It’s not every day that you see a movie star quoting the Bible with authority and it’s kind of fun when they do, sexual depravity linking briefly with personal sanctity.
“Whoso findeth a wife, findeth a good thing.” That would be Esquire’s hot babe for February, actress Sanaa Lathan, quoting the Bible. Not content to travel on her looks, the star of Something New took time out from posing to give the guys some tips on the girls (“10 Things You Don’t Know About Women”) finishing off with a salute to the live-in helpmate.
Right on, Sanaa, I thought. Everyone, I’ve often thought, should have a wife. Not just straight guys. And not one of those gender-limited models from the 1950s who flounced around the house in flared skirts staring daggers at their wimpy husbands. No, I was actually thinking of something way more submissive and a good deal more practical.
Ever since Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique way back in 1963, wives have gotten a bad rap. The term is almost synonymous with female subjugation. Postwar women suffered from “the problem that has no name,” wrote Friedan and that problem had a lot to do with being stuck at home with the kids and the dustbunnies.
Those were the days, eh? Nowadays, most fag couples I know are battling each other for the right to stay at home. When they’re not actually staying home, they’re doing the next best thing, being majorly domestic with cookie sheets and renovated kitchens and plans to break free of the urban rat race and open their own cosy little oasis of domesticity, a B&B in the country.
Some have even succeeded in putting the old model to work. Over the last couple of years, I’ve heard at least two stories of well-heeled gay couples where one half of the little luxury unit has opted to stay home and play Miss Chatelaine. Which is fine, of course, as long as one of you has major earning power and both of you have a lot of trust, or a very good prenup.
But that’s not really what I’m thinking about. That’s way too adult and mature and bespeaks equality, mutuality and supportive decision-making, all of which, lord knows, is way too Oprah for me. No, I’m actually thinking of something a little more one-sided.
We live in one of the most affluent societies the world has ever known and the amount of housework most of us have to do is as nothing compared to what our mothers once did. Yet even that small amount can be unbelievably tedious. Shopping for groceries, stocking the fridge, throwing out mouldy apples — it’s all so Third World. Carrying home groceries in those flimsy plastic bags that will shortly bloat every landfill site in the country, I feel like one of those sub-Saharan women toting water bottles in the pages of the National Geographic. No human being should have to suffer such tedium.
Plus, domesticity is really for the young. Much as I’m proud of my carless, pedestrian existence, I’m not sure how much longer I can continue to operate as a one-man beast of burden. Just dragging home a two-four is a major strain on the shoulders.
Traditional solutions to the problem all lack a certain something. You can go the boyfriend route but that’s a lot of work. Boyfriends usually want sex. Hiring a cleaning lady is fine as long as you’ve got the money and can stand the embarrassment of someone else cleaning your one-bedroom condo, but it usually involves a conversation with the former Soviet Bloc.
The traditional gay solution — the much vaunted, seldom seen houseboy — just won’t do. Too cheesy. I once met a guy with a bona fide houseboy imported straight from Colombia, and I’m pleased to say that the “kid” lived up to all the stereotypes, lavishing much libidinal energy on eager guests. But I don’t know whether he actually did any chores. I think he was there mostly for decoration. (It was a pool party.)
Me, I aspire to the condition of the title character in Sybille Bedford’s travel book, A Visit To Don Otavio. The single (ahem) son of a wealthy Mexican family, Don Otavio lives on the shores of a remote lake tended by 17 servants. There were so many servants, wrote Beford, that nobody actually had to do very much and everyone had a pretty good time.
Failing that, I’d like some little silent elf who’d sleep in the corner and do errands on command. Nothing too human, please, because that would invite accusations of power imbalances from folks who are too liberal for thou. Just someone to cook up cute little meals and then slip away into silence.
Okay, so this is a fantasy. Work with me. It’s winter, I need one. All I want is one of those movie fantasies where no matter how long you stay away from home or how infrequently you’re there, there’s always beer in the fridge and a toilet that gleams like it’s happy to see you. Is that too much to ask?