My friend Pete is very into “cable management”. He spends his evenings artfully hiding the wires of his gaming machines and “soundscaping” devices, before communing with other Sonos bros on Reddit.
“If Pete had his way, there would be no room to move for all the speakers,” his girlfriend will say with a loving eye-roll. I playfully prod him, too. “Pete, why are you making a home cinema when all you watch is Homes Under The Hammer? Is it worth all this effort to hear a gavel in 3D?” (“Only someone who has never heard a gavel in 3D would say that,” he’ll reply.)
This week Pete learned the meaning of an acronym he kept seeing on Reddit, one that, for all his years of audio-tinkering, he didn’t recognise: WAF.
“It stands for Wife Acceptability Factor,” he told us, watching our mouths drop. “So when you describe a great audio setup, you might say, ‘It’s excellent but has low WAF’, meaning wives will hate it.”
Ah yes, the generic “wives” (“her indoors”; “the ball and chain”), beating brows with wagging finger and hair in rollers. I wonder if, in my 20s, I believed this trope was true? Surely I must have, considering the energy I spent on being her opposite: carefree, casual, cool.
“You probably think I don’t think it’s bad,” Pete said. “But I do. I suggested ASF instead, for Aesthetic Sensitivity Factor.”
An earlier me trying to seem mellow and light might have said, “I wasn’t thinking anything.” But not today: “I should hope so, too,” I said. “Suggest it every time.”
Because, although there may be no escape from being seen as “the wife”, even as a girlfriend, sister or friend, worse is to let it shut you up. And when I hear a woman being called a nag, I know what it really means: self-possessed, strong, her hair rollers simply a crown.