Last week, I outlined book (i.e., chapter) seven of Xenophon’s The Economist. This week we’ll look at books eight through ten. These four chapters are the (in)famous part of the work in which a man describes how he trained his young wife to be a real woman. I would recommend reading last week’s article first.
Book eight begins with Ischomachus recounting a time when his wife was embarrassed that she was unable to do bring him the food item he asked for even though they didn’t have it anyway. Most women today would make an excuse for lack of servility like “I’m too tired from folding laundry all day. Can you make your own sandwich?” Mildred actually has a real excuse, and she chooses to keep quiet out of feminine pride. I can only imagine what their sex life is like, this 14-year-old virgin getting pounded in a way that only an Athenian man could deliver. I bet she gave him anal like all the time.
Ischomachus says, “There is nothing in human life so serviceable, nought so beautiful as order,” in reference to managing a house. He continues on about the orderliness of armies, saying that an army is not intimidating merely because of its size but also because of its organization. I quite like this. What good is chaos? Humans are creatures of habit and tradition, and when we try to break free of tradition to “be our own person,” we soon create new ones whether we realize it or not.
(House)Law and Order
He then spends the rest of the book explaining why it’s so important to have a kitchen cellar so well-organized. It’s good advice but fairly boring, and there’s not a lot for me to comment on. Ischomachus babbles like a woman.
Though it well may raise a smile of ridicule (not on the lips of a grave man perhaps, but of some facetious witling) to hear me say it, a beauty like the cadence of sweet music dwells even in pots and pans set out in neat array.
I concur. I’ve always said that I would pay to sell appliances.
The most disappointing thing about book eight is that Mildred hardly speaks at all. Her character shines a light on everything wrong with the modern woman. But I’ve got to give props to Ischomachus for not being a slob. Ischomachus really undercuts the feminist claim that men the world would be disorderly and ugly without women to keep things straight.
Book nine begins right where book eight left off. Ischomachus prattles on about keeping an organized house, which I guess is his wife’s main job anyway.
You Find Yourself by Looking Where You Left It
“Her delight was evident, like some one’s who at length has found a pathway out of difficulties.” This reminds me of the modern ethic of “finding yourself,” whatever the hell that means. Do you want to find your path in life, to find what you’re supposed to do? Hold a job, maintain a house, and try to live a functional life. Divorcing your husband so you can freedom-bang exotic men is anything but having a functional life.
One issue with “finding yourself” is that it used to not be possible. In the old days, you couldn’t just leave the village to go live with nature or explore new spiritualities. The modernist will argue that that’s because society used to be oppressive and so everyone was miserable, but is today’s society truly happy? Worse case scenario, the feudal man hated his life as much as American Joe, but I’m not sure it’s possible to have a more depressed society than modern America. A simpler time, a sweeter place.
A Lamb amongst Wolves
Ischomachus says that Mildred must be able to serve his friends at parties, and through that she will both “win” their respect and be able to “share [their] joys.” The opinion of a man’s friends concerning his wife are as important as that of a woman’s friends concerning her husband. We are creatures of community, not insular agents. Men like pleasant and comparatively quiet women, and nothing will kill a man night like a woman saying, “Why do you boys get so riled up? It’s just a game!” Worse though is a woman who screeches at the tv when the ref makes a bad call. Either get back in the kitchen and make some pizza rolls, or go knitting with your friends.
But to be obliged to fulfill the duty of attending to her own domestic happiness, that was easy. After all it would seem to be but natural (added he); just as any honest woman finds it easier to care for her own offspring than to neglect them, so, too, he could well believe, an honest woman might find it pleasanter to care for than to neglect possessions, the very charm of which is that they are one’s very own.
Here they discuss that women should be happy to care for their property, and they make an off-hand assumption that “any honest woman finds it easier to care for her own offspring than to neglect them.” Oh, Xenophon, you would weep if you saw our daycare culture today. Today’s empowered woman doesn’t let something like offspring get in the way of her career dreams. A childcare service at best will have children mostly coloring and watching tv. Some influential people even claim that all children should go to preschool.
You know, you read red pill websites, and you think, “No, society can’t be that bad,” and then one Google search destroys your entire faith in America. And notice how none of those links give any statistics about whether the children later do better in real school. I’ll be breaking out the cheap gin tonight.
Book ten concerns the virtues of Mildred herself. She was very attentive to cosmetics and physical appearance and even wore high-heeled shoes, proof that modern beauty standards aren’t modern. Ischomachus falls into the trap I myself often do, claiming to prefer natural beauty because of its truth. I suppose this has some merit since girls today will put on far too much make-up, especially when they are in high school.
Ladies, make-up should compliment the face, not define it, and should a man pay attention to your make-up because of the excess, then you have only made yourself look unnatural and less attractive. Aberrant eye-shadow reveals an ungentle soul. It’s like the modern woman is trying to be ugly.
I wish I could say that Athens’s favorite empowered woman won’t hear it and gives him a strong dose of the red pill, but she caves and asks how she may look beautiful to him. Many men don’t know what they really want, and Athens was no stranger to pop-ideology fads. But to her credit, Mildred’s aim in her cosmetics was to please him instead of herself, and when she perceived that to fail, she asked him what would work. Mildred knows a woman should submit to her husband’s beauty standards, at least within reason.
How to Gain a Man’s Love
I’ll give Ischomachus half a point in this scene because he says that what really turns him on is a woman who excels in weaving and baking bread. True, this rings of the “I want a career woman” mentality, but at least he’s not saying “I want a career woman because she will be able to relate to me,” as if men and women can relate to each other anyway. Seriously, ask a woman sometime if she likes CCR and see how similar she is.
In looking for good links for that last paragraph, I was pleased to find absolutely nothing useful written by a man when Google searching for “I want a strong woman” and “I want a career woman,” which is surprising since my former law school peers all make that claim. Every result either was someone explaining why men do not desire a strong career woman or was a woman trying to convince men to want a strong career woman. Perhaps mankind is not lost after all.
Anyway, for all this “I like accomplished women” ethic of Ischomachus, at least the accomplishments he likes are feminine ones, and he continues that it is acts of grace and not mere obligation that turn him on. The saying is true, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” My college girlfriend one time hid a piece of pie from her parents to give to me, and I don’t think I was ever so impressed with her as then.
I’ll also have to agree that just because a woman looks pretty doesn’t mean she’s the kind of woman you want to spend your life with. You lust after a girl with a dolled-up face, but you fall in love with a wife who makes your daily life pleasant.
And so ends the section of The Economist concerning the training of a wife. It both brings hope that women are not naturally depraved and self-centered and also shows just how warped the modern woman is. Mildred wisely understands her own insufficiencies, and she both gladly accepts advice and seeks to master such deficiencies. I never thought I’d find myself envying Amish society.
Source: The Economist by Xenophon. Translated by H. G. Dakyns. Published by Amazon Kindle.
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