The other day I was dressing the shelves in the library. Doesn’t that sound odd? You’re picturing crinolines and cravats, aren’t you. It means I was straightening all the books, pulling them right toward the edge of the shelf, checking that Melvil Dewey would be satisfied that everything was in numerical and alphabetical order. This is a supremely boring job, but must be done or the library police will come after me for dereliction of duty.

But I was rewarded when I discovered Retro Housewife, A Salute to the Suburban Superwoman by Kristin Tillotson. Loaded with authentic illustrations and photographs from the forties and fifties, it features housewives in a near-orgasmic state as they inspect the contents of their gleaming refrigerators and suds-filled sinks. Every single woman is smiling maniacally as she greets her husband or ruffles the hair of little Johnny or Susie. Wearing high heels and an apron, of course. In one ad, a housewife is on her knees at the side of the bed, having served her husband his breakfast on a tray. Hubby is incongruously wearing a white shirt, a tie and a rather smug smile. Maybe it’s my 21st century sensibility, but I think he’s gotten more than his eggs sunny-side up.

There is a picture of a thrilled woman who has just gotten a new vacuum cleaner from her husband for Christmas. Long ago I told my husband if he ever gave me an electrical appliance as a “gift,” he’d be in for a shock. Once he gave me a laundry-folding table for Valentine’s Day. I was not amused.

The book made me never want to clean or cook ever again, and very grateful I don’t have to aspire to be June Cleaver, although I do have those strands of pearls.

Do you do your housework with a smile? What is your least favorite domestic chore? What’s the worst present you’ve ever gotten from a loved one?