From The Guinea Pig Diaries by A.J. Jacobs. Copyright c. 2009 by A.J. Jacobs. Reprinted by permission of Simon and Schuster, Inc.
In the course of all the life experiments I do for journalism, the most common theme of the e-mails I get sent is that my wife is a saint. These e-mails are sent by readers who are in awe of Julie for putting up with my biblical beard, or for tolerating the endless stream during my year of reading the Britannica. Often, they'll say that I owe her something for the suffering I've inflicted—precious stones, perhaps.
But a handful of readers have suggested that I need to pay Julie back by spending a month doing everything she says. She will be boss. I will be her devoted servant. It will be a month, they say, of foot massages and talking about feelings and scrubbing dishes and watching Kate Hudson movies (well, if Julie actually liked Kate Hudson movies).
I've laughed off the idea for a couple of years now. I won't argue with the thesis that Julie's a saint. But the experiment is... well, if I'm being honest, it's actually a pretty good idea. It does seem a suitable way to end this year of human guinea pig-ging, the honorable thing to do for my wife. Plus, it could be revelatory. It'll let me explore the tricky power dynamics of the modern American marriage. It'll allow me to study the Mars/Venus, Everybody Loves Raymond clichés about gender battles and figure out which are true and which are hogwash. Female Vs Male Brain: Is There A Difference?
When I told Julie about Operation Ideal Husband (or Operation Whipped, as my friend John calls it), she jumped for joy. I'm not speaking metaphorically. She bounded around the living room on an invisible pogo stick, clapping her hands and saying "Yay!"
When I told my friends, they all had the same joke: You're going to do everything your wife says for a month? How is that different from every other month in the last eight years?
Yeah, yeah. It's true. Julie is, in some ways, already the CEO of our family. Since I put her through such misery with my experiments, I tend to defer to her on most other matters—travel, food, clothes. Especially clothes. Chief Executive...Housewife?
I'm a terrible dresser. My only two criteria for clothes are that they be soft and loose-fitting. One of Julie's favorite jokes is to give me a dollar when I'm looking particularly disheveled. You know, like I'm a hobo.
So to use a clothing metaphor, Julie generally wears the pants in the family. But this month, I'll be washing those pants and ironing them. I'll be geisha-like in my obedience. I'll think of nothing but her happiness. I'll take over her chores. I'll be like an obedient eighteenth-century wife to my twenty-first-century wife.
I should make a confession, though: part of my plan is to be so compliant, she'll see that that's not what she wants. She'll learn to appreciate my occasionally insubordinate pain-in-the-ass self. That was the plan, anyway.