In Tribal Wives a British woman is transported from her home in the western world to an indigineous tribal society somewhere where there’s a dirth of Coca Cola billboards and running water. Inevitably she discovers how to cope without her eyelash curlers, and comes to terms with the ‘shared humanity’ of womenkind around the world.
Oh and she learns to stretch her diet to include baked goat’s hooves, and boiled yak!
When I arrived in the UK I realised that things were a little different. Now I gather that’s part and parcel of moving from New Zealand – a laid back country in the South Pacific – to UK – a rigidly stiff upper lip country in the Northern Hemisphere. But there were also cultural differences involved in moving from an upmarket urban environment as a self-employed professional woman, to becoming a working from home woman living in a rural town.
My first day at the local Sainsbury’s was littered with strange stares. I guess they don’t wear ‘arty’ clothes here (leggings, woollen tunic, all in black!) I needed to come up with a new uniform to fit in. Tracksuit pants or jeans and a sweatshirt (preferably with Bench written on it) were required.
I realised very quickly that expectations of a woman here in this little pocket of the countryside were conservative in the extreme. Here’s my advice to new tribal wives, greeted with a similar situation.
1/It’s all about the tea. A woman’s role is to bring tea to her man. Constantly. He must never have an empty cup. Her role is to run around all day ensuring that there is always milk in the fridge and tea bags in the cupboard. This is an English wife’s way of expressing her loyalty to her man.
2/An English wife must ensure that her man has time for fishing, golfing or the footy, whatever his fancy. She must not ask that he spend time with her, but rather she should be grateful that her man works ‘so hard’ for her and her children.
3/When asked what she did in a former life she is to either trot out a self-deprecating version of the truth, or lie. She MUST NOT reveal that she earnt more or had a high-flying job, or that her standard of living was better when she worked for herself. Whilst it may be a source of pride for her man (and herself) it is not information for public consumption. All talk of money, lifestyle etc is verboten.
4/English Tribal wives are to ensure that good honest wholesome food is on the table when her man returns from the coal face. I was previously unaware that food had a moral value, but have since been educated. Fancy, schmancy food like salmon, vegetarian, chilli, or sushi are definately ‘dishonest’ food.
5/An English wife should never rise above her station. Working class folk are good honest folk, the very salt of the earth and therefore closest to God who made the earth. Rich folk are toffs. Dishonest, unscrupulous and shifty. The class stratification of society is alive and well in England and despite feeling free and ‘outside’ of the system because of a hard-to-place accent, an English tribal wife must be aware of where her family fits within the strata.
6/English tribal wives of a certain class would prefer to lick their floors clean themselves than ask a cleaner in to do ‘their housework’
7/The English are very old fashioned and never talk about sex publically. Instead they adhere to the old-fashioned view that a good wife is a ‘cook in the kitchen, a hostess in the parlour and a whore in the bedroom.’
8/Children – English wives are compelled to provide their men with heirs. Full stop. Even if it’s inconvenient and a bit of a fuss.
9/An English tribal wife must present herself properly. What that actually means differs a little, but generally includes some of these aspects – never talking about her own needs, never drawing attention to herself, never using bad language or oversharing, never complaining that the status quo is sexist and restrictive….
10/An English tribal wife is most of all never to wistfully long for the days when her life was bigger, broader, and less restricted by convention.
I’m sure that if I actually adhered to any of these ‘rules’, my day to day life here in the English countryside would be a hell of a lot easier. Thankfully I have a husband who is modern, and outward looking in his thinking. We share common ambitions and mores and have a shared path into the future.We challenge the rules. Thank God!!
What tongue in cheek ‘rules’ would you suggest to a new tribal wife moving into your town, or country?
Image: Flickr CC