And if they do not let it go, they can begin looking to hire someone who makes their environment more pleasant. Now, maybe in a normal job that would not be such a terrible thing. If your boss became demanding, or weird, or generally someone you did not love working for, you could say “Well, my time at this company has built up my resume, I’ve advanced in my field, I’ll go elsewhere now.”
However, if you are a professional wife, your time with your husband has not built up your resume. Your time with him has actually significantly weakened it. Because time itself will generally have weakened it.
Because, very likely, one of the main things you will be contributing to the relationship is your youth, beauty and sense of awe.
And this is diminishing all the time.
Think about how you would feel if every day you spent at your job made you less employable in your field anyplace else.
You’re sitting at your desk right now, the clock is ticking, and every second mores means that it is more likely that if you get fired you might really, truly, be unable to ever work in the same way again.
That’s rather frightening, right? You’d better be really good at your current job.
Oh, and if you signed a pre-nup, which you very likely did, because they are de rigueur now, if you are let go there may be almost no severence. And you have no other skills.
You would likely not agree to work at any company where that was going to be the case.
Why? Because that is terrifying. That is a terrifying position to be in. And I think the more you become aware of that, the more you’ll realize that these women do have to be performing perfectly all the time. This seems so much like being a kind of tight-rope walker. It seems fearful. And the fact they manage it at all is sort of stunning.
And, of course, you may begin putting up with things you would not normally put up with. In a time when those marriages were more common, Babe Paley’s husband threw furniture at her when he went into rages and cheated on her constantly. She stayed with him. Being Bill Paley’s wife was, after all, as Truman Capote pointed out “the best job in the world” (he also pointed out that she had no other skills and children to support).
Meanwhile, Vincent Astor – a man so unpleasant his club had to have solitary seating because no one would sit with him at lunch – pretty memorably wouldn’t allow Brooke to see her children. Brooke said “I think I made him happy. That’s what I set out to do. I’d literally dance with the dogs, sing, and play the piano, and I would make him laugh.” Meanwhile, he wouldn’t allow her to see her children from her prior marriages. Her friend Louis Auchincloss said, “Of course she married Vincent for the money. I wouldn’t respect her if she hadn’t. Only a twisted person would have married him for love.”
Now, hopefully, you have a husband who is not Vincent Astor or Bill Paley. It’s possible you’ll have a very nice life, but remember, it will be nice because of your husband’s munificence. Regardless of that, keeping one other person happy all the time just seems like so much work. To me.
Now, maybe you are incredibly well behaved and never lose your temper and are a goddess of calm and cool. I guess you would be very well suited to life as a professional wife, then.
And I think that’s a skill, and I think it is a really impressive skill. I’m in awe of women who can be in a good mood all the time – or appear to be – without trips to the lobotomobile.
I don’t necessarily think being a professional wife is a bad job, and I think you could argue that the perks make up for some of the difficulties if you really, really love exercise classes. I certainly do not think it is a worse job than anything else built around service. I do not think being a housekeeper is a bad job, or being a personal trainer or being a life coach. I think all of those are fine jobs for people whose interests and talents align with them. I just think it is a very rare individual who has that particular professional wife skill set.
I do think that being a professional wife is a riskier job, because if you have a brain filled with only one man’s preferences it isn’t going to help you in the same way “having cleaning skills” would help you if you end up fired. However, it is a riskier job with a higher potential for reward (the housekeeper will not be going to whatever exercises classes Wurtzel is sending these ladies off to).
So, yes, yes, I think this is a hard job. I think this is a much harder job than, say, the one I have, or, really, for that matter, the on Elizabeth Wurtzel has.
And honestly? If you’re not a goddess of calm and cool, never go that route. You don’t need that much work. Go easy on yourself. Just be half of a power couple.