Friday, June 14, 2013

I Will Not be a Good Wife


I will not be a good wife.

This is an admission that would have brought me to tears little over a year ago. It would be shame-invoking and I'd try to counter it with all sorts of penance, most likely starting during Ramadan. All sorts of things.

Except, this is not a hopeless, depressive declaration. More like a declaration of independence. More like an emancipation. More imperative, decisicive.

I will not be a good wife because I don't want to be.

Rather, I will not be a "good wife." I will not be this invisible apparition that I struggled to understand in my adolescence and aspired to emulate earlier in my young adulthood. I wasn't sure all that it entailed, but I picked up clues from my surroundings, primarily from my mother's example and from mainstream Muslim teachings. I had a pretty good idea of what it meant to be a good wife and I was eager to be it.

And graciously, I was not married during this time.

I was eternally frustrated because more and more of the men my age seemed to reject the idea of settling down with a good girl who would become a good wife. They wanted to play the field as long as they could. I mean, that was the biggest part of it, along with fear of commitment. Marriage was not a sex-positive institution for these men, by far. If I had a dime for every time I heard men recite comedy skits about what it's like to be with one woman for the rest of their life, specifically, to have access to only one vagina for the rest of their lives...

...well, I'd have a few dollars, anyway.

Meanwhile, I was relegated to "you'll make a good wife" status. Which would be a complement, if these men respected the institution of marriage. A wife was a potentially sexually docile woman, a fact that secured her fidelity to her husband, who was nonthreatening, dutiful, provider of children once a man is ready to settle down and lose part of himself to the old ball and chain.

That was presumptuous as well as an insult.

I was hurt for a while that men did not realize the value of a good wife. That's what I wanted to be, a real good wife. One who dedicated herself to her husband's sexual satisfaction, cared fiercely for her family, supported her husband in his endeavors, made his home.

And then I continued to grow and I was no longer hurt. I had nothing to prove. And I wasn't going to be a good wife anymore.

Not that good wife, anyway.

Maybe relating to an actual man who cared for me helped me to sort things out, move away from apparitions and be real with myself. I'm no longer aiming to be a generic wife that I think every man should want if he knew what was good for him. I will be the wife that makes sense for my relationship, for the man I'm with.

I will exchange dutifulness with loving spontaneity. I will exchange deference for only what is deserved respect. I will exchange self-sacrifice with shared compromise. I will exchange selflessness with shared self-reflection in those times when we feel that we are losing ourselves. I am lucky to be with a man who ultimately does not want me to be a good wife. He wants me to love him.

He also wants me to take care of my emotional and physical health. He wants me to be not as messy. He wants me to be myself.

And really, as much as I've been down on men in the past and the fear of commitment, I must recognize that beneath this is that basic desire to be loved and fear that the women in their lives, for one reason or another, will not. From the fear of the gold digger out for money and status, the lover out for body more than soul, and the good wife who gives more out of duty than love.

So I will love him in each moment more than I will be concerned with being a good wife.

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