Thursday, July 26, 2012

Story Songs: He Thinks He'll Keep Her

American baby boomers probably remember  the Geritol commericals from the 1970s where a man compliments his seemingly tireless wife by saying, "My wife...I think I'll keep her." 

For those who don't recall the product, it was multi-vitamin supplement that supposedly boosted energy in seven days -- or your money back.

The commercial inspired singer-songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter, teamed with Don Schlitz, to write "He Thinks He'll Keep Her." To the talented songstress, the commercial was condescending toward women.  

The song recounts the years of a woman's marriage:

"She does the car-pool, she PTAs
Doctors and dentists, she drives all day
When she was twenty-nine she delivered number three
And every Christmas card showed a perfect family
Everything runs right on time, years of practice and design
Spit and polish till it shines. He thinks he'll keep her"

But after 15 years of marriage, the wife had enough of the arrangement:

"When she was thirty-six she met him at their door
She said I'm sorry, I don't love you anymore"

And then she apparently leaves him--not for pay but for self-dignity:

"For fifteen years she had a job and not one raise in pay
Now she's in the typing pool at minimum wage"

The song reached No. 2 on the Billboard Country Chart in 1993. It appeared on her Come On Come album and was nominated for Grammy Award for Record of the Year.

I find the the phrase "I think I'll keep her/him" interesting because it can be viewed in different ways. I've heard it as an endearing compliment because the person it is being directed to is a very compassionate and caring mate instead of an abusive or deadbeat partner. And it can be interpreted a viewing the other person as a chattel.

But I can appreciate the feminist viewpoint that the song embraces. No doubt, the woman in the song feels she is being taken for granted.

For those who aren't familiar with old Geritol commercials, you might enjoy this clip from the 1950s.

There's an excellent interview with Mary Chapin Carpenter in D.C.'s  MetroWeekly. She's always been one of my favorite artists.

"He Thinks He'll Keep Her" lyrics

And two cool videos:


  1. This song was always a double edged sword for me. It's not like she just went back to singledom, she still has 3 kids that is a lot of the work not just the husband...and minimum wage is not a step up from being able to be home with your kids. I guess I am not liberated enough. But it is a feel good song for me when you aren't feeling the R-E-S-P-E-C-T if I don't think too hard.

    1. Reasons you make your woman work

    2. Very observant. Thanks for commenting.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Adelissa. I suppose lots of folks don't feel the respect at times. As corny as this may sound, I've always tried to (as well as recommend) focus on other things rather than on myself. This is especially helpful when turning one's attention to assisting others. Regardless, I do hope you are feeling some R-E-S-P-E-C-T.