Do you need a sister-wife?

A bunch of wives in Michigan take a hint from HBO's "Big Love" and adopt some polygamous lingo.

By Carol Lloyd

Published June 12, 2007 1:45PM (EDT)

Whoa. I like to think of myself as radically open-minded, but this Op-Ed from Monday's Chicago Tribune gave me the heebie-jeebies.

The piece chronicles the growing bonds between a bunch of wives in a Michigan neighborhood after a season under the influence of HBO's "Big Love," the "three wives are better than one" soap opera about a polygamous household in Utah. Now, Op-Ed writer Michele Gazzolo and her friends didn't decide to share their husbands or trade them in for a singularly arrogant Mormon swine, but they did realize they were envious of the wives featured in "Big Love." Their easy intimacy -- attending to one another's children and cooking dinner together regularly -- made them consider what they were missing. So they embraced the polygamous lingo "sister-wives" -- as in "How about some dinner, sister-wife?"

Now I would be ready to toss my recently devoured corn snacks did I not feel the uncomfortable twinge of envy myself. Come dinnertime, where will my sister-wives be? A nuclear family structure may be an efficient tool for economic flexibility in a market economy, but night after night -- pasta after burrito after pizza -- it's not the most pleasurable way to raise children. Still, the idea that modern women are getting good ideas from a show that sanitizes one of the most misogynist cultures in the Western Hemisphere is unsettling. That the show (a utopian illusion at best) actually has something to tell us may unsettle us even more. After all, the many wives who don't get equal help from their male partners are getting the worst of it -- not only because they work like dogs but because they do so in isolation. I'll admit, I wouldn't mind a couple of sister-wives, but only if brother-wives came with the deal. Until then I'll just call them friends.

Carol Lloyd

Carol Lloyd is currently at work on a book about the gentrification wars in San Francisco's Mission District.

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