Literature bears out Barthes’s claim and my experience: In books, it is always women who wait. In the Odyssey, Penelope awaits the return of her husband for twenty years, weaving a funeral shroud for her father during the day and unraveling it during the night to put off intermediary suitors, one of whom she will wed when the interminable tapestry is finally complete. Penelope is the product of an oral lyrical tradition that excluded women, and it is only fitting that a male authorship relegated her to the sort of maddening inactivity that waiting so often entails.The whole tradition of chivalric literature runs the other way. In the literature of a thousand years, the man -- the knight -- serves patiently in the hope of a woman electing to reward him with her love. This is often described as "mercy" or "grace," as she is not in any way required to do so by the forms of the literature.
Consider this bit from Le Morte D'arthur, in which the good knight Beaumains has fought a number of the great knights of the world, and overcome them, in order to free a lady who was being besieged by them. Her sister says to go and see her, but when he gets there...
NOW turn we unto Sir Beaumains that desired of Linet that he might see her sister, his lady. Sir, she said, I would fain ye saw her. Then Sir Beaumains all armed him, and took his horse and his spear, and rode straight unto the castle. And when he came to the gate he found there many men armed, and pulled up the drawbridge and drew the port close.My guess is that there's a lot more literature like this, even outside the chivalric tradition. Waiting for a beloved, even forever, is a sadly universal experience.
Then marvelled he why they would not suffer him to enter. And then he looked up to the window; and there he saw the fair Lionesse that said on high: Go thy way, Sir Beaumains, for as yet thou shalt not have wholly my love, unto the time that thou be called one of the number of the worthy knights.