Melissa starts out this chapter by reiterating how she decided to toss her bachelor’s degree aside to work as a secretary for her husband’s company. All because he wants to be able to go on vacation with her. The story doesn’t make anymore sense the second time I read it. Melissa attempts to explain, “Teaching no longer felt like the right path. Something in my heart told me to help build the company with Joe for the sake of our future children.” And so you could go on vacation with him, right?
Then Joe takes the reins and talks about how they struggled during the 2008 recession and the downturn in the housing market. Their story of struggle is very poignant. A lot of people struggled and continue to struggle due to the economy and they made it through with two small children.
But of course, logic and personal stories can only last so long. Now, Melissa ventures into finances. It seems a little off that someone who lives in wealth and privilege to be doling out financial advice to women who will never drive a new Range Rover and live in a mansion. Sure, Joe worked for all that they have, but he had enough luck and good timing to be successful. Some people work just as hard and never yield those kinds of results.
Of course, Melissa can’t resist another opportunity to bring up her “singing career”. She writes about the adjustments that they had to make in order to accommodate her hobby. Melissa states, “Joe loves his children and spending time with them. But he does resent the idea that their mother isn’t available to them 24/7.” Of course he does.
Then, Joe hops in to add in his two cents.
It was an adjustment. For years, I was the one making money. I paid for everything and Melissa took care of the house and the kids. That was our life. Then suddenly, I’m earning, and I’m paying for the recording studio, and for her songs, and for her choreographer, and the hair and makeup, and then she asked me to take phone calls for her and to stay home with the kids so she could do an appearance somewhere. What happened to our normal life as a married couple? I thought I was a big real estate guy. Am I seriously turning into my wife’s assistant?
Yes, how terrible is it that she has her own life away from the home? How demeaning is it that he has to answer a few phone calls and stay at home with the kids on occasion? What is he, a woman?
Melissa talks a bit about how all of their money goes into a joint account and they have no separate bank accounts or anything of that nature. She writes, “Separate accounts and credit card statements just open the door for secrets and lies.” Yeah. Just like hanging out with your single girlfriends will lead you into temptation. Doing something without your spouse is dangerous and can only lead to trouble.
Chapter 11 is called Good Homekeeping. But it somehow starts off with Melissa rambling on about her “singing career” yet again. She writes that singing was always associated with her father and she loved being the center of his attention while he filmed her. She writes that she didn’t sing for the longest time after the car accident that claimed her father’s life. But when she had children she started to sing to them.
Soon Joe encouraged her to do something with her “amazing voice” and then after finding a modicum of fame on reality TV, she funneled it into singing horrible songs and lip syncing her way around a stage. But she writes that she would give up her “singing career” in an instant if it jeopardized her home life. She states, “There’s no happiness without Joe and the kids.” Which is what all independent women say at one point or another.
But now onto housework. Guess how much Joe does. No seriously, guess.
If there’s spilled milk on the floor, Joe’ll walk by it five times without once picking up a sponge. I used to ask, “Are you going to keep ignoring that spill or clean it?”
He says, “Nope.”
Someone might look at Joe and think, “Chauvinist pig.” He sounds like one sometimes! They might look at me and think, “Throwback.” The way I see it, Joe is cleaning up messes at work all day long — things you can’t wipe up with a sponge. That’s his job. It’s my job to clean up spilled milk. I just do it. There is simply no point to arguing about something that requires all of five seconds of my time and next to zero energy.
Joe? A chauvinist pig? No way! I also love how Melissa figures that it takes so little time and energy to clean up a spill, but Joe couldn’t possibly manage to do it himself with that little time and energy. Joe might work 12 hour days, but Melissa’s days are 24 hours long. Yet she doesn’t seem to see this obvious fact.
Moving on, Melissa then relates a fascinating story about how she had a huge argument with Joe about changing a burnt out lightbulb. She figured that changing this bulb was “man’s work” and she was too dainty to do it. So she asked Joe, but of course, Joe had just worked a long day and didn’t want to. So the fight ensued. Joe eventually sent one of his workers over to change the bulb. Because doing anything around the house is too much for him.
The next section just gets worse, however. It’s titled “Do you really want to see your man on his knees next to a bucket of sudsy water?” Then we launch into a staggeringly sad section on iron-clad gender roles.
In theory, men sharing household chores is great. I’ve heard women say, “Nothing is as sexy as watching my man do the dishes after dinner.” When I hear that, I think, Um, I can think of about a thousand things that are sexier than that! … Anyway, a study came out recently that pretty much confirmed my belief. It said that couples who stick to traditional gender role chore division have more sex. Couples where the man does typical “feminine” chores have less sex. I can tell you why. When gender roles are confused, sexual roles are, too. If he’s at the sink, and then changing diapers, then who throws who down in the bedroom? In our marriage, Joe is always the man, doing masculine things… I’m the woman, and I do the female things, including housework.
Seriously? I’d love to know what study she’s citing here. Also, is having more sex a sign of a better, healthier relationship? If a couple has sex once more per week than another couple, is their marriage stronger or more fulfilling? I doubt it. One explanation for this result could be that men who do less housework are in marriages such as Melissa’s where they demand sex and get it because they’re domineering and controlling, not because their wives are more sexually attracted to them.
As far as her views on gender roles, this is where the “traditional” label proves that there’s nothing modern about her marriage. She is still subscribing to beliefs in gender roles that are completely outdated and stifling for both sexes. Chores are not gendered and no one should feel more or less like their gender from mowing the lawn or cooking a meal.
Also, where is her idea coming from that if a man washes dishes that he can’t “throw down” in the bedroom? Is this some other kind of scientific study that she can’t produce or another poll she did of her friends? Being able to help around the house has nothing to do with what you do in the bedroom.
Not pausing to reflect on her life, Melissa launches into a section that’s probably supposed to be funny about how bad a driver that Joe is and how he always demands to drive. Then the kids get car sick and ill and Melissa has to drive the rest of the way. Fascinating.
She ends the chapter with a section urging women not to “keep score”. She tells them never to think about what they’re doing and compare it to what your spouse is doing. Probably because if she did stop to think about it, she would realize how much she does for Joe and how he can’t be bothered to do the simplest thing around the house. Better to completely ignore how unequal their relationship is in order to avoid reality.
The more I review this book, the angrier I get. It would be one thing if Melissa was writing a memoir and talking about this terrible marriage. But this is an advice book! She is supposed to be advising women on how to have great relationships with their spouses. She’s telling them to do everything for their mate and not expect anything in return except for financial support.
A woman who is looking for a more fulfilling relationship is going to be disappointed to discover that she can have it all but only by giving up all of her needs and changing however her husband prefers. But we’re only halfway through the book! We haven’t even gotten to Melissa’s pooping habits yet. Stay tuned.
To read all review entries of Love Italian Style, click here. Blogs are in reverse chronological order.