I doubt if men see their youth slipping away with the anguish of women. To men, maturity means success, greater proficiency, more achievement,—means purpose-expanding. To women, to whom the main purpose of life is marriage, it means loss of their physical hold on their mate, loss of the longed for and delightful admiration of others; it means substantially the frustration of purpose.
And I have noticed that the very worst cases of neurosis of the housewife come in the early thirties, in women previously beautiful or extraordinarily attractive. They watch the crows’-feet, the fine wrinkles, the fat covering the lines of the neck and body with something of the anguish that the general watches the enemy cutting off his lines of communication or a statesman marks the rise of an implacable rival.
Popular literature, popular art, and popular drama, including in this by a vigorous stretching of the idea the movie, are in a conspiracy against reality. This is of course because of the tyranny of the “Happy Ending.” While the happy ending is psychologically and financially necessary, in so far as the publishers, editors, and producers are concerned, what really happens is that the disagreeable phases of life, not being faced, persist. To have a blind side for the disagreeable does not rule it out of existence; in fact, it thus gains in effect.
To say that housekeeping is looked upon essentially as menial, to say that it is monotonous, that it is sedentary, and has the ill effects that arise from these characteristics, is not to deny that it has agreeable phases. It has an agreeable side in its privacy, its individuality, and it fosters certain virtues necessary to civilization. That I do not lay stress on these is because novelist, dramatist, and scenario author, as well as churchman and statesman, have always dwelt on these. The agreeable phases of the housewife’s work do not cause her neurosis; it is the disagreeable in her life that do. Or rather it is what any individual housewife finds disagreeable that is of importance, and it is my task to show what these things are, how they work, and finally what to do about it.
REACTION TO THE DISAGREEABLE
A few preliminary words about the disagreeable in the housewife’s lot will be of value.
We may divide the things, situations, and happenings of life into three groups,—the agreeable, the indifferent, and the disagreeable. No two men will agree in detail in judging what is agreeable, indifferent, or disagreeable. There are as many different points of view as there are people, and in the end what is one man’s meat may literally be another man’s poison. There are, however, only a few ways of reacting to what one considers the disagreeable. The agreeable things of life do not cause a neurosis, though they may injure character or impair efficiency. And we may neglect the theoretical indifferent.