Wifey (Judy Blume)
This book is amazing, astonishing, and pertinent to the conversations of suburban depression and women's studies..
I was raised in a bookish house on a wide variety of books, not limited to Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary, Louis Sachar, and varied Newbery Award winners.. They all held a place on my shelves, some still survive today. Interestingly enough, when younger, I never considered these writers to be anything more than Children's authors. This is no slight against them, but just a signpost showing where their primary works have influenced me.
A short list of Blume books: Tales of a fourth grade nothing; Super Fudge; Freckle Juice; Are you there God? It's me, Margaret; all of these children novels hold direct influence on my raising.
Queue a paradigm shift:
Many readers would be surprised to run across a copy of Judy Blume's Wifey. I found it, a beat up 1979 edition, on a shelf in a local thrift shop. It seemed to be a wasted opportunity not to purchase it for 99 cents. I had to purchase it and consume it. As it turns out, had I found this as a kid, I would have read it blindly and had some uncomfortable conversations with my mother. I am glad to have avoided this.
Wifey is described as an Adult Realism novel. I can see (now that I am aware of it) that the book can stand alone, thus it's 4+ million sales. It is strange though, I believe this book likely holds more value today than it did back when it was released. It is an unbiased time capsule.
The first page launches readers into a mental bomb field, with Saandy Pressman awaking on the first day with her children at camp, outside her window she sees a man masturbating nude and staring at her home. This was not sexy, it was not sensual, it was clinical and forced. With Pressman counting the strokes of his member before completion, she is flustered but not. This seems to hold solid as a theme throughout the book.
Pressman is slogging through life in a manic rut. She doesn't know who she is besides a wife and mother. Her young woman ambitions are dead, her children drive her crazy, she believes her husband is having an affair. All she wants to do is spend the summer reading some classic literature and hide from the world.. Instead, she spends months learning country club sports, having a couple affairs with people she knows, and effectively suffocating in the miasma of her world.
When I referenced the book as a time capsule, it was not flowered description. Some capsule artifacts are more disturbing than others.
- The descriptions of "safe sex" are hilariously out of date.
- Oral herpes are discussed as a common every day thing that people just live with rather than try to avoid.
- Sandy waffles back and forth on her love for her husband, often times when thinking about sex with him. Half of her memories of love making with him border on marital rape. They are disturbing.
- The Pressman family are pushing to sell their house to buy their "Last Home", but they cannot sell to a black family due to various social and family stigma. Mr Pressman has adopted a new word his mother created, to describe these folks so that he does not appear racist. This is a single instance of the character justified racism included in th ebook.
- The perspectives on drugs and plastic surgery are out there..
- Just about every woman in this novel is a model for why feminism's advance has been critical. Th things said to women, about women, and by women in this novel are a slap in the face at many points.
- Repeated masturbatory motorcycle sessions later and it has become common place and incredibly creepy. No one, not even the police feel that this is a concern worth more than cursory investigation. All her husband can ask is where the lawn has ruts in it... Yes, seriously.
- Women with out a man at their side have little perceived value. Sandy, like many women, is lodged in her world, stuck because she refuses to risk being alone.
I find the timing of this book's release interesting, wondering if Judy Blume's first divorce (mid seventies) may have been a direct influence in the deep depressive outlook and angst that is presented here.
Worth your time, but be prepared to push your jaw shut when it falls open on occasion.
RawBlurb description redux:
This book desperately needed a better description, even in 1979.
"Sandy Pressman is Mr. pressman's little Wifey. She has suffered from various neurological and viral issues since early in her marriage. It it all in her head, caused by crippling unhappiness.
Sandy spends her time wishing the conversations and fantasies in her mind were legit. She wishes for a more attentive lover, one who does not consciously abuse her emotions and intellect. She wishes for children who do not make her nerves quake, triggering levels of motherly detachment. She wishes for anything that is not her day to day. She is looking for escape. Sandy is caged and is desperate for someone to open the door and help her loose.
If none will, she will try to help herself.
This novel is a shocking look into the hidden perceptions of a housewife on the brink of destruction."
The Pocket Books 1979 edition of Wifey carries a short front and rear description-
"The National Bestseller of a very nice housewife with a very dirty mind"
"Wifey is tired of chicken on Wednesdays and sex on Saturdays.
This morning the mysterious motorcycle flasher revealed himself to Wifey and brought her frustrations into rigid focus.
Wifey sees her wildest fantasies taking flight, and Wifey has an itchy-- and uncontrollable-- urge to catch up to them.WOW!"
Published: Pocket Books (1979)