Type ShortStory
Date 1951-01
Tags science fiction, Pygmalion plot, sexism

Made to Measure

The balance of the sexes has been altered--there are now more women than men, and the disparity is growing. The problem with this situation, of course, is that now there aren't enough husbands for women. To help with this problem, Sam Tullgren founded the Domestic Center, which trains women to be perfect wives, so they can be happily married. It offers "classes in Allure, Boudoir Manners, Diet, Poise, Budgeting" and arranges marriages:

The stirring in him he didn’t want to analyze and he thought of the days he’d courted Vera, going to dances at the Center, playing bridge at the Center, studying Greek at the Center. A fine but too well-lighted place. You could do everything but smooch there; the smooching came after the declaration of intentions and a man was bound after the declaration to go through with the wedding, to live with his chosen mate for the minimum three months of the adjustment period.

Joe wasn't satisfied with his wife, Vera, so he sends her back to the center, and resolves to build himself a perfect wife. With cybernetics, he can build an artificial woman with none of the flaws of the real thing, and he can give her all his memories and thought patterns, so they need never disagree--she'll be practically his double. He even arranges for the muscles used for frowning to atrophy, so she will never do anything but smile.

Much to his surprise, this 'perfect' woman isn't so satisfactory. So, he repeatedly 'adjusts' her, adding back 'flaws' like tact and the ability to frown, and finally he even gives her independent volition--which she uses to abandon him and marry his boss:

Joe said tolerantly, "You’re a little confused yet, Alice. I'm your husband."

"You?" She stared at him. "Do you think I’ve forgotten you? Do you think I don’t know you, after living inside your brain, almost? You monster, you egocentric, selfish, humorless walking equation. You’re not my husband and I’d like to see you prove that you are."

Now it was only Burke who smiled. "By George," he said, "that’s right. There’s no wedding on record, is there, Joe?"

'"Wedding?” Joe repeated blankly. "I made her. I created her. Of course there’s no—”

"Of course, of course, of course,” Alice shrilled. "That’s all you know. You’re the original 'of course’ kid. Things aren’t that certain, Junior. I’ve known you just long enough and just well enough to detest you.” Now she pointed at Burke. "That’s what I want. That’s my kind of man.”

Burke gulped and grinned, nodded. "To coin a phrase, you said it, kiddo.” He smiled at Joe. "I’ll run her right down to the Center and get her registered, and take out an intent option. I guess we can’t fight fate, Joe, can we?”

In the end, he reconciles with Vera.

Name Role
William Campbell Gault Author

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