Posted in Fiction

There Goes The Bride

1

Once upon a time women stayed at home. They took care of the kids and the house. Men went out to work, made money and supported their families. Then things began to change. The shift in power had been gradual, until the year 2025 and then change had advanced rapidly. Women had been essential in the work place for many years and the men just hadn’t noticed what was developing. Females became the stronger sex. They became more self-assured and with their newfound confidence, they grew powerful, assertive and aggressive. Yes, aggressive, just the way men had operated for centuries.
Now, a man was lucky to find a job that paid minimum age, if his wife would even let him go to work. Jake’s father had told him stories about how it used to be, stories that his Dad’s father had told to him, old husband’s tales about the way things had been in the Twentieth century, before the takeover. For over seventy-five years, men hadn’t possessed the independence, or the financial
freedom, items which the male species had once claimed as their birthright. They didn’t seem to mind. It was a woman’s world now, and the men had learned to live with it.
What choice did they have?
“Niki, you forgot your lunch!” Jake ran out the front door after his daughter, just in time to see her bus pull away from the corner. He threw her lunch after the bus, and tramped back into the house. He plopped down at the kitchen table, and took a sip of his lukewarm coffee. Getting his wife, Michelle, out to work and the kids off to school each morning, was like running an obstacle course.
“Where’s my math book?”
“Dad, the dog threw up on the sofa!”
“Hon, is my red dress back from the cleaners?”
“Dad, Niki won’t get out of the bathroom, and I gotta go!”
“Jake, for crying out loud, can’t you ever control these kids?”
After he finished his tepid coffee, he took a roast out of the freezer for supper. Maybe if he cooked a nice meal, she wouldn’t be so cranky tonight. Ya, and maybe after the kids went to bed, he’d take a shower and splash on that new after-shave. He could wear the silk boxers she’d bought him. She was always complaining that he was never in the mood, but what did she expect after he cooked and cleaned all day? She thought that all he did was sit in the recliner, watching football and drag races, swilling down cold beers, while she was at work.
He heard music outside. It was the Snap-On Tool truck! He ran upstairs and fished under the mattress, feeling around for his stash of money, precious dollars he’d saved from the grocery allowance by clipping coupons.
Hank and Pete were already standing at the truck as Jake hurried across the street.
“What are you gonna buy?” Hank was asking Pete.
“I dunno. Last week, I bought that nice eight-piece screwdriver set and I got lectured for an hour. She said I was wasting her money. I told her it was on sale and she laughed in my face. Said I’d buy fleas from a dog, if they were on sale!”
“You think that’s bad?” asked Jake. “Michelle cut up my Master Card cause I ordered a fishing rod from the Sportsmen’s home shopping channel! She said, “You’ve got enough to do around the house and you can forget about going fishing with a bunch of unshaven house-husbands!”
“Come on guys! Quit the chatter. What do you want today?” Cindy asked. “How about a power drill? Or this nice metric socket set that I have on special?” Cindy climbed down out of the truck and stood there beside them, as they huddled around the merchandise, trying to decide.
Suddenly Jake said, “Let’s go guys. Come on.” He seemed panicky, and his face was flush.
“But, I’m still looking!” Hank insisted.
“I don’t care, I said let’s go, now!” Jake demanded.
Cindy winked at Jake, as she said, “See ya next time, boys.”
“Jake, what’s wrong with you?” both friends asked, as the truck drove away.
“Cindy rubbed her hands all over my butt and whispered, ‘Come for a ride with me big boy and I’ll show you how to use these tools,’ Jake answered.
“Wow! Are you gonna tell Michelle?” asked Pete
“Are you kidding? She’ll just say it was my own fault and ask me what I was wearing! And maybe it is my fault. I should’ve thrown on a decent shirt before I came out.”
“Well, that’s true, but after Michelle is done yelling at you, she’ll beat the nuts and bolts out of Cindy!” laughed Pete.
“Just forget about it.” was Hank’s advice.
“Hey, you guys wanna come over, and have a beer? We can watch the wrestling until the kids come home from school,” said Jake
“Sure, but don’t let me get drunk this time, guys!” said Pete. “Last week after we had a few, I tied Jimmy to a tree in the backyard because he wouldn’t clean his room. Margie was pissed! She took the kids out to eat that night and took away my car keys before she left. I’m still walking!
I told her this morning that she needs to make an appointment to go see my therapist with me. I asked her to go months ago, but she’s always too busy. I told her that we need counseling, so that we can learn to communicate and establish intimacy. That always calms her down. She hates going to therapy! I bet she gives me back the keys tonight!”
“Ya, well at least the boy listens to you now,” Hank joked.
“My father did worse than that, believe me!” added Jake. “Women have no idea how hard it is to stay home with the kids. They go to work, have friends, a social life, fancy clothes that we have to wash or take to the cleaners. They have control of the money, all of their meals are cooked for them, sex when they want it and what do we have?”
“Come on Jake. Cheer up. After all, we have housework that never ends, kids who don’t listen to us, unless the wife is home, ESPN and all the beer our allowance can buy!”
“I hope you’re not trying to cheer me up,” Jake replied.
They all laughed, as they tromped over to Jake’s.
The guys flopped down on Jake’s sofa and Jake sat in the recliner, flipping through the channels, until he found the wrestling. “Where do they find these huge mama’s?” he wondered aloud.
“I dunno,” said Hank. “But I bet they all take steroids!” They all snickered.
Jake passed cold beers around and opened a giant bag of potato chips. The three friends sat there, munching and enjoying the wrestling matches. The kids got out of school at 3:00 o’clock, so Hank and Pete set out for home about 2:00.
After they left, Jake flew into action.
He gathered up all the dirty laundry from the kid’s rooms and stuffed it into the washer. He added a cup of Tide\w Bleach and shut the cover. He went back to the kitchen, loaded the dishwasher and then he popped the roast into the microwave.
Next, he went into the living room, and turned on ESPN, so he could watch the Dallas Cowgirls play the Chicago Bunnies. His dad had told him that men used to play pro-football, but Jake had a hard time picturing men slamming into each other as furiously as the women did! He got out the vacuum cleaner and ran it around the furniture, while he watched the game. Michelle griped at him cause he never moved the furniture, but he just couldn’t see a reason for cleaning in places where it wouldn’t even show!
Tonight, Michelle would be glued to the colossal image screen, watching her favorite soaps, “These Are The Days of Her Life,” and “All His Children.”
His dad had tried to warn him that marriage was no picnic, but did Jake listen? No, of course not. Michelle had swept him off his feet, and now look at him. Just another middle-aged, overweight househusband, a man who couldn’t even support himself and his kids. If she ever decided to leave him…just thinking about it gave him an anxiety attack! Of course, divorce was outlawed now, but she could still leave and live with someone else.
Sometimes he woke up in the middle of the night, shaking and shivering, his body in a cold sweat. He had the same nightmare, over and over. Michelle was walking away from him and the kids, arm in arm with some muscle-bound man, a boy really. No beer belly, no receding hairline. Jake would throw himself in front of her, begging her to stay. She would step over him and just keep walking. It was every man’s worst fear. The guys in the neighborhood had all watched it happen to Mike. And Mike was still in that “hospital.”
Jake thought about how decent Michelle was to him; how she supported him and the kids. He remembered the worthy intentions he’d had that morning. He shut off the vacuüm and dialed their baby sitter’s number. “Hey John, could you pick up the kids at school and keep them for a few hours?” he asked.
“Sure, I have to get my three anyway. I’ll pick them up and we’ll all go to the park. Maybe get some pizza for dinner. Just give me a call when you wanna pick them up.”
“Thanks a lot, John, I owe you one.”
Jake shoved the vacuüm cleaner into the closet and ran upstairs to take a shower. As he toweled off and pulled on the silky green boxers, he glanced at the clock. If he hurried, he’d have just enough time before she got home to bake her favorite carrot cake. Then, he’d put the roast in the oven to brown; serve it with some potatoes and onions.
When she comes through the door tonight, he thought, I’ll stop running around the house and I’ll really listen to her when she tells me about her day at work. That always puts her in a great mood!
I’ll give her a back rub while she relaxes with a cup of cappuccino and after we eat; I’ll turn on some soft music and ask her to dance. I’ll hold her the way I did when we were dating. We’ll dance close and slow, my hands massaging her back, he fantasized.
Their marriage wasn’t perfect, but he had it better than most of his friends. Michelle didn’t hit him, she didn’t go out and get drunk with the girls, and he didn’t think she cheated on him. Of course, Mike had been the last one to know! Anyway, Jake knew it was up to him to keep the marriage strong, to keep the passion and the tenderness alive. Well, he was ready to rekindle that flame when she came home tonight!
The End

I must confess that the seed for this fable grew from a casual conversation my husband and his friends had at work, about what the world would be like if men stayed home. When my husband told me what they had said (himself included) I knew I’d have to cultivate this seed, and nurture it into a full-grown man-eating plant. (Sorry guys!) I hope I did your concept justice,
embellishments and all! Jeanne Marie

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Posted in Jeanne Marie

Careers And Stuff

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First, who I am not.
I am not an actress or a model. I don’t have big boobs or a tiny waist. I do not have enough hair to make a pony-tail. I do not have a book on the NY Times bestseller’s list. (Yet.)

I will never win the Nobel Peace Prize or invent a cure for alcoholism or mental illness, although my family would benefit and it would be a fine start toward world peace.

I do write women’s humor, which doesn’t pay, and I spent five years covering drag racing events, a job that did pay. I also took pictures at the racetracks, had a picture make the magazine cover and I sold my action shots to racers, so I suppose that makes me a professional photographer, although I still claim amateur status. I’ve won literary awards for my essays and my checking account is usually empty.

I got my first job when I was fourteen. I worked as a nurse’s aide until my mom found out that I had washed and dressed a deceased patient before the patient’s journey to the funeral home.

I was quickly promoted to weekend relief cook and given a raise. I slipped back into the nursing aide job eventually, and I continued as a NA for many years, but had to leave that field because I wanted to take home my patients and I did, mentally.

During this time, I was a hippie who shaved her legs and I was allergic to pot. I didn’t go for that free love crap and the boy that de-flowered me had to promise to marry me afterwards.

He did, so I was married at sixteen and not even pregnant. I was pregnant with my third baby, when I divorced my beer guzzling Prince-in-Dented-Armor.

I was a single mother of three, a poet, a dreamer and a sober alcoholic when I remarried three years later and from there, proceeded to raise three kids.

My new husband wanted me to stay home and play Suzy Homemaker. Since I enjoyed the role, I became a daycare provider and had other women’s kids calling me “mama.” (I know now that the Suzy Homemaker role comes with a very high price tag.)

I never planned for a career. I don’t know why, but one reason was that all I ever wanted to be was a mommy. Another reason could be that my family’s expectations were low. Stay out of jail and the mental hospital and you were a success. Marry a man who works and you were a spoiled success.

Still, as the kids got older, I dabbled in many different careers and some careers chose me. When I was in my thirties, I gave waiting tables and bartending a whirl and I enjoyed the short shifts, the furious rush hours and the high earnings.

Then, after several years of experience combined with my obsessive (OCD) work habits, I fell into management. At first, I just took over, organized and motivated the team, but since I was good at it and couldn’t be stopped, the owners gave me a title and more money. I was there so much I asked them to put a shower in the office.

I attempted to blend into the restaurant management world to earn the consistent salary, but I couldn’t hide my hippie roots. For starters, my nametag bugged me.

Second, I told employers when they hired me what I expected from them in return for my extreme dedication and excessive hours. Respect, honesty and appreciation. Many have hired me, unbelievably, and yes, only one delivered.

I have played the “hire the pretty girl game” and shown my legs to get the job, but that was the last time they saw them.

Then, there’s my casual style. You can dress me in a three-piece suit but it’s going to have fringe or patches and I’m apt to wear a tube top instead of a bra. I don’t do nylons (panty hose for you younger folks) and I don’t do high heels. Ever.

I don’t care if you’re the head of the corporation, if you lie to me or if you are rude, I’ll politely let you know it is unacceptable behavior. If you don’t tell me off in front of my staff, I won’t tell you off at the board meeting.

Hey, for thirty thousand a year, eighty hours a week, I have my limits. An employer can only take advantage of me for two or three years and then I’m gone, and I promise you, it will take three people to replace me.

Here’s a helpful hint for job seekers, if the pre-employment testing lasts two weeks and it is confusing, degrading and invasive–turn down the job offer. If they don’t respect you before they hire you…

I’ve been delighted to turn down several top-level management positions after proudly maneuvering through the employer’s hiring maze. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing the money offer creep up and seeing the confused, human resources psychology major go down. I’ll withhold names to protect the guilty and I will admit that my husband doesn’t share my casual attitude about turning down lucrative job offers.

Life is not like a box of chocolates; it is more like bouquets of gorgeous sweet-scented roses and a massive amount of bloody pricks from hidden and not so hidden thorns. I have a weakness for thorns, so I carry Band-Aids.

It didn’t help that despite numerous evidence to the contrary, I was still naïve enough to expect honesty and respect from my employers.

When I became disillusioned with my jobs, my husband told me that I had to learn about the “real world.”

However, I knew the “real world.” I just refused to stop expecting the best from people and I wouldn’t play games.

In 2007, when we moved to Florida. I decided to stop writing for the magazine and now I work for myself. I’m a freelance writer, poet, author, photographer, graphic designer and journalist and I don’t allow for lunch breaks. Since 2007, I’ve only earned about $30.00 through my creative efforts, but that’s okay. I also bought out a bookstore and the contents are in my garage.

Pajamas, jeans, stretch pants and a fringed tee shirt are all I ever need to wear to work and the offbeat collection of business suits are getting dusty in my closet.

I think about giving them away, but I don’t do it.

I might be tempted to foray back into corporate positions if I ever forget how horrible it really was to play corporate games and the suits remind me, I am not a team player, not unless I get to pick my team.