It all started at book club. The club members had read this rather benign book (Cold Sassy Tree) about an elderly man, who, as soon as his first wife died, shocked his family and the town citizens by marrying a much younger woman.
In the book, the first wife raised the children, did without, supported her husband through the lean times by doing without, looked dour and ugly because she spent all her energy sacrificing and doing without. Then she died. And made due with a small funeral.
The second wife was young, good looking, owned nice clothes, purchased more nice clothes, wore hats, re-modeled the house, got a car, gifts, electricity. . . well you get the picture.
From the banal, emerged a truly enlightened average woman moment. One of the book club members slammed the book closed and declared “That’s it! I’m going to be the second wife!”
That night she explained to her husband (a patient man), “Larry (his real name) pretend I died.” She let that sink in for about a second. “Now,” she continued, “ pretend I’m your new, young, second wife. Here’s what I want.”
She has, to date, purchased a larger house, engaged a housekeeper, upgraded her job and is thinking of returning to school to get her Ph.D. She looks younger. She is happier. She recommends becoming the second wife to anyone she cares deeply about.
The first wife puts off her career to raise the kids, cleans the house herself, rearranges old furniture to give the house a “new” look, and works endless hours to launch whatever venture the couple decides upon. The first wife supports, does without and trains the husband to cook, clean and be sensitive to women’s issues.
Now, the book club members weren’t saying this wasn’t the right thing to do. In fact, it’s the natural course of events. The first wife thoughtfully writes the first chapters of the couple’s life, she labors under the reduced income of a young family, she works hard. The rub is this; the second wife often comes in on the scene at a more prosperous time (usually after the kids are out of college; more income, fewer children at home), when those little surprise gifts of diamonds are affordable. What the book club members realized is that they all wanted to be part of that second chapter.
Now, before all you second wives claim that you have it just as bad as the first wife, no worse, because you have to tolerate the first wife’s children who weren’t raised correctly at all, this concept has nothing to do with you. This is not about new husbands, blended families or falling in love again. This is about the same relationship moving into a better phase.
The members of this average book club do not want new husbands. On the contrary, we love the husbands we have, besides, they’re trained. What we want is the is the glorious second half of the marriage. We want the second wind relationship. We want to be there when the hard working, successful, bread wining husband comes up for air (sometimes in his forties) and said “Hey, I need to get a life.” And we will say in our most supportive way because now we are the new wife, the fun wife, “You’re right, and I’ve already booked the flight to Tahiti.”
Second wives book flights to Tahiti, original wives, because of years of training, fret about wasting the money when they could be purchasing cars for the children.
Enough, say the second wife, it’s time for us, and it’s time for some fun.
The first marriage is built out of countless moments of eating 99-cent burger specials in the Burger King parking lot a foot from the bumper of the van filled with sleeping children, who, if they stay asleep, will not ask for all the French fries.
What we realized, what dawned on us was we do not have to remain in the neutral, self – sacrificing gear, we can shift to second, pull out of the parking lot, and do it in a new sports car.
One book club member decided to take the second wife theory even further. She plans on becoming a trophy wife.
First her husband has to be able to afford her, so she meets regularly with her stockbroker, tax accountant, and lawyer to plan for effective retirement and estate planning. She is currently training the first husband in appropriate trophy wife appreciation. She tapes DeBeers ads and plays them during breaks in whatever game he’s watching on TV. She takes him on field trips to Gumps and Tiffany’s.
Her next step is to have most of her parts enhanced, including a new hydraulic system installed onto her chest. She dyed her hair blond and got herself a career. Since trophy wives not only belong to a gym, they have time to attend; she signed up and made time. She learned about out of the way vacations that do not include free mouse ears, and brushed up on restaurants, wine, and gourmet take-out services.
Since part of the Trophy Wife job is to belong to the right clubs and work on the correct fundraising projects, this average first wife signed up early. Now instead of supporting her husband by doing without, turning down the heat and making birthday party favors out of coffee filters and food coloring, this trophy wife risks her hard won figure by attending endless charity luncheons.
Mindful that Trophy wives are often willing to take up activities that the original wife rejected as silly and a waste of time, this newly minted Trophy Wife took up golf. She compensated for the ridiculousness of game by purchasing darling little outfits and flirting with the golf pro.
The only catch this former first wife reports, in re-making herself into the Trophy wife is that Trophy wives indulges the “new husband” in all things. This is sometimes problematic, as indulging often requires staying awake past ten o’clock and a willingness to participate in strenuous activities in the late evening hours.
It was this part of the Trophy Wife Program that finally captured the first husband’s imagination. He stopped complaining about the DeBeers cartel and the new graphite handled golf clubs, and embraced his new Trophy Wife with vigor not seen since they first dated.
The book club members never said this would be easy.