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WOLFE'S WORDSOctober 8, 2009
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by: Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe
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*In Yiddish, the "gut froy" is the good wife

The TV show, "The Good Wife" premiered on CBS on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2009, and starred Julianna Margulies and Chris Noth. The storyline focuses on  Margulies as Alicia Florrick, the wife of a politician who has been jailed following a very public sex and corruption "skandal." She returns to her old job as a defense "advokat" (lawyer) to rebuild her reputation and provide for her two children. She is "mazldik" (fortunate) in that she lands a job and doesn't have to start at the Xerox "mashin."

"Di frage" (the question): What makes a "gut froy"?

Let's start with Golda Meir. The BBC called her "The Iron Lady." Israel's Prime Minister from 1969-1974 was probably NOT a "gut froy." She and Morris loved their children and loved each other, but Golda's total commitment to her cause left no room for a personal life. She often discussed her guilt over the time spent away from her husband and two children (Menachem and Sarah), as she emerges as an increasingly public figure. They lived separately for many years.

Problems between husband and wife are not new. "A Bintel Brief" (a bundle of letters) dispensed advice to readers of the Jewish Forward for sixty years. In the seventies, a woman wrote:

Dear Editor:
I never thought that I would have to bring such a serious accusation against my husband, especially since we are now both in our fifties and have married off our two children.

The past few years I haven't been well, but my husband keeps himself looking young, and lately he has a desire to live and enjoy life. This has happened because he doesn't have to work too hard now, and our financial condition is such that we don't have to watch every dollar. We always got along well together and had a good home life. I always trusted my husband and never asked where he went or what he did. The truth is that he was always with me, and I was sure that he was true to me.

Lately he began to dress up and allow himself every pleasure. I tried to go along with him as much as I could. I never said anything to him when he went out with friends without me. More than once I convinced him to go without me.

Something happened, however, which has distressed me. I found out that my husband is having an affair with a woman in her thirties, and he spends a lot of time in her home. It was hard for me to believe this, but when I confronted him about it, he admitted it was true. He told me he had an affair with the woman but that he had broken up with her. He begged me not to say anything about this to our children and swore that from now on, things would be different.

I have no words to express how great my resentment is, but I don't want it to become an open scandal and I don't want to upset our children. I am living with him as before under one roof, but I don't even want to talk to him.

What shall I do? I ask you for advice.
With thanks and respect,
The Betrayed Wife

The answer:

It is obvious that you had much faith in your husband, who betrayed your trust and disappointed you so deeply. We don't know any details of his affair, but it is clear that he commited (sic) a grievous sin against you.

It is not easy for a woman to forgive and forget such ugly behavior of a husband to whom she has been married so many years. There is no forgiving such a betrayal, and your husband should not expect you to forgive him right away.

Since you don't want this to become public knowledge and you don't want your children to hear about it, it is advisable that you continue living under the same roof with your husband. At present there should be no thought of forgiving him, but you should not consider a separation at this time. You should make no decision until you have taken some time to calm down and think things through.
(Source: "A Bintel Brief" Compiled and Edited by Isaac Metzker)

Over the years we've seen many "gut" women stick by their man. Silda and Eliot Spitzer, Michele Paige Paterson, wife of Gov. David A. Paterson, Jackie and JFK, Hillary and Bill Clinton, and Elizabeth and John Edwards. McGreevey's wife, Dina Mayos, left him.

Craig Schermer, a historian for the National First Ladies Library in Canton, OH, said he cannot think of a presidential first lady who did not ultimately 'stand by her man.'

Schermer said, "Ultimately, I think most of them realized that it was a partnership, and to expose their anger was to expose themselves." (He cited the Clintons and the Hardings as just two couples who suffered through extramarital affairs.)

But Schermer said that, as women become more liberated and first ladies become more independent, the days of loyalty to unfaithful spouses may come to an end.

"I think we're going to get to the age when husband cheats on his wife she's going to pack up and walk out," he said.
(Source: Newsday, 2004)

And now we come to "The Good Wife's Guide" from Housekeeping Monthly, 13 May, 1955. Here's the Yiddish version:

Instructions to the wife:

*Have "mitog" (dinner) ready. Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a "batamt" (delicious) meal ready on time for his return. This is a way of letting him know that you have been thinking about him and are concerned about his needs. Most men are "hungerik" (hungry) when they get "heym" (home) and the prospect of a good meal is part of the warm welcome needed.

*Prepare yourself. Take "fuftsn" (15) minutes "opruen" (to rest) so you'll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your make-up, put a ribbon in your "hor" (hair) and be fresh-looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people.

*Be a little "freylekh" (gay) and a little more interesting for him. His boring day may need a lift and one of your duties is to provide it.

*Clear away the "shmutz" (clutter). Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives. Run a "shmate" (dustcloth) over the tables.

*During the cooler months of the year you should prepare and light a fire for him to unwind by. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift too. After all, catering to his comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction.

*Minimize all "tuml" (noise). At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise of the washer, dryer, or "shtoybzoyger" (vacuum cleaner). Encourage the children to be "shtilkayt" (quiet).

*Be happy to see him.

*Listen to him. You may have a "tuts" (doz.) important things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk "ershter" (first) - remember, his topics of conversation are more "vikhtik" (important) than yours.

*Don't greet him with complaints and problems.

*Don't "kvetch" (complain) if he's late for dinner or even if he stays out all "nakht" (night). Count this as minor compared to what he might have gone through at work.

*Make him comfortable. Have him lean back in a comfortable "shtul" (chair) or lie him down in the "shloftsimer" (bedroom). Have a cool or warm drink ready for him.

*Arrange his "kishn" (pillow) and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soothing and pleasant "shtime" (voice).

*Don't ask him questions about his actions or question his "psak" (judgment) or integrity. Remember, he is the master of the house and as such will always exercise his will with fairness and truthfulness. You have no right to question him.

*A "gut froy" (good wife) always knows her place.


Marjorie Gottlieb Wolfe is the author of a new book titled, "Yiddish for Dog & Cat Lovers." To order, click here:
Marjorie Wolfe
19 Market Dr.
Syosset, NY 11791
$13 (plus $3.50 postage & handling, USA)
$13 (pus $5.00 postage & handling, Canada)


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