The secret, as Eve could have told any one of those wannabe Stepford Wives, was sex. No, not withholding it, a la the women in Lysistrata, but reveling in it, wallowing in it--in a Godly way, of course--as the very best way to keep your man happy. (Second best is staying sweet by keeping your mind clear and your mouth shut.)
Marabel had assignments for the women, who paid $15 for four two-hour sessions. Most of them involved sex as the pivotal tool to keep hubby happy. If wifey wasn't happy doing it, she'd better get happy, toot sweet, because the bible tells her so.
The little woman was expected to be an "atmosphere adjuster" in the morning by being pleasant to look at, be with, and talk to. She was to walk her husband to the car each morning and wave until he was out of sight.
She was to call him at work an hour before quitting time (just before she took her bubble bath and cleaned carefully between her toes) to tell him she craves his body.
She was to "thrill him at the front door" by dressing in sexy costumes. "A frilly new nighty and heels will probably do the trick as a starter," Marabel writes. (One of the women in her class won First Prize in Marabel's mind by stripping naked, wrapping herself in Saran Wrap, and topping herself off with a strategically placed red bow.)
And if he came home growling, Marabel cautioned:
"Don't deprive your husband of intercourse when he acts like a bear. He may be tired when he comes home tonight. He needs to be pampered, loved, and restored. Fill up his tummy with food; soothe away his frustrations with sex. Lovemaking comforts a man. It can comfort you, too."From there the book gets deeper and darker, as Marabel tries to convince the "Total Woman" that in order to be totally Total she will have to come in second in everything. In Chapter 6, Adapt to Him, she finally gets to the meat of it: "The biblical remedy for marital conflict is stated, 'You wives must submit to your husbands' leadership in the same way you submit to the Lord.' God planned for woman to be under the husband's rule."
In the Oh, King, Live Forever section of that same chapter, she writes, "I have been asked if this process of adapting places a woman on a slave-master basis with her husband. A Total Woman is not a slave. She graciously chooses to adapt to her husband's way, even though at times she desperately may not want to. He in turn will gratefully respond by trying to make it up to her and grant her desires. He may even want to spoil her with goodies."
Well, gag me with a maggot, even thirty years later. But it goes on:
"What if the king [Ed. note: King Hubby] makes the wrong decision? Oh, that's a hard one, especially when you know you're right, and there are times when that is the case. The queen is still to follow him, forthwith. A queen shall not nag or buck her king's decision after it has been decreed. Remember those speedy trials, gals!"
Oh, Holy Mother of all that's Totally Total, sometimes I think Marabel was really a guy:
"It is only when a woman surrenders her life to her husband, reveres and worships him, and is willing to serve him, that she becomes really beautiful to him. She becomes a priceless jewel, the glory of femininity, his queen!" (P. 80, still on Chapter 6.)As much fun as Marabel Morgan's book seemed to be to the tittilatees of the world (She was a perky regular on The Phil Donahue Show and made the cover of the top mags of the day), the real message was one of female submission--of biblical proportions. Marabel herself admitted as much in 1992, when she told a reporter, "Subservience is involuntary, but submission is my choice." She said submission--not the sexual come-ons--was the real point of her book.
I knew it! I just knew it! (No, I didn't. Not until I re-read it again yesterday. I picked up the book for 50 cents at a thrift store last week, just as a curiosity, and the whole religious submission thing caught me by Total surprise. I'm beginning to wonder if I ever read anything but Chapter 10--"Super Sex".)
Since its publication in 1974 the book has sold over 10 million copies. (Out of print now, but available on Amazon and in thrift stores everywhere.) It lost favor for a few decades but the King Hubby ideas that seemed so ridiculous in "The Total Woman" are starting to look pretty good to a whole lot of Christian women who find themselves re-living the age of Old Testament Normal.
I think I've finally found the answer to the question I asked last February, when, incredibly, millions of GOP women were seen cheering the men who were fighting against free contraceptives: What do you see in those men? Apparently, they see nothing, hear nothing, think nothing. Maybe that's why Marabel's very last paragraph might make more sense to them than it does to me:
Please, don't be satisfied with a new paint job and some redecoration. Plug yourself into the One, the only One, who can give you life. Pascal said, "There is a god-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man, which cannot be satisfied by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator. . ." God is waiting and wanting to fill your vacuum, to make you complete. Total. Right now you can become a Total Woman.
Oh, did I mention that Marabel dedicated this book to her good friend, Anita Bryant? Or that she learned her parenting skills from Dr. James Dobson, author of Dare to Discipline? She quotes him in Chapter 12, Blueprint for Blessings: "When he flops his hairy little toe across the line you've drawn, that's the time to give it to him."
Lovingly, of course, with big hugs afterward, because as Marabel says, "I'm completely out of touch with reality and you can be, too. Totally." (They may not have been her exact words, but they're close enough.)
(Cross-posted at Ramona's Voices)