Surrender, Lauras – The Progressive, 4/30/2001

Lately I feel as if I am living in a John Grisham novel: The Chad.

Here’s the Grishamic vignette: A bunch of old CIA/oil guys, all jacked up on Viagra, get together at their club and over cognac and Cuban cigars make a bet that they can take over the government. You know the hijinx that ensue. Absentee ballots treated like letters to Santa. Stacked court. Fox “News”. On second thought, change the Viagra to Britney Speers.

The B-story line of The Chad is pure Stepford Wives, that early 1970’s Ira Levin classic and major motion picture. In it, a wife new to Stepford, starts a consciousness raising group because she is appalled that all the women in her town wear flowery print dresses and seem satisfied with their domestic servitude. She uncovers the nefarious deeds of the Stepford Men’s Club which clandestinely replaces the town’s wives with domestic sex robots. Actually in the B-line of this kinder sorter kinder gentler year 2001, the Stepford wife is the Surrendered Wife.

In her best-selling book, “The Surrendered Wife: A Practical Guide to Finding Intimacy, Passion, Peace with Your Man,” author and non-credentialed suggester, Laura Doyle describes how she almost lost her relationship with her husband because she was constantly nagging him. When she gave up her nitpicking ways, things changed and she is now finally in the relationship she always dreamed about.

In her book and in the women’s “Surrender Circles” which have sprung up as spontaneously as Promisekeeper stadium rallies, this non-Dr. Laura suggests that a woman’s tasks are to take care of herself first, to overcome her desire to have more power and to abandon the myth of equality. You’ll have to yank my copy of Ms. Magazine from my cold dead hands, but I say that the second and third cancel out the first assignment.

On a long car trip, I heard Laura Doyle, self-identified “feminist and former shrew”, interviewed on several radio call-in shows, and in a very warm, winning voice, from her own experience and from women she had interviewed, she opined that women have to stop controlling, criticizing, and interrupting their husbands. She believes women have to apologize for being disrespectful. They have to be ready to say, “Whatever you think. . . ” And, and this is the one all the radio guys loved – women must never refuse sex with their husbands, even if they’re not in the mood. No Laurabot she.

The DC [Damn Coup] Bush women all seem to be playing their surrendered wife roles very well. New Jersey’s former profiler, pro-lifer governor Christine Todd Whitman was forced to eat her pro-enviro words and swallow her water neat, with acceptable arsenic levels. Whatever you think. Condi Rice’s solution to global warming is a cold war. Whatever, Rummy. And I must have missed a Page Six Post gossip item when I was ducking falling Mir chunks, but did Maureen Dowd get drunk at a party, come on to Hillary Clinton, and get rebuffed, and so has to do every other New York Times column hating Hillary, that most unsurrendered of wives?

Sidebar: there’s a Laura theme happening in the country. Dr. Laura Schlessinger, the radio/TV talk show host just had to surrender her show. I for one will miss her. No one else has kept gay issues so effectively in the news lately. Bush II is like living in one of those Ex-gay ads. If she ever says, “Whatever you think,” the “you idiot” is understood.

And have you noticed that Laura Bush, “the anti-Hillary” to John Podhoretz or “First” as that rollicking Nicknamer-in-Chief has cleverly dubbed her, is among the disappeared? Or did she just run off with Ralph Nader?

It happened shortly after Laura Bush’s underreported remarks in favor of a woman’s right to abortion. She seems to spend a lot of time in Texas, keeping tabs on the wild blonde twin at the University of Texas and putting the finishing touches on their dream Texas getaway [from what?] which is described as sprawling, lowslung ranch with doorframes flush with their beloved scrub land. It sounds as if it were designed along the magisterial lines of a corrugated U-Stor-It facility.

A Washington Post story described Laura Bush as seeing everything in its place including herself. One long-time woman friend admiringly shared that Laura likes to relax by taking books off shelves and Cloroxing the cabinets. Why isn’t that weirder than not baking cookies? Whatever you say.

The Stepford Men’s Club was a heavily guarded old manor house with a strictly enforced dress code. W. has insisted on the reinstatement of a dress code in the White House. No denim. No shirt, no tie, no service. Pants with creases. No thongs, but lots of nudge nudge wink wink thong jokes.

And though very little mention has been made of it, no pantsuits for women. Federal workers shopping at your finer women’s stores in Chevy Chase have been heard to inquire, “What color does that burga come in?” “Do you have that Chador in linen?” “Can I get the carpal tunnel wrist brace monogrammed?”