Review: Stuff Every Husband Should Know

First of all, I’m not married, and probably won’t be anytime soon. However I am in a long-term relationship, and after noticing that this book’s topics included “How to Drive Together in Peace,” I thought, “Oh baby, that I need to know.”

Eric San Jaun’s Stuff Every Husband Should Know, from the always-entertaining Quirk Books, is a guide for the domesticated man. Where many similar tomes are packed with useless, outdated relationship maxims, this handy pocket-sized compendium gives you practical problem solving methods for spats with your spouse. But it doesn’t stop there — San Juan goes on to provide a myriad of useful tips for household projects that I didn’t even know I was curious about, and wraps things up with a beginner’s guide to starting a family. All in all, this is a book not just for married men, or even committed men, but for all you single men out there who are wondering just what the hell you need to do to get a girl to stay with you for more than a week. If any of these categories includes you, then Stuff Every Husband Should Know is well worth your time.

Many how-to guides leave the reader bored and confused with endless charts and lists of mundane activities. This book is not one of those. Stuff reads more like an Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader than a serious encyclopedia of knowledge. San Juan establishes from page one a distinct voice, one that cares about providing good information but knows that most men’s attention spans are incredibly short and the entries frequently made me laugh out loud. For example, one page is titled “Painting a Room is Easy.” The descriptive text below reads: “See the title at the top of this page? It says ‘Painting a Room is Easy’ because painting a room is easy.” Adding readability to a how-to manual is a crucial skill, and San Juan has it.

Stuff surprised me with the amount of useful information I learned. Do you know how to repair drywall? I sure as hell never did. Did you know how women measure their clothes and bra sizes? My dad never taught me about this, and I assume that at 57 he still doesn’t know. What about unclogging a sink? Folding laundry? How to make marinara sauce? Basic yard maintenance? How to check tire pressure? What about diaper changing? Chances are there is at least one thing on this list you’re woefully ignorant of (I was ignorant of nearly all of them, so don’t feel bad). The best part is that I didn’t even know that I wanted to know these things, but now I can’t imagine not knowing them.

For the committed man, the book has many insightful tips on how to live with a woman. These sections read like a manual for hostage negotiators: how to diffuse tense situations, how to compromise, how to make sure that both of your emotional needs are being met. Stuff’s intuitive approach doesn’t expect you to swallow the idea that a good relationship is no fights and endless sex. There will be fights, oh yes, but they don’t have to be bad unless you make them bad. San Juan also provides a really handy list of date ideas for regular people. While Cosmopolitan or GQ would tell you that only something expensive can be romantic, Stuff knows that easy ideas like “bike ride” or “living-room-floor sleepover party” can work just as well.

The book has a lot of information on kids. Some of this is uninteresting to the childless man, like activities to do with your kids and how to change a diaper. But San Juan has provided sections for non-fathers as well: good reasons to have kids, bad reasons to have kids, and what kind of life changes to expect.

Stuff tends to enforce traditional gender roles, but it’s not chauvinistic about it. While the book assumes that the reader buys into the idea of marriage (IE, men pay for dates and do yard work, the wife is the primary child-rearer), it doesn’t assume that all wives are subservient to their husbands, or vice-versa. Stuff merely makes the assumption that the reader believes in a one man, one woman theory of cohabitation, and provides practical advice to prevent the man and woman from destroying each other.

My biggest gripe is with San Juan’s over-reliance on the idea that men can just “deal with it.” This phrase is thrown in whenever the author suggests that men have to do something unpleasant for the sake of compromise. We apparently have some inherent trait that lets us turn off our ego and just “deal with it,” which apparently is unique to us and not women. I realize that San Juan is probably doing it to get laughs and to show empathy for his readers, and would probably agree that women can be just as tough as men, but the attitude that we dudes can just “man up” and ignore our deep-seated pathos contributes to a lot of emotional constipation in politicians and professional mixed martial arts fighters. Just sayin’.

Pros

  • Engaging humor and voice
  • Visually pleasing — perfect for a coffee table or bathroom library
  • Solid information on important things
  • Surprisingly insightful conflict resolution strategies
  • Information is useful to the married and unmarried alike

Cons

  • Over-reliance on the “man up and deal with it” attitude
  • Occasionally over-simplifies complex tasks (which is understandable — it’s a short primer, not an almanac)


Final Verdict

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About the author

Andy Primm
Andy suffers from a crippling addiction to video games, Japanese cartoon shows, chess, television, film, comic books, and a whole host of other pop culture nonsense. In his spare time, he attends law school. Follow him @AndyThePrimm on Twitter!

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