The episode opens with Mary reciting an essay about Donna and motherhood at a school concert. The crowd, including Donna, are all visible moved – except for Alex who clearly feels slighted.
The next day at work, a patient’s mother effusively praises Mary’s essay and Donna to Alex. Then the linen delivery man comes in and tells Alex he is the luckiest man alive because he has Donna for a wife.
At dinner the kids direct all their questions to Donna, as well as their appreciation. Alex looks wounded.
Alex has coffee with his friend Dr.Graham and laments the power of women. Donna comes in and the conversation changes. Then there is a knock on the door and a reporter enters. He wants to interview Donna about being the “modern woman”. He takes many shots of Donna and the kids and asks Alex to hold the flash.
Donna and Alex go to buy Alex a new suit for his birthday. The salesman really only listens to Donna as Alex tries on suits. Alex likes a gray suit and Donna prefers a blue pin-stripe. Alex feels the pin-stripe makes him look too tall. It being Alex’s suit, he has final say and selects the gray.
Donna, Dr. Graham, and the kids throw Alex a birthday party. They each take turns talking about how much he means to them and giving him his presents. Donna makes a particularly sweet expression of love and hands him the box containing his new suit. He open it and finds that the salesman altered and enclosed the suit Donna preferred, the blue pin-stripe, not the gray suit Alex had selected. Alex is visibly annoyed but just then he is called away for an emergency.
Alex returns home and the whole family is in Donna and Alex’s room waiting for him. They all wanted to be there when he got back. The kids give him sweet, sleepy hugs and he is happy. Donna promises to return the suit and give the salesman a talking to but Alex says he wants to keep it. He is suddenly feeling tall.
We all need to be reminded that we are valued and loved.
I cringed when I saw the name of this episode. I thought something called “male ego” could go very wrong, very quickly. However, this episode was actually quite tender. Alex was aware that he was jealous and he wasn’t proud of that. He was feeling that Donna’s contributions were more valued than his. She is the day-to-day presence; he is the breadwinner and, because of the nature of his job, his presence is not as consistent. It seems his reactions were a mixture of jealousy for Donna’s place in people’s affection and his own guilt at not always being physically present for his family.
I think in any relationship we each have our roles that we play. I believe most of us inadvertently end up choosing a partner who balances us. I know this was the case for me. My husband’s strengths seem to offset my weaknesses and vice-versa. Sure, there are times when one of us is annoyed with other because we don’t approach things the same way. This is actually a running joke between us. When one of us starts to become frustrated with the other’s approach to something we say jokingly, “Why aren’t you exactly like me?” and we chuckle knowing how ridiculous it is to expect anyone to do everything just the same as you. At the end of the day, we really do know that we need the other’s skills. Ours is a system of marital checks-and-balances.
Of course, there are times when the contributions of one seems more valued than the contributions of the other. When finances, emotional support, carpentry skills, care taking, or budgeting are most needed they are also most valued. The partner who is most proficient at the required task tends to be the recipient of the accolades. If this goes on a while, the other half of the partnership can begin to feel like their contributions are unimportant. It is not that one partner resents the praise given to other, it is the simple truth that we all have insecurities and we all like to feel that we are making valuable contributions. I know, we are all supposed to pretend that we require no outside validation, we are all self-confident and self secure. Who are we kidding?
I think when we decide to join our life with someone we are agreeing to give them the support and respect they need, and they in turn agree to support and respect us. I think sometimes we get so busy that we forget this essential part of our arrangement. I suspect that neglecting this component too long is the deal-breaker in many failed marriages. When we stop appreciating our partner, or we stop feeling appreciated, there seems, to me, to be little reason to stick around.
Plan of Action
I will remember to tell my husband how much I appreciate his hard work. Right now, he is the primary financial contributor and I will not harp on him because he has little time for domestic tasks. For us, these things tend to be cyclical and I need to remember that. I know he feels bad about the long hours he has had to work lately. I will not do or say anything to make him feel worse about that. I will remind him that I know he loves me and I know he’d be with me if he could.