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The Skinny By Elaine Langlois

The Stepford Wives

Due for release in 2004: a remake of the 1975 movie The Stepford Wives. This cult classic, based on a novel by Ira Levin, concerns a group of men who murder their wives and replace them with robots that fulfill stereotypical notions of women-beautiful, empty-headed, servile, interested in nothing but husband and home.

Happy Woman thought it would be a good time to revisit Stepford and see what life is like for these men and their droid spouses 28 years later.

Walter: To tell you the truth, it's kind of like having a Chatty Cathy. You know, one of those dolls with the pull string? I get tired of hearing the same remarks all the time about my handsome appearance and virility. Especially now that I'm two days older than dirt.

Dale: I wish we'd programmed them to work outside the home, but that wasn't big back in '75. I could really have used the extra money for my retirement. But I suppose I shouldn't complain. She can repair anything. She reshingled the house last fall. All the guys in the neighborhood would gather on the sidewalk and stare as she scampered about the roof in her hot pants. Why, just the other day she replaced the oxygen temperature sensor chip in my car.

And think of how much I'd have to pay to get a beautiful young woman like that to fawn all over me at my age.

Frank: I've packed mine away in the closet now that I need long-term care. She was never programmed for that. I mean, she's like one of those robot vacuums that go around the house bumping into things. She kept knocking me over when I was using my walker.

We met with the Stepford wives at Carol's immaculate home.

Carol: Let me get you some nice, fresh coffee. And I've made some pound cake that you're going to love.

You know, we're not at all the way the media have portrayed us-thinking about nothing but housework all the time. As a matter of fact, we still get together in that consciousness-raising group that Joanna and Bobbie started. Charmaine, would you like to begin today?

Charmaine: I read a lovely article recently at the Procter and Gamble Web site called "The Challenge of Socks."

Marge: That sounds so interesting, Charmaine!

Jill: I just want to say that I simply love the Swiffer WetJet. I don't know what I'd do without it!

Kit: You know, when guests show up unexpectedly and I need to dust, I just carry them out to the toolshed, lock them in, and do a quick sweep with my Pledge Lemon Wipes.

Jill: Me, too! I also use Pledge Lemon Wipes when I want to "touch up a cherished piece of furniture….each pre-moistened wipe helps you clean wood to a beautiful shine, without any waxy residue."

Mary Ann: Have you tried Cascade Plastic Booster? It "removes stains and odors from all your dishes, and works extra hard on reusable plastics!"

Donna: And Fit Fruit and Vegetable Wash. Do you know, it's better than water?

Charmaine: Ed's been complaining about my tuna casserole. It's the same tuna casserole I've been making once a week for the past 28 years. He wants me to make something different. Can you imagine?

Mary Ann: Well, what about my Easy Salmon Loaf or Beef Stuffed Onions? Or something in the crockpot?

We left the group debating what Charmaine should serve Ed to continue interviewing the men in their homes.

Dale: Of course, people do look at you oddly, because of the Dorian Gray thing. I mean, we're old men, but the women are still young and beautiful.

But the robots we created don't seem that different anymore, since so many women these days have the personalities of Stepford wives. Obsessed with the house, the kids, cooking, their appearance ... And with Botox and plastic surgery, they stay young-looking so much longer. Sometimes I wonder why we bothered.

Dave: I really don't like her anymore. I've been visiting chat rooms, and going to grocery stores and senior centers, finding some nice women my age and having intellectual conversations. When they talk back to me or put me down, I get totally excited. That sort of thing is real.

Walter: I think she misses her own kind. She spends a lot of time out in the garage, locking and unlocking my car with the keyless remote. And the other day I found her in the basement, hugging the washing machine.

Herb: We've been getting interference from the new cell-phone tower in back of the police station. She starts repeating the same phrase over and over, pouring cups of sugar on the floor, or slashing the ottoman with a kitchen knife. I tell the kids it's one of those female things.

Mike: I got one of the last wives, and she has a lot of features that the others don't. Vacuum and mop attachments, for example, and extendable arms for pruning trees and cleaning gutters. I can program her for all sorts of different roles-Stewardess, or Nurse, or Playboy Bunny. It's kind of like playing with my sister's Barbies, which I still like to do.

Dale: We've been working on a robo dog that could be its own electric fence. We're programming it to be nice to us and kill all others. And we'll teach it to fetch the paper.

© 2003 Elaine Langlois