WASHINGTON -- Hillary Clinton raised a lot of eyebrows at her news conference last week with her repeated, shrugging suggestions that reporters would have to take up their questions about presidential pardons with her husband and his staff. "I don't know enough to answer your questions," ran her refrain.
This cluelessness seemed perplexing in a former first lady who was famous for micromanaging the West Wing of the White House. But future historians may want to consider the hypothesis that she has been studying the latest in sure-fire self-help books: "The Surrendered Wife: A Practical Guide to Finding Intimacy, Passion and Peace With a Man."
The author of this book, 34-year-old Laura Doyle, knows all about the ways men go wrong. We drive them to it, with our incessant nagging and picking out their ties and sharing with them that the best way to get to the Beltway from Silver Spring at rush hour probably isn't by way of downtown Bethesda.
Some time back, Doyle found her four-year marriage nearing the skids, and conducted a fearless inventory of her own controlling, hyper-critical behavior. The neat solution she conceived was surrender. "As I stopped bossing him around, giving him advice, burying him in lists of chores to do, criticizing his ideas and taking over every situation as if he couldn't handle it," she writes, "something magical happened. The union I dreamed of appeared. The man who wooed me was back."
How does one go about surrendering? For starters, practice saying, with a straight face, "Whatever you think." Say it constantly. "Even if you think what he's saying is lunacy," Doyle writes, you should say, "Whatever you think," because it will remind him that you respect what he thinks. (Oh. You want to pardon a fugitive billionaire? And a convicted drug dealer whose case is being pressed by my perennially misguided brother? Whatever you think, dear.)
Contrary to what you might think, your husband will not peer at you suspiciously when you suddenly adopt this pleasant mantra. He'll just look up one day feeling so pleasantly respected and supported that he rises to the occasion.
Another thing: Show him the money. Let him pay the bills, control the finances and dole you out an allowance. In cash, for who wants to worry her head with those pesky checkbooks and the temptations of credit cards? You devise a spending plan that will cover all your needs, and it's up to him to meet it. "Don't worry that your husband may not be able to afford your spending plan," she advises. "This is not your concern. When you give it to him, it will be up to him to decide if you get all of it." (Goodbye, $8 million book advance; hello, peace of mind.)
And there is, of course, the boudoir. "Make yourself available for sex at least once a week whether you feel like it or not," Doyle writes. But don't go around demanding -- or even suggesting -- intimacy. Be subtle. "Squeeze his arm and say, 'Oooh, you're strong,' " for example. And still, she assures you, your husband will notice nothing odd about your behavior. Men may need respect, but apparently they are not the most observant life forms on the planet.
Now, there are some good ideas buried in this book. A lot of us respond to the daily grind of juggling job and home and kids and husbands by trying to control everything that moves. I plead guilty to this shared female delusion that if we can just be responsible enough, vigilant enough, on top of every little thing, then maybe we can keep all the rings of the circus in working order. It can't hurt us to be reminded that the only behavior we can control is our own; and that trying to make everyone do everything our way is a recipe for misery.
So take heart, Senator Clinton. And when you and Bill sit down with the lawyers and spinners to ponder the next chapter in life after the White House, remember: Whatever you think ...
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