The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 8 (November 2, 1936)
Hearts And Homes
All at Sea.
Christopher Columbus had nothing on the average couple pushing off into the uncharted seas of Matrimony.
What with “raising the wind,” getting on the rocks, battling with crosscurrents and the tides of adversity it is amazing that so few matrimonial mariners succumb to the hazards of the high seize. They suffer minor damage, of course, such as slightly strained relations, leaks in the exchequer, a little trouble with the steering gear or misunderstandings in the galley, but the matrimonial “Lloyds” report comparatively few total losses.
Merrily they sail away without compass or chart in happy defiance of the advice of old shellbacks who sit in the inglenook and tell hair-raising tales of the terrors of the matrimonial main.
On Sunday afternoons you sight them, some with a full crew—in prams and on foot, some obviously undermanned, but nearly all bowling along merrily with upper and lower spars dressed and the best bunting fluttering from the maintop.
Aye, aye, me hearties! ‘Tis a pretty sight. What makes ‘em do it, asks you? ‘Tis the beckoning finger of glorious uncertainty, of adventure, of discovery, that urges ‘em to brave the terrors of the deep. For, when you go in you go in deep, me lad. First, you're deep in love, then you're deep in domesticity; then, maybe, you're deep in debt until you get your bearings. Later on you're likely deep in parenthood—and getting deeper. There's no half-tide in matrimonial deep-sea sailing. When you're in you're in up to the neck. But who cares? The first mate may mutter, the “old man” may kick the binnacle through the scuppers, the crew may mutiny and get a lick of a rope's end. But, bless yer spanker, when the sky-pilot gives sailing and sounding you're too busy getting her under way to notice where you're going; and when you get into a rip you're too busy getting out of it to notice you're in it until you're out of it. It gets a hold of ye, fair weather or foul.
What Are the Wild Wives Saying?
And there you have it from one who knows. Wives without a stitch to wear, bad-tempered husbands, recalcitrant kids—it's all part of the time-worn tradition of the matrimonial pitch-and-toss. First you go up and then you come down.
A kick in the slats rolls you half-seas-under, and another kick in the other slats rolls you back. The husband who took his wife for better or for worse recognises that there's enough of both to balance her and keep her on a fairly even keel. The wife with a bad-tempered husband takes him over the sticks with cunning hand. For horses and husbands are alike in that they both go into captivity for “wheel or whoa.” We offer no apology for shifting the analogy from ships to horses for the followers of both are often on the rocks.
A wise wife gives her “old horse” reasonable rope. She recognises that when questing woman packs her lariat and rides into the backblocks of Bachelordom to rope herself a marital mustang she snatches him raw from the range—wild and woolly and hairyheeled. page 14 page 15 For many a moon before the honeymoon he has nibbled the wild oat of bachelor bliss; he has kicked his heels on the fair fields of freedom. Never has he felt the rein of restraint, nor the spur of necessity, nor the blinkers of Benedict. He is a child of the wild when the silken noose of matrimony falls across his quivering wither. So she gentles him before putting him to serious work. Horses and husbands! The only difference is that the one has to carry as much on two legs as the other carries on four. They both must be broken to whip and spur, to saddle and shaft. How well the wise wife knows that this is where a husband can be made or dismayed. When she sees some other wife's husband who habitually kicks over the traces, paws the carpets, snorts into his feed-bag or lies down on the job, she says to herself that here is a husband who was not handled with the care and cunning that builds bonny Benedicts.
Horses and Husbands.
For husband-breaking is even harder than horse-breaking. You can give a horse his head until he comes to his senses; but the woman of wisdom knows that when you give a husband his head he loses it. You can take a horse to the water but you can't make him drink; you can take a husband to the altar and then the difficulty is to stop him drinking. The spouse of nous adjusts the blinkers with such cunning care that he believes what he sees is all there is to be seen. This is a danggerous stage for, if love is blind, marriage can produce second-sight.
The party of the first (and only) part knows that the woman's hand is the hand that locks the stable and that kindly but despotic deception should be practised to keep horses and husbands comfortably captive. Thus, when turning the key, she leaves the top flap of the door open so that the old horse can see out while he stays in.
Affection and Digestion.
There is something to be said for some bad-tempered husbands, but their wives have said it all. We hold no brief for the husband who habitually looks as black as the back of Willie's ears; we simply search for causes and cures.
Some wives—otherwise quite nice—assert that the way to a man's heart is via his stomach; that the path to his affection is through his digestion. Certainly we all know of homes wrecked by a simple cookery-class pie, of domesticity desolated by culinary indiscretions. We know full well the dreadful potentialities of the unleavened doughnut and the horrid halucinations produced by a carelessly constructed sausage stew. We realise that the heart bowed down by weight of dough cannot beat the merry measure. Consequently the wily wife recognises that, after marriage, Cupid's darts are knives and forks.
The Unco' Guid.
But variety is the spice of marriage. For, to a woman of spirit, marriage is monotonous. She depends on her helpmeet for the simple domestic excitements and delightments which put the “ho” in home. The husband who oozes into her orbit each evening with the prosaic punctuality and cloying exactitude of a tide of treacle gives no scope for stimulating uncertainty. A man so consistently calm and somnolently serene is prone to make marriage feel like premature burial in blanc-mange. Such mousey men who never wake the welkin with their divine discontent or stir the stagnant juices of the body domestic into acrimonious activity are liable to find a letter on the mantelpiece, saying:
“Your cruelty is killing me. If only you had shuffled your feet or kicked the pom occasionally I could have borne it. Even if you had said that you dislike mother it might have started something to break the monotony. But day after day, year after year, you remained so good-tempered that I could have tipped hot mulligatawney over you; never an unkind word, never a growl about the holes in your socks! Why can't you be like Mr. Snag who bites the dog and snaps the handles off cups? There is never a dull moment in their house. How I envy Mrs. Snag! Farewell, until you can say ‘damn’ when you catch your thumb in the wringer.”
Truly, marriage is a great life if you don't weaken.page 16