The first time someone described me as wifey, I flipped. Used colloquially as an adjective or a noun, many people consider it a term of endearment. I wasn’t one of those people. Wifey was a venomous word reserved for girls I considered an embarrassment to my underdeveloped brand of feminism. Wifey girls are desperate to keep a man by catering to his every need. Wifey girls don’t stand up for themselves or fight for their goals. Wifey girls would rather clean the kitchen than paint canvases or play guitar. Wifey girls plan their weddings on Pinterest before they even get a boyfriend.
For decades, women have struggled to not be defined by their traditional roles as wives and mothers. Most men’s ideals weren’t left behind in this process. As women gained strength and independence, it became the norm for men to respect and desire these qualities in a woman worth pairing up with for the long haul. Wifey, put simply, refers to someone who would be a good wife. The guidelines for being a good wife (or husband, while we’re at it) have changed. By most people’s definition, it doesn’t require subservience or a loss of self. It’s about being loyal, supportive, and under your partner’s threshold for annoying-ness. Making dinner for your partner isn’t a crime against feminism. Odds are good that it’s just one of the little things you both do to help each other get through this exhausting thing called life. Being a “good girl” helps, but I’ve been averse to this label as well.
Where’s the fun in being good for a man? What’s exciting about having something he could handle every day, ‘til death do us part? I didn’t want to be anyone’s glass of water. I wanted to be a shot of whiskey. My bad girl envy is not surprising, considering how pop culture glorifies this stereotype at every turn. In particular, this decade is all about “bad bitches,” which sounds like a doubly negative label for women, yet girls are striving for it. “Bad” has long been “good.” “Bitch” has been reclaimed by confident women to a huge extent. Obscene amounts of attention are rewarded to Rihanna, Miley Cyrus, and Nicki Minaj. On Wale’s song “Bad,” he complains that, “Bad girls ain’t no good, and the good girls ain’t no fun” before Rihanna’s chorus about being a commitment-phobe who’s great in bed. Popular music and movies are fond of casting bad girls, divorcing sexual prowess from morality as if the two can’t coexist. When good girls have sexual agency in pop culture, it’s usually fraught with conflict. Robin Thicke “always wanted a good girl” in “Blurred Lines,” but he wishes she’d cut the act and put out. Drake sings “You’re a good girl and you know it / You act so different around me” to the subject of his latest hit. Men will be confused by good girls acting bad and vice versa until they accept that all women have both qualities. It’s the ratio that changes from person to person and throughout life.
Much to my chagrin, I’m more Sandra Dee than Sandy. Despite being a square, I had a proper wild child phase full of all the things one hesitates to publish on the internet. I checked off all the boxes on the Teenage Rebellion list pretty early in life, then continued on my goody-two-shoes trajectory of honor rolls, university, and a timely graduation. I drool over clothes from Nasty Gal and Unif that I would probably never wear in public, even if I had hundreds of dollars to blow on cutout mini-dresses and spike-covered platform boots. I wear short shorts when it’s warm out and I believe in fairness. Nothing boils my blood faster than double standards. I don’t think the point in (or before) a relationship when a woman chooses to have sex is an indicator of whether she’s “girlfriend material.” I think it’s a swell litmus test for women to weed out backwards, hypocritical men. I’m a product of the times and all the time I spend fretting about them. And I’m kind of wifey.
Being a serial monogamist in my teens and early twenties has made me question myself as much as a chronic first dater might. Talking to friend of mine (who also admits to being girlfriend-y) brought the issue into focus. What’s wrong with being the kind of person someone would want to be with for life? Some people just can’t take a compliment.
I’ve learned to accept it. Being “wifey” doesn’t mean you’re desperate for (or incomplete without) traditional gender roles. It could mean the opposite: You’re stable, whole, and mature enough to be someone’s long-term partner. Being a good girl doesn’t have to mean that you’re boring or uptight. It can mean that you’re mature enough to think before you act, and kind enough to consider other people’s feelings in addition to – not instead of – your own.