The men I work with call their wives “Bitches”. A lot.
“What a bitch!” That is how a co-worker ended a phone call with his wife. He turned to me after four very uncomfortable minutes of forced eavesdropping while confined to a car during which an argument ensued about what time my co-worker would be home that night. “I mean what a bitch!” he said, looking to me for agreement knowing I had overheard the whole thing. I mustered some kind of nonverbal gesture that I think indicated “Well, that’s wives for you!” (It was a painful gesture both physically and emotionally. I needed ice afterward. And gin.)
A few days later, another co-worker (out of the blue and with no pretense) told me how much of a bitch his wife was. I don’t remember reason but what struck me more was how matter-of-fact he was about it; like it was a normal thing to say. “Beautiful weather we’re having and my wife is a bitch.”
Then not a day later yet another co-worker chimes in with his assessment of the woman he supposedly loves. But this wasn’t a verbal “My wife is a bitch”, this was the “on-the-phone, rolling-the-eyes-hand-mimicking-yapping” gesture followed by the “love-you-too-hang-up-exasperated grunt-into-the-mouthpiece” gesture.
I’ve known these three co-workers for less than a month, yet they seem to perceive some kind of universal male experience that involves married men calling our wives “bitches”.
It certainly is a common cultural dynamic for men to express exasperation with married life when they’re around “the guys” (it’s stupid, but common), but calling your wife a “Bitch” goes well beyond the “Old Ball And Chain” sentiment (equally ignorant, but certainly less derisive).
Most of the time, I’d rather be with my wife than doing anything else. Yes, I want time to myself and yes I want to go have a beer with my friends and yes at times she frustrates me to no end and I just don’t want to be in the same room with her (and vice versa!). But after twelve years, she is still the first person I want to be with at any given time. She is warm, emotional, sexy, stubborn, intelligent, and infuriating. And each trait makes her the person I fell in love with. So why the fuck would I intentionally put her down in front of anyone? I mean, I like my wife. A statement I’m not sure a man can make if he can so easily slur his wife in public (and behind her back). I don’t hear any of the married women in the office openly calling their husbands “dicks” (maybe they do but I don’t hear it).
Nobody knows what really goes on inside a marriage but the couple involved. So maybe name-calling is part of some couples’ dynamic and there is no real malice behind it. But why share it outside the home? Does a phone call at work from your wife embarrass you so much that you feel the need to deride her so you don’t look like a “pussy”?
Are we men still so fearful of showing vulnerability and emotion around each other that we hide behind the ridiculous notion that we have act unsatisfied with our marriages in order to be manly? Unfortunately, I’m guilty of it. I have reluctantly participated in “locker room” talk at the office because I want to be accepted. It’s peer pressure. It’s stupid. And I know it’s stupid. Yet I’ve done it and I will most likely do it again. Because quietly agreeing how hot “the chick from Harry Potter” has become (“AND she’s smart too!”… Like one precludes the other!) is fairly harmless in my little corner of the world. I’m not proud of it but I it’s something I could easily admit to my wife (and because she’s awesome she’d probably joke with me about it.) Could these co-workers tell their wives they told the office what “bitches” they were? You supposedly love this person but it doesn’t even seem as if you LIKE them!
But maybe you married the wrong person. And maybe you have two young kids. You feel stuck. And resentful. And hateful. Does the prospect of divorce really sound worse than a life of misery and truly hating your spouse? Would you really rather look like a pathetic loser by calling your wife a “Bitch” and constantly griping about how awful marriage is and what you would do to the 23 year old receptionist if only you weren’t tied down? Because that’s how you come off when you act like that – pathetic. And you perpetuate the stereotype onto all of us making the convention harder to break.
I wish I had the courage to go against that convention more forcibly. But lucky for me, I’m able to go home each night to my best friend and share all the stupid details of my day, including a discussion on how hot Maggie Smith is now. Or…wait…was he talking about Emma Watson?