As I’ve done after every episode for the past four seasons, when “Big Love” ended on Sunday night I yelled downstairs to my husband Rick, “Thanks for making me your only wife!”
“Big Love” is the most tremendous show on television, not for its deliciously complex story lines as much as the weekly reminder that having only two people in my marriage (three if you count “SportsCenter”) is something for which I am continually grateful. The times that I worked at jobs with only women were bad enough. It would have been torture if I’d had to take them all home with me every night, too.
However, lately I’ve had more questions than answers about polygamy. It started last summer when we went to see “Julie and Julia” and I sat adoring every frame of the film while Rick leaned over and whispered, “No wonder Julie’s marriage is on the rocks. Which one of them has to do all those dishes after she wrecks the kitchen every single night for an entire year while cooking her ‘gourmet’ meals?”
I shook my head at him and clicked my tongue in disgust. It was no surprise that comment came from the man who will forgo a recipe (the twice he cooks each decade) if he discovers that any of the pots or utensils needed for it cannot go in the dishwasher and must be hand washed instead. But the truth is, he wasn’t entirely wrong.
It’s just a fact that dirty dishes and housework in general can put a strain on a marriage. When we got engaged, someone wisely advised that employing a housekeeper is far less expensive than couple’s therapy.
The thing is though, even if you have live-in help, someone is still always going to throw his jacket on the kitchen table instead of hanging it up in the coat closet and someone else is still always going to ignore her hair in the bathroom sink until it eventually clogs the drain. Unless you live at a Four Seasons Hotel in a suite pricey enough to merit First Butler Service — thereby ensuring your space is maintained to perfection at all times — on some level, house cleaning (and the amount of time the TV is tuned to ESPN Classic) will always be a thorn in the side of marriage.
If the studies that have shown that women work 39 more hours per week than men planning and executing household chores are even remotely accurate, then the idea of one husband with multiple wives doesn’t actually sound like such a bad thing.
From my “Big Love” education I’ve learned that women in plural marriages aren’t pushed too hard to work outside the home, in which case I imagine that each wife only has to clean the toilet or wash the dishes once every so often. Some days you might get to be the one to beat the carpets with a stick outside or sweep the garage while someone else has to wipe your kid’s butt or defrost the freezer. It kind of sounds like Hazel’s version of Shangri-La.
Of course there’s more to plural marriage than having other people wash the linens and make jam while you’re shopping at Costco in preparation for the end of days. And it’s not all that good. According to “Big Love,” polygamy seems to necessitate lots of long, deep, analytical discussions about the state of the relationship. Sort of like the ones you had with your boyfriend in high school, only this time it’s with all of his other girlfriends, too.
And then there’s the scheduling of the nights you get to sleep with your husband, which seems like the story of Elin Nordegren Woods’ life or a bad episode of “The Bachelor” (or any episode of “The Bachelor,” for that matter).
To be sure, there’s nothing I relish more than waking up in the middle of the night and having the distinct comfort of knowing Rick is by my side. Although being able to stretch out across the bed diagonally without worrying about knocking into him (or knocking him onto the floor) is a close second. If I could do the latter — guilt-free — a few nights a week while he spoons one of his other wives, then it seems as if everyone wins.
Just think how much grief John Edwards would have saved everyone if only he had ever received a testimony and lived on a polygamist compound in Utah instead of his philanderist compound in North Carolina. He easily could have been the prophet of Juniper Creek by now. Admittedly, it’s not the White House, but at least he’d have finally found a community that would have celebrated instead of censured him.
More on and from Meredith at www.MeredithCarroll.com.