You know those memes that circulate sometimes about how the Amazon delivery man should hide boxes from the husband? There is even a doormat you can buy on Amazon that says “Please hide packages from husband.” So funny, right? Ha ha ha.
Listen, I get that this is supposed to be “just a joke” and “not serious,” and maybe I’m a wet blanket, but this joke just isn’t funny to me. It’s cringy and gross, and the idea behind it is rooted in sexism and archaic patriarchal bullshit. I mean, “Teehee, I lie to my husband about money, one of the most argued-about topics in marriage”? That’s supposed to be funny? Sorry, but every time I see a variation on this joke, all I can think is, “Yikes, is your relationship so shaky with your spouse that you can’t be honest about your purchases?”
Even if it’s not meant to be taken seriously, there is an underlying truth to every joke, right? And the two big underlying implications with this common joke are both really unfunny problems. One possible understanding is that the husband and the husband alone is totally in control of the money, a la 1950. Therefore, if the wife wants to make any purchase that he wouldn’t approve of, her only choice is to lie about it. That’s financial abuse, and sorry to be a party pooper, but this joke doesn’t make me slap my knee.
The other possible implication with this joke is that the wife’s shopping has gotten so out of hand that she feels she needs to hide it. She’s either spending money that isn’t there to spend or she’s filling some void within herself with material possessions and is subconsciously aware of that but not ready to deal with it and therefore needs to lie about it. Lying about money in a relationship is called financial infidelity, and though it’s not as bad as financial abuse, it’s still bad and still not funny.
Money is a top source of arguments for couples. A Harris Poll on behalf of the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) found that 41% of Americans who combine finances with a partner or spouse admit to lying to their partner about finances. 75% said “financial deceit” impacted their relationships. I’m just spitballing here, but I’m thinking that spending shared funds in secret isn’t a great foundation upon which to build conversations about money with your spouse.
“Hide the packages” jokes also perpetuate gross archaic norms that we only recently emerged from and really need to be thrown in the earth’s garbage can and lit on fire already. Did you know that as recently as 1988, in the United States, if a woman wanted to get a business loan, she needed a male co-signer? I was nine at the time. It’s bonkers to me that in my lifetime, women in the “greatest” and “freest” country in the world were required to have a man vouch for their creditworthiness. And it wasn’t until 1974 that credit card companies were required by law via the Equal Credit Opportunity Act to issue a credit card card to a woman without a husband’s signature. So, if it makes me a killjoy to not laugh at jokes about men having control over women’s buying power, then I guess I’m a killjoy.
Another embedded idea in the “hide my packages” joke is the trope that men are controlling in general. This idea also needs to be doused with gasoline and set alight. I mean, men can and will try to be controlling, because that’s a norm that still exists to this day, but it’s time for all of us to quit putting up with that shit. We need to demand better, and part of that means owning our buying power and not asking for permission.
Because guess what? If you can afford it, you deserve to have it. If you can afford it, and your husband doesn’t think you should buy it, he actually doesn’t get a say. But that doesn’t mean you should lie. If your husband’s opinion of your spending habits becomes a point of contention between the two of you—perhaps it’s not the amount of money spent, but the materialism that bothers him, or that he just doesn’t “get” why you would buy certain things (“How can something you smear on your face cost $80??”)—then maybe you both would be best served by having a joint account for family stuff and each of you having your own discretionary accounts to buy yourself what you want and the other spouse isn’t allowed to comment on it.
Every couple needs to come to some kind of agreement about finances, and each partner should spend within the confines of that agreement. But have the conversation. Don’t lie. If a woman has to lie to her husband about her purchases, she’s got a much bigger problem in her marriage than a few too many Amazon boxes on the front porch.
It’s one thing to simply not mention a purchase because you are totally confident your spouse wouldn’t have an opinion on it. But all these supposedly funny memes imply that a wife is actively hiding purchases from her husband. Which tells me that either he is a selfish controlling douchebag, or she has a spending problem that needs to be addressed. Either way, where is the joke? I promise I have a sense of humor, but this joke falls flat for me every single time.