Tony Woodlief | Author

Sometimes Less Is Better

I want to offer a thought about this multiple-wives business, which every married man in America has thought to himself, but perhaps not voiced. And that thought is: “More wives?!? Are these men nuts?!?

I can understand how it might work on paper. You love your wife, she is essential to your life, most good things come from her hands. So you think to yourself: Two of them would be twice the happiness. But the reality is that the benefit conveyed by an extra wife is not additive. Another wife is like an extra frontal lobotomy, or a third arm — it’s just going to mess up whatever was working in the first place.

And that’s in the best of situations. Think about it, men: another wife means another dozen opinions to your one, another bundle of feelings to get hurt if you don’t hold your mouth exactly right when you ask for the peas to be passed your way, another unsolvable set with which to wrestle on the eve of each gift-giving occasion. It means another mother-in-law, for crying out loud.

I don’t blame women for the impossibility of having more than one of them in the house. They’re generally more civil, and capable, and better smelling than we men. The problem is us. In his infinite humor, the Almighty has fashioned the most complex of mysteries — woman — and given her to the likes of Barney Fife by whom to be sleuthed. He probably saw Adam trampling his garden, misnaming all the animals, and generally failing to get the ticks out of his own hair, and decided an immediate upgrade was needed. Hence: woman.

This should be plain to any married man. Trying to pull your weight, and keep up with her, and do something at least once in a while to repay her kindnesses, is a full-time job. What man in his right mind, running on the mouse wheel of marriage, thinks it’s advisable to add another wheel?

For the longest time there was an awful hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, that was an institution unto itself. Everyone who visited was told: You simply must eat at the R_______.” So if you visited Chapel Hill, you went.

And had the worst meal of your life. The indigestibility of the food was rivaled only by the surliness of the help, and the cheekiness of the roaches climbing the walls. So why did anyone recommend it? I think the answer is that nobody wanted to look like a fool for having been duped into going himself. Or maybe it was a sadistic desire to see others suffer a similar fate.

But you see where I’m going with this. The first guy to add a few wives didn’t have any choice, men being the vain, stubborn creatures that we are. Don’t you see? He had to tell the other fellows in the compound that extra wives are awesome.

And thus it began. I imagine that there was a lot of bluster when the federal government, having done such handiwork over the last forty years keeping the nuclear family intact, descended to rearrange the deck. But I’m betting beneath it all, there were a lot of men thinking: It’s about time. And probably more than a few women thinking: I hope this doesn’t mean I have to keep one of these louts all to myself. I’d rather be celibate. Which is probably a better deal for your average woman, given her alternative, which is your average man. Let’s just hope they don’t all figure it out.

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