Pass this Buck

Castlegar News bi-weekly columnist Karen Haviland speaks out against an out-moded custom.

As you may know, I am a dedicated reader. My friends know I can usually be found tucked into a corner, or under some shade, with my Kindle in hand, oblivious to my surroundings and deaf to the world as it whizzes by me.

My latest bonus find is a book called Pavilion of Women, and it was written by the renowned Pulitzer and Nobel prize winner, Pearl S. Buck in 1946.

Buck, who was mostly raised in China by Southern Presbyterian missionary parents, was thus well indoctrinated into the Chinese culture. Her writing reflects the upbringing and her thorough understanding of the often misunderstood culture.

In Pavilion of Women, her main character is Madame Wu, the matriarch of the House of Wu, a well-respected family of the highest class.

On her 40th birthday, Madame Wu announces to her husband of 24 years that she is removing herself from the marital bed and then proceeds to handpick her replacement, known as a concubine.

The concubine, as I am sure many of you know, takes the place of the wife in the marital bed and is generally greatly respected, but not as respected as the “Elder Sister” (the wife).

This is where I am going to stop the review of the book, because this column isn’t really about the book, it’s about the concept of a concubine, or even “Sister Wives” as it is known in the Mormon religion.

What can they possibly be thinking?

Seriously men, isn’t having one wife enough of a challenge at times? Can you imagine two, or three, or even four?

I’m not a jealous wife; never have been, really. After all, what does it get you except heartache? It’s a waste of time. But, even I would be stretched to the limit if I had to contend with another woman sharing my home, my kitchen and my husband.

And men, don’t go fantasizing about the variety you would enjoy, even that would get old after the two little women went at it tooth and nail over who would get to wash your dirty underwear. Okay, I exaggerate. I highly doubt any women with a sane mind would fight over that duty.

Seriously, do you want two women nagging at you to pick up your clothes off the bedroom floor, clean up after yourself in the kitchen and put down the toilet seat? Imagine, for a second, that you just happened to tick them both off at once.

As many of you men know, we women can fight like cats and dogs between us, but we pull out the old woman power and band strongly together when need be. And speaking of cats and dogs, surely you know what the dog house is, don’t you?

If you don’t, you would surely learn what it is if you happened to frost both our cakes at the same time.

And for the men who work on the point system (and don’t deny it, I know there are many of you out there), you would have to earn double the amount of points just to break even. Conversely, should you fall out of grace, you could tumble to the bottom of the points pit quite quickly, indeed.

Nothing like having a wife in surround sound.

It’s a good thing we live in modern times. I would not want to be a concubine, nor would I want to be the wife of a man who has a concubine. Life can be complicated enough at times and nowadays I prefer simplicity; although there just might be something said about sharing chores with another person. Many hands make light work.

In all seriousness though, if you are a reader and haven’t read any of Pearl S. Buck’s work, I encourage you to do so. Her writing flows like liquid silver and her eloquence needs no crutches.

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