Are you a good wife?
Tip No. 8: A good wife always cooks a big Saturday or Sunday breakfast for her family.
Apparently, I’m not a good wife.
I’m lucky if I shave my legs every week or every other week. I wear enough flannel to bed for a camp out. And I’d rather spend my weekend mornings playing tennis.
And yet, there is a part of me that admires the June Cleavers of the world.
So when I heard about The Wife, I wanted to meet the woman behind the website. Taryn Cox’s blog, in her words, “is based on my philosophies, beliefs, and aspirations of being a good wife.”
Feminists may cringe. But Taryn has a loyal following of women who are nostalgic for the ’50s, women who want, as one of her readers writes, to dress to the nines to serve her husband a mean martini after he gets home from a hard day at the office, even if they’ve just had a hard day at the office.
I met Taryn for lunch one Sunday and she arrived looking fabulous in high heels, handing me a tidy box of cookies wrapped in ribbon.
The first thing she told me is that she isn’t actually a wife. Now it was starting to make sense. Because I don’t know any wives who are trying to be better wives, only wives who are trying to make their husbands be better husbands.
But then I found out that Taryn is a domestic assistant so she does know a little bit about the gig. Taryn works for Monica Rosenthal, the actress who played Ray’s sister-in-law on “Everybody Loves Raymond,” and the wife of Phil Rosenthal, the man who created the sitcom. A philanthropist, Monica leaves the day to day household tasks to Taryn: planning birthday parties, picking out the children’s wardrobes, grocery shopping and running errands.
“It’s strange,” Taryn says. “But I love doing the dishes and laundry.” Especially in a dress, preferably vintage.
Yes, Taryn says, her romanticism of the cookie-cutter “Leave it to Beaver” life probably took root in childhood. Her parents divorced when she was 4 and her dad moved away. She remembers watching her friends get picked up after school while she took a bus to the YMCA because her mom worked.
“I didn’t have the childhood all my friends had. I wanted that so badly. All the moms stayed home. All the dads worked.”
And there was one mom in particular: Wendy Hubbard.
“I wanted to be her. She always looked so perfect. She ran such an amazing house. That was the ‘it mom’ for me.”
Taryn’s own mom, Dionne, remembers Taryn talking marriage in fifth grade. “What generation are you from?” she asked her daughter, who was starting to sound like Dionne’s mom, a Kansas City housewife circa 1950s.
After graduating from Huntington Beach High in 2001, Taryn begged her mom to send her to finishing school in Switzerland. “You can finish yourself right here in California,” her mom told her.
One day a friend commented on Taryn’s organization skills in the presence of actor Jared Leto. He hired her to be his personal assistant. She then became personal assistant to actress/director Scarlett Johansson.
“We traveled the world,” Taryn says. “I had a ball.”
But tending to the Rosenthal’s home and two children is her dream job.
“I thrive on it,” she says of her domestic duties.
A little more than two years ago, Taryn mentioned to a former Glamour magazine editor her idea to start a magazine for wives. Not artsy-craftsy wives like Martha Stewart, but fashionable wives like Jacqueline Kennedy, paragons of femininity.
You have no credibility, the editor told her. Start a blog.
“I thought that was so lame,” she says. “Blogs are a dime a dozen.”
But blog she did.
“THE WIFE is for the timeless wife or elegant wife to be,” her home page states. “Whether THE WIFE favors a career working in the corporate world or has dedicated her time and efforts as a housewife … THE WIFE is an astounding woman and amazing mother, who proudly makes time for her husband and children. THE WIFE loves to cook, has a passion for party planning, a fondness for etiquette, adores decorating and keeping a beautiful home and of course dressing the part.”
A loyal audience has emerged.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done fruitless web searches for ‘housewife blogs,’ Sara from North Carolina comments on one blog post. “Your blog really fills a niche that I think many modern women can identify with. There are lots of wife blogs that focus on being a stay-at-home-mom, or are too religious or “cracker barrel” for my tastes. It is SO VERY refreshing to read about being a wife not as coupon-clipping, mini van-driving, suburban drudgery, but in the glamorous, fashionable, fun, romantic way.”
Another woman named Katherine comments that she has always loved “the thrill of a tea party,” but no one shared the thrill. “Finally, after reading your blogs (and just recently becoming engaged), I have decided to no longer be afraid and live the life of a true stepford.”
Of course, not all comments come from fellow travelers.
“I get really angry women,” Taryn says. She reels one off: “I can’t wait until you’ve been married 30 years, you’ll be miserable. You’ll be eating your words!”
Clemmie Mauleverer, a friend of hers who lives in London, told me she considers marriage more a “clipping of the wings” than a goal, but respects Taryn “for taking an ideal that was very much at the core of the 1950s mentality and revamping it into the 21st century … Making being a wife something dynamic, sexy, independent, wholesome, stylish, fun, creative and passionate. Her blog is stuffed full of creative ideas once you get over the strangeness of the concept.”
Taryn compiles playlists for make-out sessions, lists wife wardrobe staples (Burberry trench coat) and gives advice on things like how to iron your husband’s newspaper.
“I didn’t mean every day!” she says when asked about that post. “I thought it would be nice on special days. Maybe Valentine’s Day.”
She gets about 500 page views a day, not enough for advertising, and makes no money on her website, but it’s not about making money.
So does she think that every wife should strive to be “a good wife?”
“Only if it makes you happy.”