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The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands
ISBN: 0060520612

By Dr. Laura Schlessinger
Review by: Jennifer Burgess

12/01/04

Reading The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands by Dr. Laura Schlessinger was like stepping into Superman’s bizarro world. Hellos were goodbyes, gravity had us all walking on the ceiling, and the year 2004 had become 1950. Needless to say, it was a difficult adjustment. However, after I began digging in and reading through the book, in a Nancy Drew-like fashion, I began to figure out its inner workings. The following are my discoveries.

Firstly, Dr Laura has decided that certain assumptions about gender are true. All normal women want to be in nuclear, heterosexual, married relationships. They all want a husband, and they all want children. Men are different; they want someone to have sex with them and feed them. That is all. Therefore, I soon realized the rationale behind the book comes out of these basic assumptions. If a marriage is not working, and all is well with the actual institution itself, then it must be someone’s fault. The blame falls by default to the woman, because they are the selfish ones. Also, keep in mind this selfishness is due to us growing up with the influence of feminism.

Now, assume you are a woman in a failing marriage who believes marriage is supposed to work. You want the problem solved. You are Dr Laura’s target audience. How marital problems are to be solved is a little more confusing than the basic assumptions you start out with. Being a woman, you are already subject to “mercurial moods, hypersensitivity, and interpersonal slights.” It would seem lucky that anyone would want to be around you. However, you are also a woman living in a society which encourages you to have ambitions outside the family, and for the above described “normal woman” this situation is not going to work. This dilemma has a technical name, in case you ever need a topic at a cocktail party, which is the “White Rabbit Syndrome.” Women are living lives that are too rushed to keep their husbands happy. Some even (brace yourself) forget their husband’s birthdays.

This is where we begin to warp back to 1950. Women being out of the home means no one is baking bread; and there is not always someone there to welcome home the breadwinner (there are no female breadwinners in this world, unless they are horribly bad wives). Men should have a mini-cheerleading team waiting at home for them when they return from work. After all, as badly-functioning as women are, at least we all have a strong tendency for “nesting and nurturing.”

Men play an equally bizarre role in this book. In the words of one of her callers, “Men are only interested in two things: If I’m not horny, make me a sandwich.” Marriage on these terms seems very simple, women just need to be sexually available and cook. However, most marital problems used as examples seem much more complex. Dr. Laura’s men seem confused as to what their roles are in the real world; they don’t seem upset about sandwiches and sex. To me it seems the men seem to want the same things that women want: love and respect.

Feminism is attacked several times in this book. Undeniably, this is a brave move on Dr Laura’s part. She is not, however, the first conservative woman to play this tactic. Camille Paglia, Christina Hoff Sommers, and Ann Coulter have all at some point blamed feminism for any women’s unhappiness. The “blame feminism” argument is not followed up, nor is it the central argument of the book, so there are few new ideas to come out of this addition to the women of the right bashing other women.

The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands is not a difficult book to read, it is accessibility written and full of entertaining snippets of radio dialogue. You can buy this book literally anywhere (including www.drlaura.com). And, if you live long enough in bizarro world, it might start to make sense. The idea of a wife starts to sound pretty good- having someone do your laundry, cheer every time you walk in the door, have dinner waiting for you when you get home. In the words of a female friend of mine: “Who wouldn’t want one of these wives? I’d like a wife!” The problem is, who wants to be one?

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