Wednesday, April 16, 2014

#atozchallenge: Nagging Wives (& Foolish Husbands)

“Lady Middleton resigned herself... Contenting herself with merely giving her husband a gentle reprimand on the subject, five or six times every day.” 
“You have got a sharp tongue, haven't you honey? You'll have to watch it or you'll go to a lonely spinster's grave.” 

Why is it that nagging has a feminine connotation? And not the most positive of females, either: a "lonely spinster," a shrew. Do men never nag?

“It requires the feminine temperament to repeat the same thing three times with unabated zest.” 
Well, yeah, but... He was a man.

2014: A Year In Stories
A twelve-volume anthology published by Pure Slush Books

So is nagging how men define "the repetition of unpalatable truths" (Edith Clara Summerskill)? Or is that just feminist wishful thinking? Is there such a thing as objective, non-gender-slandering nagging?

Michael Webb doesn't think so.
Mark Hamilton would probably characterize his wife as nagging, but I don't think he is correct. I don't like the word across the board. It is far and away applied to women instead of men, which makes me suspicious right off the bat. And in my experience, it is a slur a man applies when he is being asked to engage in so called "women's work", the drudgery of running a household that is critical to make any family work properly.
This is deeply unfair. 
In any grouping of people, certain tasks have to be performed- laundry, dishes, cooking, cleaning, shopping, home repair, etc. To remind another member of the household to do one of these things isn't fun, but it's not fair to call it "nagging".

On the other hand, Stephen (Stephen V. Ramey's fictional pseudo-alter ego--ambivalent enough, yes?) says:

Some people see Anne as a nagging wife because she confronts Stephen about his shortcomings in a direct manner. From Stephen's point of view this is certainly correct. He knows what he's supposed to have done, that he's supposed to contribute to the marriage. Telling him again won't do anything but aggravate. Anne must realize how ineffective nagging is, yet she persists. Why? I suspect Dr. Phil is right and she must get something out of the process or she would stop.
For Anne, I think it's a matter of relieving her own tension. As a goal-driven person it must be frustrating to have to rely on someone else in order to achieve goals that are important to her. Rather than feel powerless and possibly sink into depression, she keeps pushing, and lashes out from time to time. The routine also reinforces the household pecking order, with Anne as the dominant force who achieves goals and Stephen as the beta male. Nothing would get done around here without Anne. That it's true, does not make it any easier on Stephen. No one wants to be treated like a child.
("Then stop acting like one," Anne would say.)

And then there's Nate Tower, whose 2014 story cycle is keeping us all in morbid, if horrified, hilarity. (Listen to Nate's reading of his January, February, and March stories and find out why.)

His short story collection, Nagging Wives, Foolish Husbands, released last month by Martian Lit, should have some answers about this nag-or-no-nag. One would think.

Okay, I would think.

Which is why I was immensely frustrated to find this post on his blog: 24 Reasons That Don't Explain Why I Titled My Short Story Collection 'Nagging Wives, Foolish Husbands'. Frustration which lasted all of five sentences, when I read this:

Originally accepted almost two years ago, [the collection] was later retroactively rejected because the publisher feared it might be taken as misogynistic.

That sounded promising. But then I got to this part:

First, I need to confess that I am mostly not an idiot when it comes to being a husband. Yes, I have some flaws.  But I don’t leave the toilet seat up, I put the dishes away, and I don’t sit on the couch and order my woman to fetch me a beer while I watch the big game with my buddies. Not that there is anything wrong with men who do. Well, maybe there’s a little wrong.

And then--then--I find out his wife is anything but a Nagging Wife.

1. She was okay with the fact that I titled my collection of weird short fiction Nagging Wives, Foolish Husbands. She’s also very supportive of my writing career, unlike Mark Nipple’s wife who won’t support his desire to be in a Sex Pistols knockoff band. Not only is she supportive, but she doesn’t nag at all.

By the end of the list (there's 24 points; read them all here) I was wondering, along with everyone else:

“Well, if your wife is so perfect, what exactly inspired you to write these stories and put them together in a collection to call extra attention to the fact that wives nag and husbands are idiots?”

You--and I--will have to read the collection to find out.

What constitutes nagging in your world? Is it a predominantly feminine thing? Can--do--men nag? What about other instances of nagging that don't involve wives/husbands? Do you agree with Stephen that there's something in it for the nagger? Or are you with Michael in that nagging is in the eye of the naggee?

And, for extra credit, do you nag? Under what (extraordinary) circumstances?

~ * ~

Thanks for visiting (and sorry for the late post--it's been a crazy week. Month.)
Happy A-to-Z-ing!
(Love you all. No, really.)


  1. Well, being a teacher, I do have the habit of reiterating to my students the need to copy down their homework and study for an exam. Otherwise, as an only child, I am often on the receiving end of "nagging" whenever my mother kindly reminds me to act like a proper adult (only out of love, mind you).

    Some words are indeed gender-associated. One thing which comes to mind is how there are several pejorative or derogatory words to describe women who are sexually-liberated and yet there is no term directed for men; the vocabulary used to identify these equally-liberated men are, oddly enough, taken from the words used for the women (man-whore, man-slut).

    ...Sorry if I went off-topic.


  2. This reminds me of something I read, "Ladies, if your man says he will do something, he'll do it. There is no need to remind him about it every six months."

    I think part of the difference is that (most) men aren't bothered by things as quickly as (most) women. Dirty dishes, dirty bathrooms, dirty sheets - what is dirty, exactly? Most men I've known do laundry when they are out of clean underwear, where many women I know do laundry when they have enough to warrant a load. Maybe men would nag more if their tolerance was lower???

    My husband will comment how nice it feels to climb into a freshly made bed, but in 18 years of marriage he's never once complained, "Do you think you can change these sheet any time soon?"

  3. I try not to nag, but I do. I wish everyone in my life would be as sweet as my AZ team, and achieve goals, so I don't have to nag them, ever.

    Damyanti, Co-host A to Z Challenge April 2014, My Latest post

    Twitter: @AprilA2Z

  4. I'm too busy writing and caring for my son to nag. My stepmother is a nag, so I will never be one. Am I nagging now? AtoZer

  5. As a mother I feel I do nag. I try to change up my nagging and instead of "clean up your room" I go for the "If you want any clothes washed today, can you put them in the washer." If they don't make the washer, then they don't get washed now. Then when they go to get their clothes and notice that there is no clean underwear, they started to listen. I need to hold strong! LOL

  6. I'm guilty of nagging too. :( I do try to stop when I realise what I'm doing

  7. I try not to nag, but catch myself doing it on occasion. My husband won't nag, but once in awhile will mention something that's been bothering him for SO long that I almost wish he'd nagged sooner so I could have stopped whatever I was doing that was so annoying. :)

  8. Hi Guilie .. I'd rather not nag - and now I'd only be nagging me! So I try to keep up and do what I need to do .. but can quite hear what you're saying ... and if only people would think of others - it'd save a lot of hassle and worry in many cases ... no need to nag or prompt, or request, or ask kindly (perhaps?!) ... Cheers Hilary

  9. Not sure why being a spinster was considered lonely or boring. Actually, she probably had the best lot in her time because she got to express her mind, whereas if she had married some guy back then she would have to be at his beck and call. Not knocking marriage for those who want that, but it just is proposterous that people assume single women were lonely. Maybe they preferred friendships with other women or connections with animals. Also, human nature has not changed over time, and I am sure some of those single women had secret lovers. Anyway, nagging can be annoying, but I think both men and women are capable of it. Personally, I would not want to remind someone to do something over and over again, and if I did not like the way they did not do something, or forgot to do something, I would just do it myself. I am single and I like to cook and clean, and I have been known to clean up after others without throwing a grandiose conniption fit about it. If other people in your family have different cleaning standards than yours, then just deal with it. Sometimes I do think it seems a bit self-involved when women complain about a husband who is not overly messy, but who is not a neat freak like her. Just clean up the mess to your standards, or accept the fact hubby does not like the laundry kept up, and go outside for a walk. It just seems boring when people argue over domestic chores, and these are quite manageable to keep up if you have a system. With all of our modern technology none of us really should be complaining.

  10. We men don't nag. We remind, remind, and repeat.


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