Rockwell Video Minute: Arguing Politics Over Breakfast

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Featured image: Norman Rockwell / SEPS

Cartoons: Carpentry Capers

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A middle-aged married couple shake hands on a deal concerning their D.I.Y. projects.
“O.K., it’s agreed! If you won’t knit anything for me, I won’t make any furniture for you!”
Bob Barnes
October 9, 1954


A woman shows her friend the shoddily-made end table her husband made.
“Henry made it out of an old table.”
Don Tobin
September 18, 1954


A woman and her friend comment on one of their husband's awful D.I.Y. project, which is a short end table made out of an old log.
“I know just how you feel – my husband went through the same phase.”
Frank O’Neal
July 31, 1954


A woman tells her husband to keep the awful chair he made in the basement.
“I’ll say it’s built to stay! Right down here!”
Ben Roth
July 3, 1954


Woman comments on her husband's carpentry project to her friend.
“So far, he’s made two things – sawdust and noise.”
June 26, 1954


Woman shows her husband's D.I.Y. projects to their friends while insulting him.
“Vincent made all the furniture himself. We call this the ‘Bizarre Room.’”
Peter Wyma
May 7, 1955


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Cartoons: A Modest Proposal

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Man asking his girlfriend to marry him
“Marry me, Cynthia…and help me pay for it.”
Harry Mace
November 6, 1954


Man asking his girlfriend to marry him
“Can you wait ten minutes while I pack?
Chon Day
June 26, 1954


Man asking his girlfriend to marry him
“Feel that rough place? That’s the diamond.”
Don Tobin
June 4, 1955


Man asking his girlfriend to marry him
“Please be brief. Others are waiting.”
May 14, 1955


Man asking his girlfriend to marry him
“Is there someone else, Jane? If there is, I’d like to sell this to him.”
Mary 27, 1954


Man asking his girlfriend to marry him
“Come to think of it, you’re right! You’re not good enough for me!”
B. Wiseman
November 20, 1954


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Cartoons: Marital Malaise

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A couple examine their leaking roof
“Just think darling, our first leaky roof, together!”
September 9, 1950


A mother fixes the kitchen sink while talking to her son. Her husband is in the next room sleeping.
“It’s hard to explain, dear. I married your father for sentimental reasons!”
George Wolfe
August 26, 1950


Husband stuffs his ears with his tie to drown out the sound of his wife talking on the phone
Tom Henderson
August 19, 1950


Husband talks to his wife
“How do you expect me to remember when we got married? I can’t even remember why.”
Ben Roth
August 12, 1950


A couple prepare to turn in for the night
“Get a good night’s rest dear. There’s something I want to tell you in the morning.”
Bob Barnes
April 19, 1952


Wife argues with her husband
“That’s my last word on the subject. Now to get on to the next topic…”
April 5, 1952


Wife places a full trash can in front of her husband in their living room
“Trash night. Just a reminder.”
Stan Hunt
September 30, 1950


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Cartoons: Breakfast Table Banter

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Sleepy woman reading her husband's newspaper at the breakfast table
Walt Wetterberg
March 13, 1954


Wife caught the attention of her oblivious husband by using a bullhorn.
“You say something, dear?”
J. Whiting
February 27, 1954


Woman eating a sparse breakfast while standing on a weight scale
“Sometimes I think you carry this dieting too far.”
Brad Anderson
February 21, 1953


Mother-in-law asks how her miserable son-in-law is doing after he spent the night sleeping on the couch
“I slept like  a top…how was the couch?”
Steve DuQuette
February 21, 1953


A tired couple tries, and fails, to fill a cup of coffee
Walt Wetterberg
February 7, 1953


Wife reads a pile of notes from the milkman
“No, the mail hasn’t arrived yet — this is just an answer to a note I wrote the milkman.”
Bob Barnes
November 27, 1954


Woman tries to get her husband's attention by putting herself between him and his newspaper.
“I said…’How were the pancakes?’”
Brad Anderson
March 14, 1953


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Cartoons: Engaged to Be Harried

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Man presenting an engagement ring to his girlfriend.
“Oh, John, you shouldn’t have…and you almost didn’t!”
August 18, 1951


Woman jumps on her couch after her boyfriend proposed to her.
“May I take that to mean ‘yes’?”
Al Johns
August 11, 1951


Man meeting his fiance's father.
“I’m sure that marrying my daughter will make you the happiest man in the world Ralph – outside of myself, that is.”
August 4, 1951


Woman comments on the engagement ring her boyfriend gave her.
“It’s beautiful, Stanley, but a larger one would have served the same purpose.”
Mel Lazarus
December 23, 1950


Woman comments on the engagement ring her boyfriend gave her.
“After they get through cutting and polishing, they don’t leave much, do they?”
Ben Roth
December 9, 1950


Woman comments on the engagement ring her boyfriend gave her.
“Why, Herbert – what a beautiful way to drag out a friendship!”
Mel Lazarus
October 28, 1950


Young child peaks out from under a couch to congratulate his sister's engagement.
“Allow me to be the first to congratulate you!”
Bob Barnes
October 21, 1950


Woman jumps on man, tells him "Yes" to his proposal.
Joseph Zeis
September 22, 1951


The Difficulty of Marriage

In 1930s, humorist J.P. McEvoy wrote the Post column “Father Meets Son” presented to readers in the form of letters filled with advice for navigating life’s rocky road. Employing a mix of wry humor and tough love, Dad doled out life lessons on everything from work to women. Readers loved it.

Dad wonders if his son will fall on his face when he is married, but decides that marriage is really just another kind of job — the skills he has gained from one can transfer to the other.

Man talking to his wife
“And yet, all around you, you will see husbands and wives who don’t trust each other, and yet each blames the other because their marriage is not successful.”
Illustrated by Ralph Pallen Coleman

The Difficulty of Marriage

By J.P. McEvoy

Originally published on August 21, 1937

Dear Son: As the time draws near for you to take off the springboard, you seem to be increasingly anxious. Are you going to make a neat dive or are you going to land on your face? You have been getting a lot of advice about marriage, and you will get a lot more. As long as you live, people will be telling you what to do and what not to do. I wouldn’t have stepped into this, only you asked me.

The old man is no prophet. The only thing he can tell you with any degree of assurance is that you will get a lot of advice, but that you won’t take any of it. Young couples have to find out everything for themselves. All the old truths that millions fought and bled and died over must be rediscovered to have any validity. It seems a great pity and a terrible waste of time and energy, but apparently there is nothing to be done about it. Everything you will ever need to know about making your marriage happy is common knowledge, and I could tell it to you in five minutes, but unless you are the wonder boy of the age, you won’t register it — much less use it.

The principal thing to remember is so simple, it will take you years to figure it out: Making a success of marriage takes just the same kind of doing as making a success of anything else in life, for marriage is not something apart from life, it’s a part of life itself. You’ve already discovered that to be a success in your job, you have to work at it. If you want to get along with the boss, you have to make the effort. If you want to get along with your customers, you have to study ways to please them. You have learned not to make promises that you can’t keep; you have learned you must keep the promises you make.

Marriage is a job you know nothing about, so you will have to study it and you will have to work at it, and the very same technique you are using to make a successful career will go a long way toward making a successful marriage. Think of your wife as a partner and marriage as a going concern. Business partners divide the responsibilities and the duties of the business. They consult together, they compromise their differences, they trust each other and they present a united front against the world. If they didn’t do all these things, how long do you suppose their partnership would last? And yet, all around you, you will see husbands and wives who are in the business of life together, who don’t share the responsibilities and duties of the job, don’t consult together, don’t compromise their differences, don’t trust each other, don’t present a united front against the world, and yet each blames the other because their marriage is not successful.

You will be told wives are hard to handle; but there is nothing so easy to handle as a wife, provided you don’t try too hard. Just make her happy and keep her busy, and she will handle herself. And I would add you have gone a long way toward making her happy when you keep her busy. More women are unhappy because they haven’t enough to do than for any other reason. A man does a woman no kindness when he makes it difficult or impossible for her to keep her time fully occupied. Give her a lot of responsibility; let her have her own departments and let her run them. Let her feel that she is helping you, that you need her, that you couldn’t get along without her. Take a genuine interest in what she does, but keep your hands out of it unless she asks you.

You will be living on your salary, so you won’t have much money to argue about; but that’s when people argue the most. Arrange your finances so you have as few discussions as possible about money. If you have only $3 a week each for spending money, don’t dole it out to each other. Each of you should have your own personal account, just as you have your own toothbrush, and into these accounts should go your own personal allowances — they should go there quietly, painlessly, and automatically, to be spent any way you like, and should never be referred to again by either party. There is something indelicate, if not indecent, about handling money, or talking about it, and arguments about money are infinitely degrading.

Just now Gloria seems perfect. Go right on thinking so. After you have been married a while, you will see all kinds of things you would like to change, a lot of improvements you would like to suggest. Restrain that creative impulse! Let her alone. This may encourage her to let you alone too. People don’t change. Their characters are already established, their habits are fixed, their likes and dislikes all deeply rooted. Good energy is wasted by husbands and wives trying to remodel each other. You wouldn’t try to remodel your boss or your best customer; you ignore his faults and compliment him on his virtues. Apply the same technique to getting along with your wife. The effect is startling, the results miraculous.

One of the hardest things for a young fellow to remember about marriage is that his wife is a woman. Too often he gets to thinking about her as another kind of a man, only smaller and more unreasonable. Most of the time wives aren’t unreasonable at all — they are just feminine. Now you think it is cute and charming for Gloria to be so unpredictable; go right on thinking so, because she is going to get more unpredictable all the time. There is nothing mysterious about the feminine viewpoint, but it’s hard to explain. You have to experience it. For one thing, it’s very personal. It is very difficult for a woman to argue objectively. When you differ with a woman, it doesn’t mean that you have different views as far as she is concerned. It means that you don’t feel the same about her as you did before you expressed a different view. If you don’t understand that, imagine how difficult it will be to explain it to Gloria. Don’t try. Just remember what you have been learning in business: The customer is always right.

Are you polite to a customer? Are you friendly? Are you kind? Are you thoughtful? Do you keep your opinions to yourself if you feel they are going to start arguments? Do you set out to charm your customer? Do you look for points to be complimentary about? Do you flatter him; subtly, but as often as possible? Then you know all there is to know about getting along with a wife!



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Coming soon: Popularity

Love and Democracy: A Troubled Romance

The wildest idea of the 18th century was that humans could form their own government and rule as equals.

The craziest idea of the 19th century was that romantic love was more important than social responsibility.

In the 20th Century, the two ideas collided.

Both ideas assumed there was virtue in self interest. The American Revolution was based on a belief that citizens could shape their personal destiny, and form a society where they could all pursue the happiness of their choice. The Romantic Revolution sprang from the assumption that the human spirit could only be fulfilled by allowing people to live true to their passions.

For most of our history, Americans adopted only part of the Romantic manifesto, ignoring its more self-centered aspects. Love led to marriage, which was a lifelong commitment. (American society disapproved strongly of divorced adults and single parents, and was not to supportive of single adults, either.) The stability of marriage, and the lack of romantic experimentation, produced a strong, if not contented, society centered on family life.

A common code of morality — which was often promoted more than it was practiced — helped give the young, disjointed nation a sense of unity. But ultimately, Americans wanted the right to define morals for themselves and their families. Their desire for romantic fulfillment eventually parted with the need to contribute to the common good.

According to Arthur Schlesinger, America’s moral code collided with personal ideas of romance and fulfillment in the early 20th century. In his “Informal History of Love U.S.A.” he observes,

“How shocking at the time were the first intimations of sexual liberation just before the First World War; how innocent they seem in retrospect! War itself hastened the disappearance  of the old inhibitions, bringing back from France a new generation determined to live life to the full. The success of the feminist movement increased the pressure against the double standard. The psychology Sigmund Freud gave the role of sex in life a fresh legitimacy.… And, as the new psychology and the new leisure encouraged romantic love, so the new technology simplified life for romantic lovers. The automobile offered lovers mobility and privacy at just the time that contraceptives, now cheap and available, offered them security. Advertising and popular songs incessantly celebrated the cult of sex. Above all, the invention of the movies gave romantic love its troubadours and its temples of worship.”

It was inevitable that American society would redefine its morals. The old Victorian model was invasive, unproductive, and — in time — hypocritical.

An Informal History of Love, U.S.A. Arthur Schlesinger, J.R.December 31, 1966

However, the redefining moral seemed to go on continually. America couldn’t seem to settle on a new code for romantic and sexual norms. By 1966, when Schlesinger was writing this Post article, lasting love, and marriage was definitely in trouble.

“…the Age of Love has hardly turned out to be an age of fulfillment. If sexual repression failed to produce happiness in the 19th century, sexual liberation appears to have done little better in the 20th. More than that, while repression at least preserved the family, if at times by main force, the pursuit of happiness through love is now evidently weakening the family structure itself. Divorce, of course, is an expression of the determination to make romance legal at any cost: so, if one marriage fails, another must be promptly started; and the steady increase in divorce in these years — the rate trebled from 1900 to 1960 — suggest how the pursuit of love is paradoxically leading to the breakdown of marriage. Freedom, instead of resolving the dilemmas of love, is only heightening anxiety.”

Mr. Schlesinger might have thought divorce a license for continual romance in 1966. It would be interesting to know what he thought four years later when he divorced his wife of 30 years.

According to Elizabeth Gilbert, an enlightened society that allows people to choose their own partner will eventually have to give them the right to separate from that partner. In her  recent book Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace With Marriage, she  shares “the single most interesting fact I’ve learned about the entire history of marriage: Everywhere, in every single society, all across the world, all across time, whenever a conservative culture of arranged marriage is replaced by an expressive culture of people choosing their own partners based on love, divorce rates will immediately skyrocket. You can set your clock to it.”

In the same 1966 issue in which Schlesinger’s article appeared, the Post published results of a Roper survey about marriage. It begins with the now-familiar lament about America’s vanishing morals.

“There is a widely held conviction, almost an unquestioning assumption, that the moral quality of life in this country is changing for the worse. Fully half of us believe that the amount of closeness and love in the average American family has declined since we were children, and very few think that it has improved. Even young men and women just arrived at adulthood sense a loss of grace in family life in the few years since they were children. And more than two thirds of us, young and old, are convinced that sexual moral standards in America are worse than they were a generation ago—part of the same pervasive impression of old and good values fading away.”

And yet, “when Americans are asked to answer questions about their own conduct and views, and those of the people they know best, a quite different picture emerges of the state of love, marriage and morality in the United States.” According to one statistic, “Today’s Americans generally feel that they are more happily married than their parents were.”

Since 1966, the divorce rate has continued to climb. Marriage is declining, partly because couples are deliberating more before committing (43 percent of American adults now define themselves as ‘single’), and are marrying later. They are also postponing marriages until the economy improves, just as couples did in the 1930s.

The odds against lifelong love and marriage are high, but a majority of couples think they are doing better than the previous generation. A CBS News Poll from last month reported that 55 percent of the Americans they surveyed thought their marriages were better than their parents.