Thursday, July 19, 2007


Recently I was thinking: if I didn't live in these particular interesting times (there's a reason that's an old Chinese curse, by the way), when would I want to be alive? Actually, I think I answered myself here: I'd want to live as a young person during World War II. It was a time for genuine heroism on the battlelines and the home front. A time when the country and half the world was united to stop a madman bent on murdering innocent people. I think those who call it "the greatest generation" have a point (although now that I think of it, the greatest American generation is probably the one that produced the Founding Fathers. Those were some real heroes, there.)

So assume I was a war bride, caught up in the danger and romance of a World War, and after the war my husband comes home and we have 2 kids and a house with a white picket fence and I'm a housewife, how would my life in the 1950s differ from being a stay-at-home-mom (notice how the terminology has changed) in 2007?


PRO: I'm already a housewife; no feminist qualms of abandoning a career
CON: But I'm quite fond of being able to express my ideas without being told not to "worry my pretty little head something that's a man's job."

PRO: I like to cook, so homecooked dinners wouldn't be a problem (I could even live without a microwave--gasp!)
CON: But I'm not fond of tuna casserole, Jell-O salad with miniature marshmallows in it, and milk with dinner.

PRO: The music. All that great 30's and 40's swing, the jazz singers, and the birth of rock 'n' roll.
CON: But I'd be too "square" to enjoy Elvis and the Beatles. I'd probably be like my grandmother when my mom was watching Elvis on Ed Sullivan: "Turn that nasty mess off!" By being born later, I get to enjoy their genius.

PRO: The fashion could be really great. The New Look by Christian Dior ; anything worn by Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn.
CON: Not too crazy about the hairstyles.

PRO: Movie stars weren't as stick-skinny as they are today. Exhibit A: Marilyn Monroe.
CON: Can't really think of a con. I think Hollywood should stop making women hate their bodies.

CON: Husbands not expected to help take care of children.
PRO: None. That is just NOT RIGHT. Much progress has been made in this area.

PRO: A simpler, more innocent time.
CON: Unfortunately, my kids would be just old enough to join the hippies in order to Find Themselves through Free Love and drugs galore.

So, you know, maybe it's all for the best that no one's invented a time machine.


  1. of course the whole concept assumes that...

    a) your husband lives through the most costly war ever. and

    b) that at the news of his death (or maybe even if he doesn't die) you're not sleeping with the guy who's foot was too messed up to go off to war. (believe me there was plenty of that... those few lucky bastards were sleeping with whole neighborhoods of lonely women.)

    and i don't care what anyone says... MM was superfreakinfantabulously hot...

    although i'm not sure that it's really 'hollywood making women hate their bodies'. women are notoriously competitive with other women... it's not hollywood's fault, it's every womans fault. a woman can't walk into a room full of women w/o a dozens of eyes looking her up and down and determining her 'threat level'. 'where do i stand in relation to her?' etc.

  2. Pfaff: of course you're right about the high casualties. And (started after I posted) I'm reading a novel set in WWII in which a lot of the female main character's fellow factory workers are sleeping with the guys left behind. "We'll be together again after it's over," one says. "Until then, it's war, honey. I've got needs."

    But what I really wanted to say is that yes, I totally oversimplified when I said Hollywood "makes" women hate their bodies. HOWEVER, there is more to it than women's competitiveness. Exactly why are women comparing their bodies to other women's? You'd better believe if there were no men on the planet, there'd be a lot of fat, chocolate-eating females. At least I would be ;-)

    IMO, the media plays a complicated role in influencing what men find attractive and therefore what women want to look like. In other eras and places, what is beautiful has looked very different than it does here & now. In Africa, a fat wife was a status symbol--you had enough money to feed her! So cultural ideas of beauty (which in ours is mostly spread by media) make a big difference. This bothers me 'cause I have a daughter (again, consider yourself lucky to have a son.) I don't want her to EVER think she isn't beautiful enough--for anybody.

    And yeah, MM was gorgeous. Tragic, but gorgeous.

  3. your media comment is true... but i think it applies to men and women... there has been a steady rise in 'male body image' issues lately. why? cause women (like someone i know, but won't name) want a muscular/fit man with chiseled chin and cheeks and perfect hair... i got news for ya... few and far between.

    also, as a comedian once said... and i paraphrase 'why are women trying to figure us out? it's simple, if a guy is walking down the street and sees a fine looking woman he's like -damn! i'd hit that!- if he's walking down the street and sees a butt-ugly chick he's like -oooooooh daaaaamn!... i'd hit that.'

    the fine woman is preferable but hey... this is war honey; i've got needs!

  4. i just thought of a much better way to look at it.

    it's not hollywood's fault any more than it's men's fault... you mentioned MM and AH... one, pretty normal as far as the average female goes. the other, a waif. now if you're trying to break in to that seen or the modeling seen etc. you've got to have something the others don't have... which leads to competition which leads to 'i have bigger boobs' 'well, i'm skinnier'
    'oh yeah? well i've got better eyes'

    it's all about being the queen bee. cause the queen bee gets her choice of mates and all the other women get what's left over. same thing with men... we strive for the $ fame, cars, houses etc so that we can get the -top shelf- women.

    so hollywood et al can't be blamed for a natural process of selection. does it feed into it? yes. does it tell us what we should think is beautiful? to an extent, but it has far more to do w/ societal norms than what is on tv. other countries watch our tv/movies yet they still don't bathe regularly or shave.