General 7-1-2005

Non-Fiction Reviews – June 2005

"Modern Lovers," by Sarah Bunting; "Confessions of a Slacker Wife," Muffy Mead-Ferro; and "The Politics of Lust; by John Ince.


Modern Lovers

The war between the sexes, the war against sex, and other well-traveled ground

By Sarah Bunting

Confessions of a Slacker Wife

By Muffy Mead-Ferro

Da Capo Lifelong Books, $12.95

The Politics of Lust

By John Ince

Prometheus Books, $16.00

“Do we want things to be perfect or fun?”

Muffy Mead-Ferro poses this question in the course of wondering why she often feels obligated to furnish fancy hors d’oeuvres when her friends come over, while her husband is content with plunking down potato chips and soup-mix onion dip for his friends—and it’s a good one.

But, like many of the other questions Mead-Ferro poses in Confessions of a Slacker Wife, the follow-up to her Confessions of a Slacker Mom, it’s one we’ve seen asked before, and the author doesn’t break much new ground in her examination of gender roles and expectations of women in marriage.

Granted, Confessions of a Slacker Wife isn’t intended as a sociological examination of chore division in American homes. It’s just one wife and mother’s perspective on the familiar small complaints of married women in the twenty-first century (and before): Why do certain household tasks seem to fall to women more often, and why don’t said tasks garner as much notice as the chores husbands take on? Why is it that hostesses tend to try to outdo one another in food prep? Why is it so hard for women to say no sometimes?

But we’ve gone over this ground before—there have been dozens of articles on overscheduled families and the importance of compatible communication styles to a healthy marriage. Mead-Ferro’s prose is light, and the book is a quick read, but her insights are often cutesy and Bombeck-ish.

Given the familiarity of the terrain she’s covering, Mead-Ferro is at her best discussing odd American obsessions like anti-aging and germ-fighting, and she brings fresh insight to these small topics. Raised on a ranch, she has an intriguingly contrary take on the importance of a clean floor; she’s also a veteran of not one, but two breast-implant surgeries, so her ruminations on female body image offer a nuanced perspective on what’s too often a black-or-white debate.

She’s a deft storyteller: featuring lively references to the annual ritual of calf-branding on the family ranch, and to her grandmother’s three-stage diaper-drying routine. Mead-Ferro should have focused more on these quirky aspects of her life—growing up among hay-balers, her grandparents’ knack for good conversation— instead of reheating general reflections on the double standard for men and women. Confessions of a Slacker Wife feels like an attempt to capitalize on the success of the first book, and that’s fine as far as it goes . . . but it doesn’t go very far. Mead-Ferro should have parlayed the success of her first book into a memoir deal, not a rote sequel.

Or perhaps she should have inked a deal to ghostwrite The Politics of Lust, a well-intentioned but deeply irritating condemnation of our sex-negative (or “erotophobic”) culture, written by John Ince.

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