always remember to ask why I am in that situation, only what I can do to get out of it. And that way I am only looking at the symptoms and getting distressed, rather than actually noticing the disease.

And those are five pieces of my own advice I should probably follow. What advice do you wish you followed more often?

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

Should femininity be a primary duty?

[This post is spaced with images of various forms of femininity becoming to women of fertile ages. As I am not yet a mother and still young, I felt it would be inappropriate to start a debate as to what is appropriately feminine for an older woman or a young girl. Unless otherwise mentioned, every picture here is a representation of something I find feminine.]

I have been thinking about femininity a lot lately. Namely because I’m working on being more feminine for Jon, who, as my husband-to-be, definitely deserves to enjoy me for the woman I am. So, for his sake and, by proxy, my own, I’ve been looking into ways I can be more feminine. And I’ve reached a conclusion that can’t be put in delicate terms: that, whilst it is important and may need to be at the forefront for many women, femininity is not my primary duty and needn’t be the primary duty of any working (moneyed or not) woman.

For starters, let’s define femininity. It’s a hard one, as GBG have found, so I’ll use their near-perfect definition (highlights mine):

feminine14

How I always imagine the girls when they’re debating something serious like this.

Femininity is one of those things that is very easy to pick out when you see it, but it isn’t always easy to tweeze out the very fine points of it.  We’ve all written about how, as women, we should strive to be pretty, wear modest makeup, but wear it well, have long hair, dress well and so forth.  But as we all know, femininity encompasses so much more than that and trying to write about all it entails in one or two posts is nigh impossible.

With this in mind, I thought it best to simply just pick one small aspect of femininity and write about it.  My hope is that it will inspire questions, comments, and further ideas for myself and the other writers here to spin off of and therefore continue the conversation of what it means to be a feminine woman.  It’s not a simple thing and it goes very deep.  However, the outer covering is a very good place to start in one’s journey to becoming more feminine.  It’s why I love the video above so much.

Women today seem to go to either end of the spectrum, even in the course one day, in their dress.  For the day it might be sweatpants and sneakers and for the night heavy makeup with a very skimpy dress or skirt.  There is little in between.  It is in this in between that we start to find what is feminine.

I tend to think of feminine as that place one would find on the line between pretty and beautiful.  One might use the words classy, elegant or sophisticated as well.  And while a feminine woman, depending on her situation, will likely have occasion for sexy, it is not something that she allows anyone beyond her husband to be a part of or witness from her.  The problem here often lies in one’s own definition of these terms.  Something that I might find to be classy or beautiful might not be modest enough for the next person or might be too modest for someone else.  You need to figure that out with your husband and with what you find acceptable.  This is highly important.”

.

feminine5

So femininity, in terms of dress, is “somewhere between pretty and beautiful”. I’d say that summary applies to most other aspects of femininity also. Not girlish, but not boyish. Mature, but not sexy. Well-kept, but not overdone. Attractive, delicate, coquette, coy, friendly, open, reserved and polite. Somewhere between a girl and a woman, miles away from a whore or a man.

This isn't feminine.

This isn’t feminine.

But this isn't either.

But this isn’t either.

I’d say that makes good sense, wouldn’t you?

She's feminine.

She’s feminine.

When we look at images of conventionally feminine women, we see skirts and dresses from just above the knee downwards, maybe slightly higher if it’s obviously warm or she’s on a beach. We see long, well-groomed hair and long-ish, well-groomed nails. We see a splash of make-up; not attention-seeking, but pleasing to the eye. We see women who stand with their backs straight and their shoulders back, their chins not too high in the air, their hips and busts not tilted alluringly, no slouch; just a graceful, unabashed, non aggressive woman. We see women who write, who sew, who clean, who care, who cook and talk. We see mothers, secretaries, teachers, nurses and cooks. Examples abound in the pictures I have inserted between these paragraphs. That is what feminine looks like. That is what feminine is. If you seek to be purely, wholly feminine, be everything described, everything portrayed and nothing else.

feminine8

.

feminine12

Next, it’s worth contemplating Olive White Fortenbacher’s short script “When Queens Ride By”. In it, the Mangraves’ fortune is turned around when, like the Queens of the title, Jennie starts caring for the home and her husband first and leaves the business to him. The message is that women’s domain, even in marriage, is specific and that femininity is the most important thing we can contribute. Which, to be honest, it often is. A woman in a relationship who earns £300/week but who doesn’t cook or clean ends up costing money once you’ve accounted for the extra rent, clothes, make-up, running a second car, inefficient food expenses and a cleaning lady or even a nanny. A woman who works hard on the farm and lets her house fall apart leaves her husband worrying about what he’ll come home to; namely an angry, tired, mouthy woman, an untidy, unkempt home and a poor dinner. Basically, the feminine and the traditional gender roles of women go hand in hand and specifically complement the life of a working man.

feminine7

However, we now hit a snag. You see, to be purely, wholly feminine, you must be everything described above and nothing else. Yet a woman’s traditional roles are as varied as a man’s income and a nation’s culture and sometimes fulfilling these roles requires more than femininity.

feminine22

Femininity won’t carry the firewood home.

For example, in the Cagayan Agta tribe being a good woman also involves fishing. In medieval peasant society, a good woman roughed-up her hands and tired her body by working in the fields and at the home. Even in modern society, a good housekeeper cooks, works with bleach, may have a part-time or even full-time job. Basically, a good woman can only fit so much into her day, or be so careful about her body, without ending up hurting her home or her tribe. An Agta woman who doesn’t fish so as to keep herself clean and dry is probably viewed as lazy. A peasant woman who refused to work in the fields would probably be viewed as an unsuitable wife. And we all know what we think of women who don’t work, cook, clean or do anything with their time and energy but groom and display their bodies. Pretty to look at, good for men to have sex with, but not good women. Yet the last three women are arguably more feminine. They will be more delicate, more beautiful, more composed, etc. However it seems we’ve missed an aspect of femininity. We’ve talked about good women. We’ve talked about feminine women. Now we need to think about both. Namely, what makes a good and feminine woman. Consider the following list of traits and behaviours and imagine a balance between them:

feminine11

And getting our hands dirty shouldn’t be beneath Western women either. Or did ovens stop needing cleaning in the 50s?

-delicate, but strong and healthy

-slight build, but with enough hip fat to grow children inside her

-well-kept hair, but housework-ready hair

-shaved legs and manicured nails, but a good dinner on the table

-attentive, caring wife, but secondary earner

-attractive, flattering clothes, but practical, robust clothes

-polite and considerate in conversation, but raise important points in conversation

-learns entertaining things, but develops practical skills

-sexually and romantically alive, but puts energy into running and maintaining a house

feminine10

There we have the balance. A woman who is not afraid to be a woman, but not so concerned with being a woman that she ceases to be a helpmeet. A woman who fulfills the first part of those bullet-points but only the first part may be the epitome of femininity, but if that’s all she brings to the table, then she’s a demure prostitute. She’s delicate, slight, with well-kept hair, nails and legs, attentive, caring, wears attractive and flattering clothing, is polite and considerate, studies the arts and is big on sexytimes.  A woman who fulfills the second part of those bullet-points but only the second part may be the epitome of a good housekeeper, but if that’s all she brings to the table, then she’s a slutty co-worker. She’s strong, healthy, has enough fat to ensure many healthy children, is dressed for work, puts her time into cooking and cleaning, earns money, debates with her husband, learns practical skills and devotes her energy to her home. Yet these women are imaginary. The demure prostitute and the slutty co-worker are mere models, not real women, no matter how close to becoming them some women are. More often than not, you’ll find a woman who’s delicate, with well-kept hair, nails and legs who debates and earns. You may find a woman who’s robust and practical, but who puts her energy into romance, sex, children and cooking. As individuals, even traditionally-minded women can lean towards the feminine or the housewifely, yet possess the traits of both. But the key isn’t that.

feminine3

The key is to pursue a balance of both sides in every aspect of your life. You wear practical clothes that look good on you wherever possible. You don’t wear a trouser-suit to work, but a suit-dress and a jacket. You keep your hair, likewise, practically kept away and attractive. You don’t leave it down in the way, but tie it up in a loose bun or a high pony-tail. The goal isn’t to pick and mix one or the other depending on what aspect of your life you’re looking at. The goal is to find the balance between the two that best suits you.

feminine2

And, of course, like all goals it’s an ideal. Just as no woman is the perfectly feminine demure prostitute or the perfectly useful slutty co-worker, no woman is the perfect woman nor can be. Femininity is firstly a personal thing. What one culture views as feminine another views as slutty. What your society views as feminine your family may view as strange. What your friends view as feminine your husband may view as modest. Talk to those who matter.

feminine19

It is up to you to decide whose advice is in your best interests.

Next you have to consider your other priorities. If you have young children then making your clothes a priority will likely be more stress than it’s worth. Yet if you have older children you can encourage them to help with housework enough or be quiet for long enough that you can properly shave your legs and find some nice lingerie for the night. If you have digging to do, keeping your hair down may not be an option. If you are just repotting small shoots then you can keep your hair down. If someone is flirting in an obnoxious manner at work, perhaps demure and polite isn’t the way to go. If a man who could have been misled flirts with you, then a polite rejection is in order because let’s face it, it’s easy to see why a man could think a feminine woman is into him; why else would a modern Western woman be acting feminine?

feminine6

Imagine you’re living in an inverse reality. “Look how covered up and quiet she is! Must be interested in me.”

Of course, if you’re single then femininity goes up your priority list. Once you’re in a relationship you needn’t let the facade fall or keep being extra-feminine; you can just tell him that you were working to get his attention and that you aren’t usually that well-dressed or that quiet. Sure, honesty seems a bit weird when you’ve been prioritizing femininity during the flirting and dating stages, but men often prefer honesty and, well, comfortable clothing, chattering and swearing, take-away pizza and no make-up isn’t exactly the best bait for a man of any walk of life. Just don’t let it all go. As mentioned, you can let the balance readjust between the feminine and the housewifely once you’re settled. That doesn’t mean get fat and talk him down. That means 1h hairdos and polite silence doesn’t have to be the order of the day everyday anymore.

You no longer need to do an impression of her, is what I'm saying.

You no longer need to do an impression of her, is what I’m saying.

The reason for priorities is simple: you have a limited amount of time and energy, or power, to hand out in your day. If I had decided one morning to dress in a feminine, delicate manner, do 4h of tutoring, plant-out all the seedlings, clean the house, do the shopping, write an essay, read 50 pages, study German, do a 45min workout, get Jon a cooked lunch and dinner, entertain guests and then get into some lingerie and spend 2 hours in the boudoir I am unlikely to accomplish all this. My delicate, feminine skirts and hair-arrangements are fine for tutoring, cooking, light cleaning and reading, but would get untidy and even broken during shopping, gardening and heavier cleaning. I only have so much time to allocate and things would go amiss. I only have so much energy and gardening, shopping, cleaning and a workout all in one day would kill me before I ever got around to changing into lingerie. These things must be spaced out over days. Sometimes I have a messy, busy, workout of a day and spend all day in old jeans and one of Jon’s t-shirts. Sometimes I have a nice, quiet day and spend all day in tight jeans or a floor-length skirt and a blouse. Sometimes I have done walking and gardening and have no energy for a workout. Sometimes I save my energy for a workout or the bedroom. Sometimes I have to finish work at night and can’t cook a big dinner. Sometimes I have free time and make Jon one of his favourite meals and get the baking done.

ALCALA LA REAL CONCIERTO DE MARIA JOSE SANTIAGO 12-7-05 JUAN RAFAEL HINOJOSA

Likewise, you have to think about what needs doing, for when and to what standard. Not what you would like to do, or what you didn’t do yesterday, but what needs to be done. Pick and choose and get things done when they need doing. Don’t overburden yourself mentally, physically, emotionally or generally in one day. Your energy and time are investments and wasting them by investing poorly or running yourself down until you’re ill is not the way to do things.

feminine1

.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning my “little sacrifices” explanation for when you have to make a decision regarding your time and energy. Of course, sometimes it’s OK, or even important, to prioritize ourselves. If you don’t have much more energy, it’s better to take a nap than power through the hoovering. If you did a heavy workout, it’s better to leave the lifting for your husband than disturb your muscles further. If there’s some work to do, those letters will have to be posted tomorrow. Likewise, a little downtime is also important. We need to have hobbies, some time to ourselves, a break from the day-to-day. And these things should sometimes be our priorities, as sometimes they’re 100% necessary to keep us going. All work and no play makes us all dull girls.

Secondarily, it’s worth noting that sometimes your time or your energy run completely dry. At these times it’s important to just shut down and rest. When it’s 11pm, 12pm or 1am or you can hardly move a limb and you still haven’t finished what you’d set out to do, it’s time to call it out. You have no more time and no more energy and pushing yourself further will just have a negative impact on the next day’s productivity, on your health and on your mood. Sometimes you will have to accept that the day won and get enough rest so you can tackle tomorrow all the harder.

"I may need 8 hours of actual sleep tonight."

“I may need 8 hours of actual sleep tonight.”

However, when considering a rest, some me-time or a break from all the work you’ve been doing, it’s also important to bear the “little sacrifices” in mind. They’re in quotes because they’re often seen as sacrifices, however, in reality, it would be better to view them as Little Gifts or Little Pleasures, because that’s what they are, so I shall refer to them as such henceforth. Basically, a Little Gift is when you have some spare time and you can choose between prioritizing yourself or doing something nice for your husband, children, home or friends. It’s when either your time or your energy is running low, but not run out, that this should be considered. Primarily because of the risk of developing selfishness. If we decide that every free second we have needs to be spent on leisurely reading, napping, long baths, solitary walks, TV and anything else that helps us relax, we begin to think of ourselves as inherently deserving of these things and inherently needing relaxation. The more we enjoy these things, the more we resent the less relaxing and less pleasurable aspects of our lives. If we start following a series during the kids’ nap-time, that’s because we have half an hour free at that time. If we start to prioritize the series even when the kids don’t nap, or nap later, or when other things need doing, then we’re ignoring what is part of our job-description. The series is a filler, not a priority. Our enjoyment of it is fortunate, but not a priority. If things like TV shows, long baths, naps, walks, etc, start becoming our default priorities, then we are becoming selfish. We can observe the results of this in mothers who will send their children to their rooms for interrupting an episode of a soap-opera, refuse to cook dinner because it’s their bath-time and go for long walks even when this presents an inconvenience to everyone else in the household. The message we communicate when we engage in these behaviours is “I am more important than you”. “You” could be your partner, your children, your friends or your entire household. And make no mistake, when we seize every second for ourselves and even go so far as to inconvenience others (others who are supposedly important to us) so that we can enjoy ourselves, we are saying we’re more important. This becomes a slippery slope towards declaring you are more important than the relationship or the family, at which point said relationship and family could start to disintegrate.

Regardless of who's in it, forming, building and maintaining a "tribe" is important.

Regardless of who’s in it, forming, building and maintaining a “tribe” is important.

At times when we have a few minutes free, the first thing we need to think of is “what needs to be done?” If we ascertain that everything that needs to be done has been done, next we need to consider “what would be nice/helpful/kind/appreciated?” Chances are we’ll come up with a huge list of things that don’t need to be done, but that would be greatly appreciated. Finally, we need to consider how much time and energy we have left and how much we’ve dedicated to ourselves. If we have a lot of time and energy left, then we can prioritize the good behaviour over the selfish one that will lead to immediate happiness. After all, the selfishness has its place and, if we have the time and energy, we can always try and do both. If we have no time or no energy, we have to consider the option that uses the least of either or that replenishes one. We may use some time to rest and recover our energy; or we may use some energy to power through the dishes and cooking and make some time; or we may invest our time into time with the family, despite our lack of energy; or we may invest our energy into helping someone, despite our lack of time. If we have little to no time and/or energy, then we need to ask ourselves how much time we have dedicated to ourselves lately and how close to exhaustion we are. If we are not close to exhaustion and we haven’t dedicated much time to ourselves then it’s in the balance, but if we are not close to exhaustion and we have been doing much of what we wanted to do and enjoy, then the time must be spent on others. You have to find a balance, preferably tilted against your more selfish priorities. This is why it’s a Little Gift. Often prioritizing others whom you love, care about or esteem is more enjoyable or pays back more in the long-run than your more immediate selfish happiness. This is why it’s a Little Pleasure. You have sacrificed your own time and energy, which you could have rightfully spent on yourself, for the sake of improving the day of someone you care for. And if that always feels awful, like a waste of your time and energy and you always resent it, then chances are you either need to reassess your priorities or you shouldn’t have a partner or a family to begin with. Can’t help you with that one, though.

.

To sum it up, femininity is absolutely a duty of mine. As a woman and a devoted wife (to be), I owe my man a beautiful, feminine body and demeanor whenever he needs it. I must be his queen, make him happy, be easy on the eye and kind to him. Everything I can do to balance and accentuate his masculinity, to motivate him to do the best he can and to help him relax at the end of the day will help us both through even the most troubling of times.

A good woman won't look like this when she's jobless, her family is falling apart and her home is a pig-sty. Priorities.

A good woman won’t spend time applying make-up just to look like this when she’s jobless, her family is falling apart and her home is a pig-sty. Priorities.

Yet I don’t owe femininity to anyone else. Regardless of what you think is or isn’t feminine, it’s not your opinion, but his, that matters. If you find me lacking in femininity, so be it. I am not out to please or seduce you. In fact, I’d rather I didn’t, as it would make for an awkward situation for all involved. If you find tight jeans feminine, his preference for skirts wins out. If you like carefully manicured oval nails, his indifference to their shape wins out. After all, my time is better invested in things that matter than things we couldn’t care less about. Same goes for general society, other women outside of my social circle, the fashion industry and any location I am unlikely to frequent. Whilst some space must be made for developing the social skill of attractiveness, I can’t set out to be feminine for everyone, because nobody seems to entirely agree on what makes a woman womanly. It would be a wild-goose-chase. To give-in to general pressure or common belief is to say Jon is less important than society. And society comes in a distant second.

Finally, femininity may be a duty, but now I am settled with a man who loves me and has a set of requirements and needs that can be organized in terms of importance, it isn’t my primary duty. When I am swollen with child, my hair won’t be my priority, but when I am a mother I will set a good example of femininity to my children. If I am at an event, I will carry myself with grace, yet if I need to lift a sofa, doing it gracefully is not a major concern. When the gardening needs doing, my nails will have to be imperfect for a while, at least until I’m indoors and can scrub them clean. I wouldn’t go to a make-or-break situation with chipped black nail polish, but if I break a nail cleaning, folding the laundry or washing the dishes, then it will have to be so. I won’t spend an hour working if I can postpone it, but dinner may need to be postponed if I’m about to have a lesson. If Jon hurts himself doing something less than sensible, I’m unlikely to be wholly understanding, even if I am kind and nurturing. If we are out walking in the Summer sun and I sweat despite any precautions, then it’s only human.

I will strive to be feminine within the limits which my life gives me, but my primary duties are to be good, useful and happy.

feminine20