What does that even mean? “Wife” is easily the wedding-related word I’ve thought about least since getting engaged in September. And yet, when we’re married in April, a wife is what I’ll be.
The word itself doesn’t have immediately positive connotations for me. You say “wife,” and what I imagine is a long-suffering Alice Kramden or permanently put-upon June Cleaver. A string of women in skirt-suits standing stoically next to their husbands during embarrassing adultery-related press conferences. I think of bland casseroles in the oven. I think of screaming kids in the yard. Picket fences and that kind of shit.
You say wife? I don’t think of Andrea Grimes, freelance journalist, Scramble with Friends champion and cat lady, sipping Knob Creek over ice at the end of a long day before settling into an “Antiques Roadshow” marathon. I don’t think of Andrea Grimes, happily partnered feminist who loves to make party snacks on sticks and go to mid-day yoga. I don’t even think of Andrea Grimes, a woman in love with a man she’s marrying in two-and-a-half months.
In their most damning pop culture iteration (which, if you’ve got a free weekend, check out The Meaning Of Wife for a fantastic background thereon) wives are, first, white ladies. Women of color have been classically cast, in real life and in media, as sexually loose and then by definition, unwifely. And these white wives? They’re asexual, unappreciated domestic workers whose whole existence centers on tasks that begin, grudgingly, in the bedroom and end at the mailbox at the end of the front walk. They are tied down by child-rearing and housework, but simultaneously supposed to want nothing more than to do only those things.”