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We’ve all gotten songs stuck in our heads that play over and over until we want to go screaming into the night. That’s how I’ve felt this past week. I’ve been singing Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s 1963, Wives and Lovers. I have no clue where it came from, but I can’t get rid of it.

In 2013, HuffPost said Wives and Lovers “could be one of the most offensive songs, ever.”

I’ve always been an admirer of Burt Bacharach’s music because of it’s sophisticated and jazzy, syncopated rhythms and the way the meter changes unexpectedly, and the Wives and Lovers melody is no exception. 

Here’s two time Grammy Award-winning Jack Jones singing, Wives and Lovers, (1964 Grammy Award, Wives and Lovers, Best Pop Male Performance) 

🎼Hey little girl comb your hair, fix your makeup. Soon he will open the door. Don’t send him off with your hair still in curlers. You may not see him again.🎵

Wives and Lovers is a song born from the Mad Men era when Donna Reed had perfectly coiffed hair and always wore a pressed shirtwaist dress and heels. I’m not here to debate whether it’s one of the most offensive songs, ever, but this endless do loop in my head has made me wonder if men and women still care how they look when they’re around their mate?

In our current “am I going to mow the yard or fly to Duluth” culture, it seems like many couples have stopped trying to look nice. Unless you’re sick or have a chronic illness I wonder if men and women–who’ve been married a long time–may decide, “My spouse has seen me at my worst, so I don’t need to try anymore.” Call me old fashioned, but I disagree, and it works both ways. For women and men.

Men… If you think a belly the size of a Volkswagen Beetle is attractive, think again. For starters it’s unhealthy and inconsiderate: It’s a heart attack, diabetes and hypertension waiting to happen, plus too much abdominal fat interferes with testosterone production and low testosterone creates more abdominal fat. It’s a vicious circle. In addition low testosterone in men is associated with a rise in the female hormone estradiol and a decrease in libido, lack of energy and grumpiness.

When women’s hormones become imbalanced we gain weight and our libido decreases, plus menopause, medication and pregnancies can make women gain weight. With increased weight comes the obvious health issues–including some types of breast cancer–plus our libido decreases. Women suffer more from body image issues than men, so we may be reluctant to have sex because we don’t like how we look and we don’t want our spouse to see us naked. I know women who’ve let themselves go, deliberately, so their spouse stops making sexual advances toward them.

Even if sex isn’t a part of the relationship anymore, it’s important to have a mate who takes pride in their appearance. I’m not saying we have to wait with eager anticipation for the moment our spouse walks through the door, but a sloppy unkempt mate is off-putting and it disrespects the other spouse and the relationship.

While we may find the lyrics to Wives and Lovers chauvanistic, it raises a good point. If you stop trying… Don’t be surprised if someone else turns his or her head.

PS: On another note my darling adventurous friend, Esther Zimmer–now bicycling from Turkey to Singapore–left me a note on my Silence of the Jowls blog last week. Essie and David are in Asia where Essie watched a TV show about how South Korean women use an elastic exercise band to give their face “a workout,” with focus on the jowls. One woman who was interviewed goes to the salon three nights a week after work and once on the weekend for the treatment.

I didn’t find the bands Essie was talking about, but I did find this beauty. It looks like what I think Loretta Young supposedly wore. Go for it all you brave women, and let me know how it works!

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  1. Heck fire! I’d wear that thing! Sign me up! 😀
    So glad you heard from Essie! I’m reminded to pray for her and David.

    • You’re funny, Beckye! I’m always glad to hear from Essie and David as well. Thanks for praying for them. David had Dengue Fever and Essie was bitten by a dog! Right now that’s all I know. xoxo, Brenda

  2. I’m not sure why we Americans are so adverse to dressing nicely, that may be a interesting topic to discuss. As an experiment my friend and I aged 60+ decided we would put on summer dresses, makeup and all that and go to the mall. We got stopped many times, and we’re told how nice we looked. Interestingly, they wondered if we were from Europe. I think we Americans are having a melt down of sorts, not sure why. Good article.

    • Eileen, What an interesting… more like profound experiment you conducted. I’m not that amazed because when I dress nicely, I’ve had people thank me! Television and music entertainers are now our influential cultural references and it makes me sad. In Europe the countries are smaller and the Queen and the Royal family and the Royal families of other countries still carry great influence plus London and Paris are home to Fashion Week twice a year. For the most part Americans don’t seem to care anymore. Loved your comment!!! Thank you! Brenda

  3. Well shoot – now I have that song in my head —– going to wash and make-up my face before Mr. B wakes. Hmmmm-what shall i wear today?

  4. My grandmother always told me to never leave the house without my face on because I might see someone I know. Now I am 67 and I still follow that rule but I do it for me not for anyone else. I dress everyday, even if it is in jeans, and put on my makeup just as I would if I were going out. Now I am a southern lady as were all of my relatives and I do think southerners do try a little harder in this respect. But I think if you dress better you act better, another saying from my grandmother. My husband does a great job of keeping himself neat and fit as well. It’s all about priorities and self respect. Even if I am working in my rose garden, I still have on “my face”. I also think environment has a lot to do with it. I have to say that the younger generation does not put the emphasis on manners and good grooming that our generation and the ones before us did.
    With regard to Wives and Lovers, I have it on my iPod, and might I say I loved Jack Jones and he still looks good!! It’s just a song and people shouldn’t take it so seriously. Sometimes people take things to the extreme and it isn’t necessary. These are just my opinions and I thoroughly enjoy your blog so keep it coming!

    • Love your comment, Deborah! Thank you! I can tell you are your grandmother’s granddaughter because like her, you are a wise woman. She would be so proud. My mother and grandmother raised me that way as well. There’s Southern and there’s Texas… I’m in Texas and certain parts of the big cities people take more care with their appearance although James, my late husband, once asked where all the well-dressed Dallas women were? That was at least 10 years ago. We’d taken mother to lunch at a restaurant in the chi-chi Highland Park Village in Highland Park/Turtle Creek area of Dallas, and I had to agree with him. Mother had lived there for at least 45 years, and the Dallas women used to take such pride in how they looked. Now they’re in nice restaurants in Highland Park Village in flip flops, ratty jeans and t-shirts. I never thought I’d see that, plus every expensive clothing designer has a store in HPV. If women are buying things in those stores, they’re not wearing them to HPV. I looked up Jack Jones, NOW, and he does look good! Still has those sleepy bedroom eyes. Thanks for letting me know you enjoy my blog! You’ve made my day, Deborah!! xoxox, Brenda

  5. I don’t know the song. If my husband’s head can be turned by me wearing sweatpants and having no-makeup days. then it doesn’t say very much about our commitment to one another, does it? I don’t look like I’m 21 anymore and neither does my husband. We’re pushing 60. We’ve put on a few pounds, I’ve had 3 kids and I’m post-menopausal – He is devoted to taking care of his flock and being an EMT in his “spare” time. He is still the most handsome man in the world to me! And he gazes at me in my unmade-up state and tells me how beautiful I am. We have a hell of a lot of self-respect and without question, respect for one another.

    To be honest, this post and comments sound a bit oversimplified. All you have to do is pick up a newspaper or look at entertainment news to see how many “movie star gorgeous” people with the best hair & makeup, trainers, nutritionists, and stylists on their payroll get ditched for someone else everyday! It’s not about the looks when it comes down to it…it’s the commitment to one’s relationship and the trust between partners. And I’d take that any day over a guy with six-pack abs.

    • Hi Val, It’s wonderful both of you still show one another how much you’re valued, loved and appreciated. I had that kind of relationship with James, and not everyone has that. I hear from lots of women of a certain age who tell me at this stage of their lives they would like to “divorce him,” but won’t. Hollywood… That’s oversimplifying as well. Where I live has repeatedly been designated as the fattest city in America, and with that comes a high rate of health problems. We all know with age comes physical changes. I’m talking about people who totally let themselves go, which affects how they feel on a daily basis and the quality of not just their life but the life of their spouse.

  6. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard that song, and I also agree we as a country have moved away from good grooming when we appear in public (leading to websites such as “People of Wal-Mart”) but – I think being attracted to a person you’ve been in a long marriage or intimate relationship with is built on a lot ore than good grooming. We take many exercise walks together and try to eat healthily, yet both of us have bellies and injuries from what our life experiences have done to us. I like to say my wrinkles are earned! Yet, that face exercise mask has a strange fascination for me.

    • HI Alana, Life does change us, inside and out, whether we want it to or not. I’m not referring to “good grooming” or gaining a few pounds. I should have clarified that better in my writing. I’m talking about people who have just stopped trying… trying to stay healthy–and yes that includes not gaining so much weight that it looks like they’ve strapped a Volkswagen on their belly–they’ve stopped trying to dress and look nice. We all know our appearance will change as we age but when we stop watching our diet our health suffers; our family life suffers; we put ourselves at risk of stroke, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and death, and we put our mate in the position of caretaker that may endanger their health. The face mask… LOL! It is a strange one that’s for sure! xoxo, Brenda

  7. I’m of mixed minds on this one. I believe we should always look our best whether out in public or home. I like to look nice, not just for my husband but for myself. It’s important to take pride in your dress, hair & makeup. It takes so little time out of your day to put on proper clothes (not sweats or yoga pants), style your hair and add a touch of makeup. Yes, our bodies are not perfect, our faces have some wrinkles and we may even carry a few pounds but you should still look your best. I don’t do this for my husband. I do it for Me!
    Husbands stray because of lack of intimacy. Everyone needs to know they are loved.

    • Joanna! “Husbands stray because of lack of intimacy!” BINGO! You’re so right on that one! I met a couple at an event in Atlanta recently and spent time with them over the course of a day and a night. Separately both told me… over drinks… about the troubles in their marriage. Talk about awkward for me!!! Maybe it was because they knew they’d never see me again, but… so strange. It seemed as if both took care of themselves and had pride in how they looked, however… She’s consumed with how she looks, having Botox and nips and tucks, hair extensions, dressing in all the latest trends and she shops, shops, shops. She says he doesn’t understand why she needs to spend time on herself, and he says she pays more attention to herself than she does to him. Both told me that in the last 30 days, he’s “let go” of this issue with her. Makes me wonder if he’s detaching from the relationship and/or is looking for someone else. It was weird. Great comment, Joanna! Thank you! Brenda

  8. I agree with Eileen, you might want to consider her suggestion for a topic to discuss on why people, and it is not only Americans, are not looking as well groomed or well dressed as past generations. Never in history has more media advice, as well as individual time and money, been given to make-up, hair, looking younger, exercise, clothing, etc. and yet most people look worse than they did even ten years ago. Why? If you go back in time even further, it is simply depressing. I’d be curious to see your reader’s comments.

    • Hi Caroline, You and Eileen have a point, and your comment outlines the irony in all of this! The one thing that jumps out at me is we’ve progressively become a society that wants things NOW! Fast food, fast drying nail polish, fast fashion, learn Spanish in three weeks, Botox, fillers and plastic surgery… I want to look good NOW! We seldom hear “It was worth the wait” because we don’t want to wait for anything, and for a lot of people, that includes taking the time to look nice. They just get up and go. Awesome comment!!! Thanks, Brenda

  9. Brenda – I appreciate this post and feel that caring for ourselves and looking our best is a sign of respect not only to ourselves, but our partners and everyone we come in contact with. That said, I’ve been guilty of schlepping around in sweatpants and grungy hair. Whenever I do this I think to myself, ‘please, god, do not let me run into my high school seeetheart today!’ I also enjoyed reading all the comments to your post … very interesting and varied opinions. xo

    • Juliet, Hi sweet lady! Even those of us who take pride in how we look are guilty of schlepping around, but your “please God” is hilarious, but true! We’d be mortified. XOXOX, Brenda

  10. I know I have heard the same but I can’t remember the tune. I don’t wear makeup as often now as I used to. The reason I don’t is a crazy one I can never seem to get all of my mascara off and have black under my eyes the next day. I have tried pretty much everything. Husband is happy no matter what I wear and tells me how beautiful I am with or without makeup.

  11. Got the memo about dressing age 45 when I signed contract for my own TV show on CBS. Received a make-over and was dumbfounded at the response, all good. Really? Looks can do all that? Knew I would get another at age 60. Not much time passed, post make-over, I continued ‘dressing/make-up’ for myself in stewardship and thanks, for a life I love, a career I love, friends I love, and a man I love…..

    Knew my long hair would be reconsidered age 60. Poof, salon disaster last summer, age 58, long, still naturally blond tresses, gone to pitiful inches. Profound shock is understatement. Forced into a make-over…pronto, before catching a plane the next day. Up till 1am on Pinterest, discovered Carolina Herrera & Sharon Stone share my fine thinning hair. And adored their everyday clothing choices. Gutted my wardrobe towards their every day style, showed their pics to my NEW hairstylist the next morning, and got on the plane, a stunned new person. Response has been a surprised wonderful. Better, my thinning long hair? Cut short, little hair falls out anymore. Crazy, but true.

    Dressing for myself? Garden Designer by day, Beloved & I eat out a lot. I dress. Zero care for destination or what Beloved is wearing. Boots/jeans all day, every day, for decades, sure a joy, but playing dress-up for dinner too fun. Beloved has especially spiffed up his game dressing for dinner since my hair/clothing make-over last summer. Ironically, he adores long hair, assumes I will grow mine again. Not !! The ease of short hair, and all I can do with it, is wonderful. Even with the boots/jeans attention is paid to make-up, hair, earrings, incredible vintage scarf. In pure stewardship, and thanks.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

    • Hello Tara! If you chose a Sharon Stone haircut then I’m sure it’s chic and easy! She always looks well-put-together. With your day job, boots and jeans and paying attention to makeup, hair and a few accessories is perfect, and I’m glad you’ve upped your dinner out game, and Beloved has taken notice! It’s a win-win for everyone! xoxox, Brenda

  12. MY GUY is the OLD_FASHIONED TYPE of EUROPEAN UP BRINGING!YES, he dresses to go out and when people come over……….
    I ALWAYS DRESS!!!!!!
    It’s SO MUCH FUN and I HAVE THE STUFF!!!!!!SO why NOT wear it!!!

  13. I can see both points. Yes, I think its strange when either a man or woman lets themselves get heavy. I think its taking their partner’s love for granted. But I agree that the song is chauvinistic, threatening the women (but never the men, of course) with abandonment if they don’t compete with the “girls at the office.” Still, as you say, its from a very different time. Thank God.

    • Laurie, Letting yourself “go” by gaining lots of weight disrespects ourselves and our spouse and perhaps that we take the relationship for granted. We all know that as we age there are a multitude of physical changes, and I think for the most part, it doesn’t change how we feel about our mate. Other than “cheating songs” I can’t think of any songs that warn men they better look good. We’re long overdue for one. Thank you! Brenda

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