Readers Have Their Say On the Most Worrisome Day of the Week

WHAT? ME DREAD SUNDAYS?

May 02, 1993|By Regina Barreca

We asked author Regina Barreca to listen to and comment on recordings of the nearly 300 calls we received following publication of "Why Husbands Dread Sundays." Ms. Barreca's cover story in the March 21 Sun Magazine stirred the winds in the Land of Holy Matrimony. (For more on the original story and our survey, see the Editor's Note on Page 5.)

If there were space and time enough I would discuss every call about my article in detail. In brief, however, the responses were passionate -- and divided. Although the article addressed husbands' need for time alone on Sundays, nearly twice as many women called as men -- 180 to 93.

There was a female caller, whose voice I can recall with heartbreaking clarity. She admitted -- perhaps for the first time -- that she had carried on an extramarital affair for many years, meeting her lover exclusively on Sundays. Now that the affair has ended, she said, she does "everything possible" to distract herself from how long the day seems.

It is easy to say that this woman should change her life. But change is difficult for all of us. A number of callers offered possible ways to beat the Sunday blues: church, family gatherings and shared hobbies. These no doubt rank among the healthiest solutions and I applaud the suggestions. But . . . I bet that woman has tried some of them without success.

I hope one day that something will indeed work for her -- and for others for whom Sunday seems endless. I hope she can either get on with her life or get on with changing it.

Despite some good news about how happy many of you are with the weekend, I stand by my original argument that Sundays are often worrisome, anxious or stressful times for families, and for all of us -- men and women alike -- who individually make up those families.

I had argued that Sundays are particularly trying for men, who are discouraged by our culture from giving voice to their dissatisfaction. But I'll add to that a piece of important information culled from your calls to Sun Magazine: Women, too, want more time for themselves on the weekend. Of the 161 women who stayed on the line to answer the question, "Do you need time alone on Sunday?" 87 said yes, and the detailed messages some chose to leave reflected this need.

One woman declared that she could "not believe the article pertained to men only," and said she was happy there was a way to respond. "I was feeling like I wanted to be single while reading it," she said, summing up the general feeling of the many women who thought the "Sunday Syndrome" was not gender-specific. That women were not the subject of the article irritated many women readers; one mentioned that she had to double-check my name to make sure it was "written by Regina and not Reginald."

At least a dozen women said the article applied to their lives. "Boy, did this magazine hit home," one woman put it. "Not for my husband but for me."

As a professor of women's studies, I was delighted that women (( saw themselves in the piece, but I was also intrigued by the comments made by two female readers that the article appeared "chauvinist." Certainly the comments made by a great number of the men I quoted are not what any of us ever hope to hear at home, but the article itself was prescriptive rather than descriptive.

Based in part on a feminist treatment of the role of the husband in contemporary culture, my research for "Why Husbands Dread Sundays" drew heavily on literature (and life). And it was certainly informed by my desire to explore the differences in the ways that men and women approach apparently "shared" experiences. Its purpose was to give us all the opportunity to raise an honest dialogue on the issue. And the dialogue it raised among Sun Magazine readers was a fascinating study in contrasts and oppositions.

A male caller said of Sundays with his mate: "It all started out very nice, but ever since we got married, it's been downhill."

He was followed by a man who asserted defiantly that Sunday is "the best day of the week," the day that gets him ready for the next five days.

Explained a recently married man, "The only time Sunday is trouble is when we haven't planned anything to do. Then we get bored generally and get on each other's nerves." His sentiment was echoed by many callers, both male and female.

Interestingly, there seems to be a need for some sort of "structured play" for many of us, especially for those who have the habit of structure built into the rest of the week. While some folks want, like one adamant caller, to "go to the basement and do what I want to do and be left alone," many others want to make sure that the day is built around shared activities.

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