Terryl Gavre's Surrogate Wives Are Cleaning Up—literally—for Seattle's Single Men
05/21/1984 at 01:00 AM EDT
It's one of the oldest plots in the world: Girl calls boy, boy meets girl, boy hires girl as cleaning lady. The story began to unfold in January 1981 when The Boy, Jack Sikma, star center for basketball's Seattle SuperSonics, poured out his heart-wrenching tale of the American bachelor's dream gone awry on a local TV show. Then 25, he had a great job, a new four-bedroom house and a $150,000 contract. Yet he was forced to eat out every night because he didn't know how to cook and had no furniture because he had no time to shop. What good are fame and success anyway when there is nobody to share the chores with? Or, better yet, to do them altogether?
Enter The Girl, enterprising Terryl Gavre, a struggling window-display designer who answered Sikma's S.O.S. Touched by his story and inspired by the prospect of big bucks, she telephoned him and told him that for a fee she would perform such wifely (to her, anyway) duties as cooking, house-cleaning, laundry and baking. She also told him that she had many clients in Seattle. "I made it up as I went along," she recalls.
Sikma agreed to interview her. After one look at Gavre in her hot-pink jump-suit("I think he was expecting someone more dowdy," she says), he forgot all about references and hired her on the spot. "There was this 20-year-old good-looking blonde," he relates. "I didn't have any choice."
Gavre's ingenuity has paid off handsomely. Six weeks after Sikma hired her to houseclean once a week for $50, she started a service called The Surrogate Wife. She now employs eight women (only one is a real wife), charges her 42 Seattle-area clients $45 to $110 a day, depending on the tasks involved, and hopes to franchise soon. In addition to cleaning, Gavre's surrogates have driven children to school, organized parties and served as a substitute den mother. Gavre is quick to defend herself against women who frown on her rah-rah domesticity. "I'm a young woman making it in the business world," she counters. "I employ women, and they're getting paid for things women have thought they ought to be paid for."
Sikma, who remains a loyal customer, had a hard time explaining to his teammates where he "found this good-looking girl to come over and take care of me. I'm sure people read more into it." Then one day he brought them home after practice, where Terryl's homemade cake and cookies awaited them. Of course, girlfriends are a different matter. "There's always a little bit of territorialism," explains Terryl. The initial encounter, she says, "is like two cats who scratch at first, then get to be good friends."
Gavre is continually stunned by her clients' lack of, well, domestic know-how. "These guys spend years becoming doctors and lawyers, and they still haven't learned to operate a washer and dryer," she reports. Still, she accepts only male clients. "Women's expectations are so much more than single men's. You just pick things up for a man and he thinks, 'My God, you've cleaned my house.' When you work for a bachelor, everything you do is wonderful." One of her clients was a company of the Bellevue, Wash, fire department. "For a while, it was 'Terryl Does the Department,' " she cracks.
Surrogate wives promise their clients they will "always wear a sorority smile and never, ever nag you" or tell you that your friends are jerks. No dating is allowed between client and surrogate wife. Still, Gavre concedes, "I wouldn't mind marrying one of those guys." A native of Bremerton, 15 miles west of Seattle, Terryl was a cheerleader, an A student and, surprisingly, a bit of a slob in high school. "To be honest," she admits, "I didn't do a lot around the house." Her father is a quality-control worker at the naval shipyard in Bremerton, her mother is an artist. No longer involved in the day-to-day dirty work, she runs the business (which grossed around $50,000 last year) from her tidy one-bedroom Seattle apartment. A made-for-TV movie, Confessions of a Part-Time Wife, based on Gavre's service, is being developed for ABC's 1984-85 season, and she is writing a book called Babysitting for Bachelors. The domestic-minded Terryl has no one special in her life; indeed she seldom dates. But when she does marry she plans to take her husband to the cleaners. Declares Terryl: "He will have to pay me triple what I regularly charge."