After a failed first marriage of 17 years to a Southern Bubba (actually a good guy and father) I married my Favorite Yankee who is 20 years my senior. Like other successful boomer women, we found older men less threatened by where we were professionally. My Favorite Yankee was born and grew up on the streets of Jersey City. He actually could tell you the names of people in his neighborhood who were members of the Mafia. I had to break this news to my Southern Mama gently. Fortunately, or sadly, unfortunately, the Alzheimer’s was beginning and she was charmed by his blue eyes and gregarious manner. Old women have always liked my husband- young women, too. He walks three mornings a week with four women who love him dearly. I call them “the Girlfriends.”
Marrying my Favorite Yankee was an adjustment. He is a very, very frugal guy. Like any good Southern woman worth her salt, I am partial to Neiman Marcus deep in the heart of Texas. My Daddy was in the clothing business in South Carolina and was really good at dressing Mama and me. He ordered hand-tailored suits for my brother and himself. I have maintained those expectations. I also know and understand the pink, green, blue and yellow magic of Lilly Pulitzer. As the days get longer and the sun gets higher and hotter, Lilly calls. This is how I dress my granddaughters.
If you marry a Yankee, there must be three pots of money- yours, mine, and ours. Ours includes the groceries, utilities, internet, cable, insurance, etc. Mine is for what I want to do and his is for his wishes. What works well is when Yankee husband complains and doesn’t want the “ours pot” to pay each spring for the mulch replenishment on the bank. I just pulled the guilt trip trick and paid for it yourself. I waited until the neighbors gushed with compliments on the recent landscaping and then announced in a polite but firm tone that the mulch is now a necessary family expense. Worked for me this year. It’s known as manipulation.
Because my Favorite Yankee is 83, he has experienced a couple of health issues where I have felt it necessary to step in with the medical profession. If the Yankee is not getting the care he needs, I call the Veterans Administration and say something like, “Thanks so much for taking my call. Could you please have the surgeon call? My husband is very upset. He wants to know why he went into shoulder surgery for rotator cuff issues only to learn after surgery that his shoulder is still broken. I am sure there is a good explanation as to why this did not show up on x-rays and the MRI.” The nurse responded, “I don’t think you can expect a response until your two week follow-up appointment.” I said, “Please let the surgeon know that my husband is in great distress about this. Thanks so much for your time and attention.”
Low and behold, the surgeon called the next day and spent 20 minutes on the phone explaining and reassuring him. Lessons learned:
- Sometimes you have to be yours or your spouse’s health advocate.
- Do not be afraid to reach out or ask questions.
- Do not accept no for an answer.
- Always remain polite but firm.
- Always say thank you and indicate you will follow up.
This is how Southern Women negotiate and retain their power. They remain in control of the conversation with firmness, charm, and politeness. My husband laughs and calls me his Executive Assistant. He hasn’t figured out that I am actually the one in charge. The doctors have!