July 2005

Julie Boulanger

la marquise

The Nice/Naughty Housewife

I recently read a survey in a local paper asking folks what was the first erotica literature they read. Answers varied widely, with Playboy and Xaviera Hollander’s The Happy Hooker battling for first place. To my surprise, my first smutty read didn’t show up. I was certain the innocent mistake I had made at the tender age of 12 must had been committed by numerous tweens in the past thirty years. Could it be that I was the only precocious kid who, by wandering through the adult literature isles of my neighborhood library, just happened to fall on one of my favorite teenage writers? The picture of a woman’s torso on the cover of Judy Blume’s Wifey didn’t strike me for what it was until I had finished it. That the librarian who checked it out for me first asked her colleague whether they should let me loan it did make me a bit suspicious, and all the more eager to delve into it. And delve I did! From bedtime that night to four in the morning. I put it down a changed woman, eh… I mean girl.

What with the survey bringing back such fond memories, I decided to revisit my first smut. Easily accessible through amazon.com, I find out by its cover that it sold over three million copies. Sandy, the heroine, is described as “a very nice housewife with a very dirty mind.” After having reread the book in my adult opinion, there is one “very” too many in that statement. Yes, she is a nice housewife. She stays home and looks after her home, her children and her husband, Norman, who is a unmedicated obsessive-compulsive. His dinner menu must be fixed so that he knows what to expect. They have sex every Saturday night, which translates as Norman asking Sandy if she wants a “little something,” she complying because she is an impeccable wife, and then him climbing into her bed (he doesn’t like sharing a bed and would have his sheets changed every day if he could), giving her one kiss, one pat, and then entering her. She does achieve one, maybe two orgasms, yet her life still appears rather bland, rather routine. When she isn’t being a good housewife she is being a good show-wife, accompanying her husband to The Club where he enjoys the company of other upper-middle class couples and where he perfects his tennis and golf, games at which Sandy is hopeless. Needless to say, when a man shows up on his motorcycle one morning in her backyard, strips and starts jerking off for her viewing pleasure, a few naughtier than nice desires start swelling up inside of her. From then on starts a series of affairs, unfortunately some less detailed than others.

This novel is not “very naughty” and neither is Sandy. Frankly, if one does the math, Sandy is 31 years old, so at her sexual peak. She has never gone all the way with anybody other than Norman. Her life is constrained and boring. Her sex life is the definition of monotony. Norman doesn’t even go down on her, and the time he tried he ended up gagging and rinsing his mouth out with Listerine. Can you really blame her for an affair or two?

The answer is a resounding no, and that’s precisely Blume’s main strength as a writer. Blume writes a story in clear and straightforward prose. Her characters can be a bit extreme in their stereotypes, but she nonetheless succeeds in making them feel real. He narrative structure, though not prose-shattering, strays from regular idyllic happy endings. She is rather a hopeful writer rather than a dream-come-true weaver. As far as the sex scenes are concerned, again she does not dazzle her readers with dream-come-true scenarios. Sometimes there is buildup and other times no, demonstrating the sometimes fortuitous situations in which we find ourselves having sex. And sometimes some juicy details are lacking, which would explain why the novel is described as an adult novel instead of an erotic one. If you’re looking for a hot sex scene at every tenth page, this book won’t deliver. If a good story with a dab of raunchiness suits your palette, by all means, dive right in!

Funny how the only scene I truly remembered from the book was one of the sex scenes. It must have sent my young head spinning. Wifey is a fun and easy read, yet even if I breezed through it this second time around, in my view it is no longer a one-night affair.

Wifey by Judy Blume
Pocket
ISBN: 0671693816
288 Pages