A woman, feeling insecure, asks her husband if he thinks a girl is pretty. She asks accusingly, her open-too-wide eyes and higher-than-normal voice making it clear that “tell me the truth, I won’t get mad” is a trap. So the husband lies. Then the wife gets mad anyway because of the lie, provoking him to backpedal and admit what’s already obvious—the girl is hot. Yes, he does think she’s pretty. In defense of his fib, he explains, “I didn’t want to hurt your feelings.” Which only makes things worse. “Why would it hurt my feelings?” the wife asks. “Do you think she’s prettier than I am? Are you attracted to her?”
You’ve seen this episode. Last season alone, NBC offered at least two instances: “Pam’s Replacement” from The Office and “In Between” from Parenthood. I’d bet my left hand (a real beaut! long nail beds and minimal scars) that this fall’s TV lineup gives more examples still. And I’ll be just as annoyed the umpteenth time around as I was the first.A wife is only as confident as her husband finds her attractive: That’s what this story line suggests. It would also have us know that a wife expects her husband to think she’s the one and ONLY pretty woman on earth. Anything less than that is taken as an insult or a threat. The threat comes from the TVism that when a husband, by nature of having eyes that see, recognizes blatant hotness, he will want to cheat—tout de suite.
I’d have an easier time swallowing this scene if signs of trouble appeared in prior episodes. Then the fear and unease could be warranted. But the Do you think she’s pretty? plot tends to pop up when the marriage is nothing but solid and the husband is nothing but kind. The only difference is sometimes the wife is heavily pregnant or has just given birth. Though that’s not always true, and the attitude’s the same in either case. How incongruously the wife character switches from well-balanced and confident to needy and manipulative makes me wonder: Have these writers been watching too much TV? Because real life looks quite different:
I know for certain that I’m not the most beautiful woman in the world. My husband married me knowing this, too. If he were ever to express to me that I was the peak of physical perfection, I would know that he was lying or else very drunk. He does like it when I wear a dress and make my hair shiny and paint my nails red. He finds me attractive, for sure. But the one and ONLY pretty girl? Not by a long shot. I likewise think my husband is very attractive, but is there no man on this earth hotter? That I could not say. Yet we still chose each other because of all the other stuff. The music. The books. The jokes. The dog. The friendship. The sex. The love.
That’s why it’s dumb logic that I should be pissed if he finds another woman pretty, as TV tells me I should be. I’m probably enjoying looking at her, too. Attractive people are fun to look at! Sometimes they’re so fun to gaze upon that I can’t help but comment on the shirtless guy who runs passed us in the park. To which my husband responds, “Keep it in your pants.” And he’s joking, and of course I will. Noting that someone’s good-looking is an admission of taste—not of a desire to cheat.
Now if my husband starts plucking the hard-to-reach gray hairs from another lady’s head . . . then I’ll know we’re in trouble.
Who wants to write that episode?
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Rasika writes about being married and how that makes you act weird. Oh, wait, maybe that’s just her. Follow her on Twitter @rwelankiwar.
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