You have to Be Carefully Taught – A Monologue on Marriage


For those of you too young to remember the musical South Pacific, You’ve got to Be Carefully Taught* is a song from that marvelous show. It actually deals with prejudice, not marriage, but when I was feeling the urge to write about something that recently happened I was drawn to that. Who you become starts when you are a child. You are taught, by your parents, your peers, and society to behave in certain ways, to believe certain things and to accept certain “realities” as “truth.”

My husband is 67. Born in 1944 to very traditional parents – a father who was a lifer in the Navy and a mother who was a homemaker who had no college education or interests in life besides family and home (Kinder, Küche, Kirche.) She raised her children traditionally, with the prejudices, viewpoints and traditions of her generation.  (DOB 1922) By the way, I am a homemaker myself, and do NOT disapprove of the Kinder, Küche, Kirche way of life. But I am well-read, interested in a plethora of things, and constantly striving for self-improvement and, even, enlightenment. My Mother-in-Law was not one of those kinds of people. She was what my friend Joan calls a “young soul.”

My husband remembers being scolded, by his Uncle, while living in Philadelphia (Ed was born there) about playing with black children. It was acceptable on the corner baseball lot, but for Pete’s sake, you don’t bring “them” home with you to play! My Father-in-Law, due to his military experiences, didn’t seem to have such well-defined prejudices – but he wasn’t around much, and the family stayed stateside throughout his tours of duty.

My husband doesn’t have those kinds of prejudices. What his mother, unfortunately, taught him was that housework was “women’s work.” He has never done any inside housework without being asked first. Then he does it, cheerfully enough, but he never volunteers. He DID step up when I was in treatment for and recovering from cancer; did the dishes, fed the dog, fed me (I am kinda tired of PBJ, to this day…) and did laundry. That all stopped when I was back on my feet. So imagine my surprise when I got up this morning to a clean kitchen! Well, I always wake up to a clean kitchen, since doing the dishes and tidying up our little place is a before-bedtime routine. But I was headachy last night, and after putting the dishes in to soak (yep, no dishwasher here but me!) I said $%^&* it, and went to bed.

Ed doesn’t listen (but that is a rant for another post!) well, so my mutterings about the mess in the kitchen fell, I thought, on deaf ears. You need to know that my husband has wife deafness, not an actual hearing impairment. He is capable of hearing, just not listening… He doesn’t multitask well. Which is why I love car rides, because he is sort of a captive audience…

But this time, he was listening. When I staggered out this morning he had already been up for several hours. And the dishes were done! I was delighted and touched that he had done it, and then even a little doubtful and suspicious, long time wife that I am (38 years in Feb!) wondering if he was up to something. Nope. Just being helpful. Wow.

My husband also is not good at apologies. Yet he is starting to realize that I don’t ask for much, but when a problem occurs that lies at his door, I appreciate a sincere “I’m Sorry” to a fained ignorance of the problem. So you can teach an old dog new tricks, apparently!

I did not marry Ed for his housekeeping skills, his income, his ability to apologize or any other ephemeral talents. I married him because he made me laugh (after a previous marriage filled with pain and angst,) he was reader, enjoyed our daily times together, walking, working, or talking. I strongly believe that you should not try to change the person you are with – that is their task. Don’t marry or hook-up with someone who drives you insane, for they won’t make the changes you want, and you will end up bitter and frustrated. Change yourself, learn acceptance and appreciation of the good points.

Sometimes, you may find, as I have, that the changes you wanted in the other DO happen because the love you share creates a desire to please you, to comfort you, to take care of you. *That* is not a male or female trait. It is a partnership trait. I love this quote:

“I discovered I always have choices and sometimes it's only a choice of attitude.”

“Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction” Antoine de Saint Expury (French Pilot, writer and author  of ‘The Little Prince’ – 1900-1944)

There is no such thing as a perfect marriage, for we are imperfect beings. But in looking outward together, we have learned a lot about each other, life, our interests, our family and our wishes for one another. I have regrets in my life, who doesn’t!? But marrying Ed isn’t one of them.

* Lyrics to the song

You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught
From year to year,
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught!

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About ReaderWoman

Professional reader and researcher for writers - Reviewer and Editor for online book review sites - AVID reader (well, duh!) writer, crafter (sewing, jewelry, fiber art) photographer, herb gardener, love to learn new things - Married 3842 years, 2 "kids" (now 34 and 36) and two grands (13 and 15) Born and raised California Girl, with stints in Tennessee, learning to speak Southern, and Arizona, learning that living in a trailer is NOT fun! Enjoy conversations with wine and chocolate, long walks and being with hubby and family. Life is good!
This entry was posted in Life is What Happens..., Personal Ramblings, ~ Reminisce ~, ~ Renew ~ and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to You have to Be Carefully Taught – A Monologue on Marriage

  1. I LOVE this post.
    And I had forgotten that terrific number from the show. I saw South Pacific about three times on the stage and then the film. The piece is so lively and tongue in cheek that I can almost see Mitzi Gaynor signing it. I saw Mary Martin in the lead role too but can’t remember which was on the stage and which was on the screen.

    Super article

  2. ReaderWoman says:

    Thanks for liking this Betty! BTW – It was Mary Martin in the play… the powers that be didn’t think she could carry the movie. Idiots! 🙂

  3. Laura Hodge says:

    Well. This is one of those rare moments when I am sorry my marriage became such a dismal failure and we never reached the point you two are enjoying now. I’m happy for you. For both of you. How precious it is to be aware of the blessings you have before they are gone. Keep on keepin’ on, guys!

  4. Barb says:

    A great post. You bet we have to be taught…both good habits and graciousness, as well as our hooligan traits. Thanks for reminding us it’s a process…and we’re continually learning.

    • ReaderWoman says:

      To me, the best part about being human is the ability to continually learn – although some folks seem to have stopped that process! Love your blog!

  5. Barb says:

    Thanks for the compliment. I stopped by here after the New Year to see what you’re doing.

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