I was having lunch the other day with one of my cousins and as is usual in our meetings, the conversation turned to a rundown of what is new with each member of our extended family. We don’t have a very large family but still, it seems that certain members see each other more regularly than others. I’m not sure if that is “normal” or not. I think it is.
So, I asked my cousin about some members with whom she is closer and the conversation went to a married couple in which the husband has been very successful financially. As I remember him, he was always the one to remind the rest of us about how he rose from being a shipping clerk to being the head of his lucrative company. Meanwhile, his well-dressed, bejeweled wife would sit in the background silently, smiling.
“Don’t kid yourself,” my cousin said to me at lunch. “She’s the whole show.” Of course, what she meant was that the quiet, subservient wife was, in fact, “the boss!”
It made me think about so many European families that I knew growing up as an immigrant in Portland, Oregon in which I saw that same equation at work. It seems to me, looking back at it all, that the Viennese culture I knew then required the husband/father to be the head of the family and thereby the one to lay down all the laws by which everyone under his roof was to live.
However, their wives somehow knew how to finagle their husbands into giving in to their wishes. My mother did it by crying. I’m sure others had other means for manipulating their husbands … without their even knowing it.
What was and still is clear though, is that everyone else among their acquaintances who knew the couple, knew exactly who was “the boss.”