Last weekend, I finally embarked on the monumental task of cleaning out the garage, one of the many pending "requests" from my beloved a.k.a my weekend shift manager. To be fair, it was a reasonable request and it was long overdue. After a couple of hours, while I was on a break, I came across the following article from the Wall Street Journal with the title, "Meet the Marriage Killer" by Elizabeth Bernstein." The piece was about how nagging by wives was as potent a cause of divorce as adultery. It defined nagging as the interaction in which one person repeatedly makes a request and the other person repeatedly ignores it and both become increasingly annoyed. Some people I know, might characterize this as the definition of marriage? At first blush, it sounded like something you might read in the Onion. The article went on to say, "Nagging can become a prime contributor to divorce when couples start fighting about the nagging rather than talking about the issue at the root of the nagging, says Howard Markman, professor of psychology at the University of Denver and co-director of the Center for Marital and Family Studies." The same expert also published research in the Journal of Family Psychology indicating "that couples who became unhappy five years into their marriage had a roughly 20% increase in negative communication patterns consistent with nagging." Oh really, Dr. Markmam. Finally, the article suggested various ways to curb the nagging problem and gave the example of one wife whose solution was to write her requests on post it notes with a smiley face. Based on my experience with my college room mate I can attest to the fact that this is not a solution.
As an experienced divorce attorney in Beverly Hills, I decided I needed to know more about the nagging and its relationship to divorce. That's a lie. I was procrastinating. I was not ready to go back to cleaning the garage. I decided to do some google "pseudo" research.
I first turned to the Onion to find out whether "nagging" was, in fact, listed as a prime contributor to divorce. Apparently not. The Onion cited a study which found that 31% of those divorcing said they wanted to resume having sex.
More google "pseudo" research" led me to an editorial in a 1899 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association with the title "Nagging Wives and Nervous Husband's" which briefly considered the effects of nagging on the nervous disposition of husbands. In Shakespeare's time, it apparently led to nervous prostration and even insanity. The editor defined modern nagging as "an expression of an ill regulated and ill balanced nervous system which led to motor restlessness and egotistical inability to see the rights of others." I wondered whether this editor's marriage had made it to the end of the century.
Next, I searched "history of nagging" and came across some more highly polemic material. A web site called a "Brief History of Struggle" had a rather original page called a "Brief History of Nagging," which attributed nagging to the utter powerless of married women in patriarchical societies starting with Socrates whose wife was such a nag that he was forced to take up philosophy in the city squares and gymnasia of ancient Greece.
Another web site had a rather more sinister take on nagging. It reviewed the "Scold's Bridle," a book by Jenny Paul, which set out to dispel the myth that nagging wives or "scolds," as they were called in the middle ages, were forced to wear a bridle to shut them up. The author found that the historical record did not support such a punishment. The bridle, often with spikes, was usually reserved for witches. Punishment for scolds was only a "ducking stool." Well there's a relief.
Anyway, it was time to get back to work, so I searched to see what the Bard, always good for a quote, had to say about nagging. There was nothing even from Taming of the Shrew, the greatest work ever written about a nagging wife. Instead, I found this gem with the title," Nagging wife, sausage help man win $4.2M lottery" It claimed that a wife in New Zealand nagged her husband to buy a lottery ticket which he finally did with minutes to spare before the ticket sales closed on Saturday night. "My wife had been nagging me all week to get a ticket, so I when saw the Lotto sign ... I sprinted in to get the ticket before they closed," said the man. The couple who live in Auckland had fallen on hard times. The husband discovered that he had won $4.2 million when he went out to buy a barbecued sausage at his wife's "request." The man said he didn't have enough money to buy his wife the sausage. So he decided to check his Saturday lottery ticket in case he'd won a small prize. "I could not believe it when they said I was actually the big winner," he said. Note how the wife now requests the sausage after he's won the lottery.
It was time to go back to the garage. What had I learned? Was nagging a medical condition or the inevitable consequence of the gender struggle in a patriarchical society? Was it inherently a subjective term that said as much about the lack of responsiveness of the "naggee" as it did about the persistence of the "naggor." Did it invariably lead to a nervous disposition, divorce or other cruel and inhuman punishments. And what was the solution? Would we have to change the power structure of society or could it be banished with post it notes plastered around the kitchen?
I preferred to look at the positive. Sometimes it just gets things done. We got western philosophy, a couple in New Zealand won the lottery and we finally cleaned out all the crap from the garage.