So many people have learned a new skill during Covid. One friend bought a sewing machine and is learning how to sew. Never in a gazillion years would I have ever guessed this is a skill she wanted to learn. Never once has she ever brought up anything at all about sewing, but at least now I know who to go to if I need something hemmed.
Likewise, if I want to hear someone play the oboe, I just have to reach out to my mom’s friend, who decided to learn how to play this instrument during this pandemic via virtual lessons. Even my mother has learned a new skill, which is the skill of texting, using an insane amount of emojis. Another person I know has learned how to speak Mandarin.
I’ve been learning a new skill too. How to be a wife. Yes, in the last many months, I’ve been actively learning and practicing skills on being a wife.
I have no hard data on whether it’s harder to learn to play the oboe than it is to learn the skills to be a good wife, but for me? I’d probably learn skills needed to play the oboe faster than the skills I needed to learn on “how to be a (good) wife.” Although I will say, learning the skills to be a good wife is a much quieter skill.
I know there’s a big chance some of you are thinking, “What the actual fuck? She’s learning to be a wife? Well, that’s so offensive to women who have come so far in life to be more than just a wife!”
Or, maybe people will think, “Learning skills to be a wife? What does that even mean?”
Both are fair. First, I do not believe I’m setting women back 50 years. I’ve spent my entire life NOT being a wife, choosing to learn skills like how to wakeboard, travelling on my own, learning Spanish, and enjoying being by myself.
Trust me, I’m not cocky but I am, for the most part, a confident person. I don’t bow down, for example, to societal pressures or people telling me that I need to learn to cook (No, I don’t.) Or how to clean (No I don’t.)
In fact, I don’t think I’ve done a load of laundry in 12 years, so I’m pretty much the exact opposite of what one would imagine a 1950s “wife” should be, cooking dinner with an apron waiting for her husband.
I’m completely domestically challenged, and navigationally challenged, yet here I am, in my mid-forties, somehow having made it through life without knowing how to even cook a chicken or put a duvet cover on a duvet. Shocking! I know! I do not plan to be more domestic, but I no longer want to be romantically-challenged.
I’m obviously kidding when I use the word “wife,” when really, what I mean is that I’ve been learning the skills to make a good “partner” in a relationship. (What can I say? My sense of humour is a blessing and also my biggest curse sometimes.)
But, I’m not really joking when I say that, after two common-law divorces, and watching so many marriages implode during this isolation, I really did need to learn skills to be a (good) wife.
In my mind, it really is a skill. Why? Because I’ve never been a wife before. If you want to ask me if I’m a feminist, I’ll give you the same answer I’ve always given. It is my belief that if you have a vagina, you should be a feminist. I don’t think me wanting to learn how to be a (good) wife makes me un-feministic. I may want to learn how to be a wife, but I’m not going to change me. I’m not suddenly planning to learn to cook or make a point of knowing where the oven mitts are kept. I’m not changing my personality for a man. I’m simply learning how to be a better person in a relationship. And I don’t see anything wrong with that.
What does learning to be a wife even mean? It’s a good question. Two years ago, I wrote a piece called, “I Suck at Relationships. Will My Multiple Divorces Affect My Children?” In it, I write, “I suck in relationships because of my independence, thrown in with my selfishness, mixed in with being both overly impulsive and overly sensitive, plus the fact that I love alone time and am a creature of habit. And I’m a bit hedonistic. When I used to say to friends that I suck at relationships, I was always met with, “You’re going to find your soulmate! You’re awesome!” But I was simply stating a fact: I’m good at dating but suck at being in long-term relationships. I don’t think I’m alone.”
Like many during this pandemic and lockdown, I’m sure most of us can agree that humans were not meant to live and be together 24/7. And we’ve had time to reflect on what’s important to us. It’s important to me, to be a good partner to my boyfriend.
To me, marriage and being in a long-term relationship isn’t something that comes naturally to me, as it seems to for so many, even if they’re going through motions. I used to feel trapped in long-term relationships. It didn’t feel natural to me, nor did it come naturally to me, to be someone’s “wife” or “life partner.”
To me, it’s akin to how kids are forced to write down each step on how they came to their conclusions when it comes to math questions. Just like our kids have to actively think about their steps, I actively have to think when it comes to being a good partner.
For example, I know my boyfriend loves Pepsi. At the beginning of our relationship, it truly did not occur to me to buy a few bottles of Pepsi while I was grocery shopping so there would always be Pepsi for him in my home. Another example? Although he very, very rarely sleeps over, if I get up earlier than him, I now Uber Eats his favourite bagel and his very confusing coffee order from Tim Horton’s. That thought would never have occurred to me before.
One last example? He brings me flowers every Friday and I used to say thanks. Now, I’m way more appreciative. I suppose by learning to be a (good) wife, I had to unlearn some of my less attractive traits, like not thinking about what would make both of us happy and not just me.
I remember asking friends at a pre-covid backyard party how to be a good wife. I asked them because they’re wives who I really admire, because their love for their husbands and their husband’s obvious love for them, practically beams.
When I asked, one answered, “You have to listen,” which admittedly is a skill I needed to learn, too. Sometimes he just wants to vent. Also, I should probably get off my phone when he’s talking to me, which I actively once had to think about, but now just place my phone down.
The other wife I spoke to told me, “If you’re in an argument, just have sex, because you’ll forget what you’re arguing about.” Isn’t it amazing what you can learn from genuinely happy wives?
So, yes, I did look at our relationship as something I needed skills to be a good partner and it became my Covid-Project which is just a viable skill to learn as learning to sew, in my opinion.
And guess what? I have learned the skills. I know this because when I asked my best friend, who has been happily married for 22 years, what she does to make her spouse happy, I could honestly say, I’m no longer actively thinking about what I should do, or how I should act, as someone who really wants my relationship to work out, like forever, but was already doing what my best friend does. The skills I have learned are now second nature!
Now, I make sure he’s healthy and that he’s eaten. I nag him to take vitamins and leave his office before 8 p.m. I look forward to watching hockey games because I like seeing my guy excited to watch, and I’m happy to do this with him.
And perhaps the biggest and hardest skill I have learned, to be a (good) wife, which I sorely lacked in previous relationships, is patience.
Patience for all his quirks. Patience when he asks me to scratch his back. Patience while he paces. Patience when he tries to “fix” my problems when I just want to vent.
So, yes, when asked what I’ve been “doing” during Covid, I do sometimes answer, “I’ve been learning how to be a wife.”
But that doesn’t mean you’ll see me in an apron…