The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 12, Issue 3 (June 1, 1937)
O. K. Big Boy!!
The Big Push.
All the big things have been done by Man! yes, sir—with Woman pushing him from behind. Where there's a will there's a way. The woman supplies the will and the man has to find the way. Man is naturally a back-slider; woman is a forward pusher. Man seldom looks for trouble; but his wife does—and passes it on to him. Man is a peace-at-any-pricer. He is satisfied to be satisfied. There are other names for it, too. His wife calls it bone-laziness. Left to his own he-vices he would live in a whare, a wigwam or a barrel, provided there was room enough to put his feet on the mantelpiece.
But the female nine-tenths of the connubial fracas spends much of her time thinking up things to make him think. In the first place she was an after-thought, and she has been after it ever since. Contemplate the average married man, when he images that the heat and burden of the day are o'er, comfortably parked on his dorsal fin with his feet on the marble presentation clock and the warmth of the fire playing pleasantly upon him. He is a picture of content—cubic and otherwise. His spouse sits spouselike at his elbow. Her feet are on the ground. His are on the mantelpiece. There you have the difference. The average wife's feet are always on the ground, which makes her such a disturbing mate for the average slothful male. Notice how his expression of digestive rumination, his contemplative calm, dissolves when he detects in his wife's eye that pensive, expensive, look. Does he suspect that her mystic gaze foretells that he will shortly have to gird up his suspenders? Too right he does! Is she looking into the future? Yes, sir—his.
Is she thinking up such comfort slaying activities as laying a carpet, mending the wash-house door, or even shifting house? We'll say she is!
He buries his head in the newspaper like a kind of literary ostrich, and his expression is a combination of “Just Before the Battle Mother,” “His Master's Voice.” “A Hopeless Dawn” and “Stag at Bay.”
Pensive and Expensive.
He has seen that look in his wife's projectors before, and it has always resulted in his taking off his coat and rolling up his shirtsleeves. Not that she is inhuman. She always softens the blow by saying “we.” She says, “I think we will dig up the lawn and resow it,” or “Isn't it time we put new posts in the back fence?” But she knows that he knows that, when she says “we,” she means only half of what she says.
So, when—at eventide—she broods over him like the Sphinx giving the human sacrifices the once-over, the flavour goes out of his flake-cut, the strength goes out of his legs, the cubic content is spilt out of his heart and even the warmth of the fire seems to go cold. Unless his spirit has been thoroughly broken by recurrent attacks on his male morale, he will put up a futile resistance. He will try to sidetrack her although he knows full well that she's a single-track loco. He will say, “By the way; I saw the Deadbeat-Snobsons to-day in their new car. I don't know how they do it.” It's a low trick to play on a woman, but, as he never gets away with it, it doesn't really matter. Or he might mention a hat he has (not) seen in town—the despicable coward!page 47
Presently she puts on the pressure, and he is sausage-meat in her hands. She says, dreamily, “I've been thinking, Harold—–”
Then, of course, he knows that she's about to put horror in his horoscope.
When a woman says that she has been thinking she means merely that she has come to a decision, which is quite a different thing. That's where the female is the superior sex. A man has to think a long time before he can decide anything. But not a woman. She can decide things with no thought at all. At the shortest notice she can decide on anything from taking a bath to taking a world tour; from making a cake to making a fuss, from doughnuts to divorce, and from bad to worse.
Castles Out Of The Air.
It has been optimistically stated that an Englishman's home is his castle; but, in reality, all he has charge of is the keep. But he is more or less content. To him, a house is a place designed to keep the rain out and the warmth in. To his wife it is an excuse for shifting furniture about. She contends, strangely enough, that she “has to live in it.” For this reason she often itches to get out of it. If Harold had his way the house that he entered in his wedding suit would be the house he'd leave in a bath-chair. Certainly the chimneys smoke, the roof leaks over the bed, and even a land agent would jib at putting it into prose, much less poetry; but living in it saves the bother of shifting out of it; and, anyway, Harold has grown so used to it that he would probably stray back to it if he left, and would have to have butter put on his feet to remind him where he lived.
“This house—–,” continues the shatterer of his dreams. Harold tries a pitiful bluff, “Yes; cosy old dump, isn't it?” he croaks.
His wife treats his pathetic feint with the contempt it deserves. “The Woozles have just shifted into their new bungalow,” she murmurs dreamily.
“Pah! Those new places,” says Harold, game to the last. “Haven't got the timber in ‘em that the good old places have got. Now this little crib! Sound as a bell! Heart timber every bit—–”
Of course, it's touchingly pitiful. Like a cornered guinea-pig he yelps, “Now look here!”
“Inset bath, glass all down one side, every conceivable convenience!” she breathes with her eyes half-closed and trance-like. Even brave men know when the last ditch is reached and the last bullet fired. Harold knows that he is a beaten man. He sees himself looking at sections that resemble upended slabs of the Great Gobi Desert. He sees plans and builders. He sees his Saturday afternoons spent chopping the whiskers off a particularly noisome chunk of hillside. He sees liberty curtailed, life reduced to blue prints and grey days. He visions himself in a new house that smells of varnish, red lead and new wall-paper. He knows that he'll have to buy a new pair of slippers because the comfortable old ones will never harmonise with the modernistic aesthetics of the new house. He knows the mantelpieces will all be too high or too low for foot comfort.
His wife has said practically nothing, so far. But he knows, he knows. The writing is on the wall, all over it— six feet high. Harold remembers a little hymn he used to sing at Sunday school that began, “We want but little here below.”
He mentions it to his wife in the dim mad hope that she may see the light. But, if he reads the message in her eyes aright, they say, “Sez you!”