notes on reading "the secret lives of wives"

Over the weekend, I read an advance review book from LibraryThing called The Secret Lives of Wives: Women Share What It Really Takes to Stay Married by journalist Iris Krasnow (Gotham Books, 2011). Hanna wasn't happy with me since I spent most of Saturday ranting at the book. I find this satisfying; she finds it anxiety-producing. At least when I use words like "heteronormative" and "shallow bitch."

I'll be writing a review of this book, where I try to be slightly more measured in my criticisms. You know: balancing those out with the fairly innocuous observations Krasnow makes about what it takes to maintain strong interpersonal relationships with those truly heinous arguments grounded in gender essentialist bullshit. But for now, I thought readers of the feminist librarian might be amused at the notes I took in preparation for writing said review, scrawled in the front and back cover of the book. So here they are verbatim:

Inside the front cover:

     no brownie points for
     evopsych bullshit
     gender/sex essentialism
     focus on women -- makes it women's work
              -- p. 66, p. 119, p. 135-36, p. 138, p. 202-08 HARMFUL, p. 219.
     concern trolling -- p. 37, p. 12
     "males" and "females"
     "divorce epidemic"
     "me decade"
     not getting [that] this book isn't universal!!!  
     describing physical appearance --> [ran out of room; continues below "points for" list]

points for  
     acknowledging agenda, limits [of study]
     no one-size-fits-all, to a point
     self-responsibility for happiness
     outside relationships
     aloneness = positive
     "who are you beyond Mommy?" (101)
     activity, engagement, etc. duh
     p. 198 friendship    

[no brownie points for, cont'd]
     "gay best friend" stereotype
     feminist hate-ons
     privileging marriage relationships
     not recognizing economic privilege
          -- travel, house, etc. professionals. p. 140
     negotiation isn't possible? wtf?
     all couples w/kids?? -- p. 145
     Depression-era idealization

*compare to marriage across cultures book*

Inside the back cover:

relentless heteronormativity -- relentless
good marriage = lasting marriage
marriage vs. dating, no other options
"women need marriage" O_o ... (p. 8)
"marriage = sex" O_o ... (p. 9)
better than the crazy therapy lady?
evopsych bullshit ARGH
p. 57 aloneness + self-awareness (duh)
p. 40 network of support and fulfillment (duh)
reading this book made me so grateful for my parents
any dads as primary parent??
p. 257 ARGH

gender essentialism
oppositional binary
ageism - against youth, against age

So there you have it folks. That's the raw material from whence my review will spring. Although I admit to being puzzled by a couple of these notes myself (who the heck is "the crazy therapy lady" I was thinking about??). Still, I hope you enjoyed this rare opportunity to observe the inner workings of a book review in process. It's a public service after all: I read books like this so y'all don't have to!


  1. Saw you were reading this through your Goodreads feed and began looking forward to a nice rant. I suspect I'm doing this whole being-a-woman-who's-married thing all wrong and am doomed. I don't even have a secret life! Sucks to be me!

  2. @Molly Hah! Yes. I hope you will be encouraged by the fact that your family was one I kept clinging to (along with my own parents and siblings) as evidence that all heterosexual relationships weren't as vapid/damaging/stereotypical as Krasnow (unwittingly, I think?) makes them out to be. It was weird because she kept writing about these relationships in glowing terms and all I kept thinking was how wretched it would be if I thought the world worked on the terms she was describing...

    I hope things are going well with you! I think of you and Eric and Noah lots, and look forward to hearing about family member #4 when they emerge!