I am usually a reasonable person. I would like to make that clear. And because I am such a reasonable person, I hold certain reasonable beliefs. For example, I beleive that this year is 1980. I believe this is a modern, enlightened era. I believe that women are taken seriously these days.

Occasionally these beliefs are shaken. But my philosophy is not to look for trouble. I don't search out sexism; there is probably enough of it around that I need not look for it. It will doubtless hit me in the face often enough. Usually when I least expect it.

And so it was that I innocently and placidly reading a national magazine. I expected nothing to upset me.

I was wrong.

I was assaulted in the middle of the magazine by a life insurance advertisement taken out by a company that will properly remain nameless. "What if your wife dies first?" the ad queried, and proceeded to outline the grim ramifications following the death of a wife inconsiderate enough to precede her husband to the Great Beyond. The husband, poor man, would have to replace a woman who acted as:

"A housekeeper (who also cooks and does windows -- usually without complaining). Someone who takes the kids to school. Or takes their temperatures when they're much to sick to go."

And that's not all. He would also have to find a replacement for a woman who "maybe provides a 'second income'; to help all of you maintain a better life style."

Such a wife has, the ad concluded, a very worthwhile life. Insure it, mister.

Accompanying the ad was a large photo of father and children and wife. The woman was rather pallid and bedraggled, with her necklace a bit askew and her hair rather untidy. But she looked cheerful enough. Doubtless she cooked and washed windows without complaint.

Now, I don't want to appear nitpicky about this. I could ask about the value of a woman who cooks badly and who, worse, complains about cleaning windows. Should her husband take out less life insurance on her? Perhaps the ad would then read:

"What if your yenta dies first?" And what if she has no children? Or what if they take the bus to school? You can see the value of her life dwindling quickly.

And what is the meaning of the quotation marks around "second income"? I am touchy about punctuation, I must admit. But the meaning here is "unclear."

Perhaps I am a little insulted on a personal level, since my life appears to have little value, according to the insurance company's criteria. I'm not much of a housekeeper, it's true; I've been known to complain about housework more often than not; I have no children; and, finally, I never consider my income to be in quotation marks.

Oh, well. So much for my reasonable beliefs. They have been at least temporarily smashed to smithereens. Maybe it's not really 1980. Maybe it's not such an enlightened era. And, obviously, women aren't taken too seriously these days.

Too bad. But anyway, even beyond the fact that my life is valueless by the insurance company's standards, they wouldn't want to sell my husband a policy on my life. Because, after reading their ad and brooding about it, my blood-pressure reading is probably so high . . . that he could collect on the policy very quickly.