Her reasons were: one, a Middle was too insignificant; and two, she didn’t want to be mistaken for a Middle writer, since Middle writers (she said) were invariably either cranky gentlemen retired from the Armed Forces, or else bored housewives.
My mind reeled, and my Sunday was ruined forever by the realization that since I had never served in the Armed Forces, I must be a bored housewife.
Some hours of self appraisal ensued. Couldn’t I be an energetic and fulfilled housewife? With growing dismay I realized that could never be. The sad truth of life is that to be a housewife is to be bored – just as to be a teenager is to be flighty, to be a corporate boss is to be dynamic, to be a mother is to be nervous, and to be a dog is to be faithful.
Now these are not mere clichés. They are not even just politically incorrect stereotypes, although the list does include ‘erratic’ women drivers, ‘giggling’ schoolgirls, ‘inscrutable’ Orientals, and more. It is simply the nature of existence. And so, if you are in company, it must be august; in public debate your opponent has got to be worthy. If you have loyalties, they must be fierce. And if (god forbid) you are a drunk or a whore; you most certainly have a heart of gold.
I was a housewife and therefore I was bored. There we were, my (dynamic) husband and I; our three children speeding recklessly through the relatively stress-free years between learning to spell ‘daughter’ and ‘neighbour’ and experimenting with cigarettes. And there was nothing but my Monday morning bridge game and an occasional Middle between me and catatonia.
Now one of my sworn duties as a bored housewife has been to churn out family aphorisms to flourish at one another in moments of stress or dominance.
Some of these are:
Yes, I know but LIFE is not fair so you might as well get used to it while you’re young.
Be content with what you have.
Aww poor baby but never mind, you know you can’t grow big if you never fall down!
There are dozens more in similar vein, but most significant is one that says, sharply, “Intelligent people never get bored.”
First appeared as ‘Pared Away’ in a Times of India Middle on 6 Mar 1998