Sunday, 5 February 2012

Her indoors

'Her indoors' was the name used by the dodgy character Arthur Daley in the 1980s TV series Minder when referring to his wife. He always said this with a kind of shudder, as if he'd be for it 'if the wife found out'. We never saw her; she sounded like the kind of termagant and intimidating woman that Arthur (and we the viewers) had best avoid!

The wife-with-the-rolling-pin-in-her-hand is of course one of the stock portrayals of domestic women, recognisable in Florrie or Flo, the wife of Andy Capp (the cartoon creation of Reg Smythe), who, apart from a certain famous monkey, seems to be Hartlepool's best-known inhabitant. Lest anyone think I'm being snooty about coastal towns on Teesside, I would like to mention that I made a special trip to Hartlepool when caravanning in Yorkshire in 2010, just to see it and appraise it fairly. It was admittedly a rather grey day late in the year, so I wasn't presented with its summer face. Here are some of my pix:

The last shot emphasises that Hartlepool has a maritime heritage. And the others make the point that all streets in the old part have a sea view at least, and even Andy Capp looks out over the harbour, albeit with a pint of beer in his hand.

In the days when Mr Capp could be the very model of the Working-Class Man - surely an ancient pre-1939 model now - he had a cartoon wife to match. Whether slopping around in slippers in a Hartlepool house, or fat and red-faced on a beach in a cheeky seaside postcard, it was always the sort of wife who was overweight, feisty, assertive to the point of 'wearing the trousers', and inclined to nag.

A myth, of course. Very few of the aunts I recall from my childhood were able to rule the roost. I'm not saying they weren't strong and clever women - life was harder then, and they had to be quite tough in many ways. But social conditions denied them starring roles. Even if he were a drunken layabout, the husband had the power and the precedence. More so if he had a good job, a managerial position, and ruled in the home as he ruled at work. The man was the important person inside his domain. He was the breadwinner, an unanswerable economic fact. He made the decisions that mattered. The wife might have her say, but she had to defer, because the husband could insist. Even more so once she was tethered by motherhood. The notion that a wife's wishes naturally come second to the husband's has taken a very long time to fade away, and is certainly not dead yet.

I don't know if Andy Capp is still gracing the pages of the Daily Mirror, but that style of humour, and the social standards that underpin it, are nowadays very old-fashioned. But not forgotten. Certainly among the age-group that might take an interest in me, there might easily be an assumption that once whisked up the aisle I'll be at their beck and call, first as a kind of slave, and eventually as a kind of nurse.

The white wedding scenario is one of the things that the GRC will bring into the frame, ludicrous though it might seem to some. A lot of my trans friends cherish the dream of having a partner, especially a partner who Knows All and is willing to commit to them in matrimony. Nothing wrong with that. And even if the knot is tied, and the dream fails, modern divorce provisions can untie it. So it's not necessarily a life sentence.

But if you're older, the idea of settling down for one last time is a step not lightly taken. We can joke about landing an elderly millionaire, and coming into the cash after putting up with him for a short while. In reality there will be two inter-dependent persons who must get on with each other if the enterprise is to succeeed. For perhaps more years than one might guess. And if the male half thinks that he can boss his wife around, then it will be hell on earth.

Now I believe I'm perceptive enough to detect anyone with old-fashioned ideas. And cautious enough not to rush into any commitments. But it's a risk, all the same, to get into an entanglement. It seems to me that the average chap out there still thinks that men are the rightful kings, the stronger sex, the best judges of what's what. 'Equality' does not mean 'you stick to your role, and I won't interfere'. It means equal power, equal consideration, no assumed precedence, no assumed superiority.

But off my cloud, back into the real world. What if one day, after a year or two of no attention whatever, I bump into a nice person who buys me flowers and treats me to a whirlwind romance?

1 comment:

  1. 'But off my cloud, back into the real world. What if one day, after a year or two of no attention whatever, I bump into a nice person who buys me flowers and treats me to a whirlwind romance?'

    Absolutely nothing wrong with that idea Lucy, as long as you don't let your heart rule your mind and of course you are in love.

    Shirley Anne xxx


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