Thursday, February 16, 2006

The week chugs along.

I've finished the back of the purple toddler sweater and cast on the front. Why can't I knit in this size all the time? I can whip out a sweater in a week!

I have to confess that I've pretty much abandoned watching the Olympics. Is it me, or is it boring? I don't blame the athletes, and maybe it's the coverage, but it seems like night after night of the same things, there are no "stars" except for a few who stand out for behaving like jerks.

I'm reading The Feminine Mystique. Slowly, in small bites. I'm savoring it - Oh my God, how have I never read this book before? As a precocious child of the 60s who could read fluently by kindergarten, I vividly remember the "women's magazines" Friedan describes, there was always a stack of them in our family room and I read them too, often before my mother did: the fluff content about catching men and looking pretty, happy fictionalized short stories about perfect mommies with perfect lives, as a child I liked them just the way I enjoyed playing Barbies. But they weren't really aimed at a 6 or 7 year old me, reading them over a bowl of Captain Crunch before school, but at grown women.

Friedan worked for those magazines and gets behind them to the editorial decisions that made them the way they were - or is it are? I haven't read an issue of LHJ or such in many years, they pissed me off way back in the 80s when I figured out the patterns:

Before Christmas: nothing but recipes and the attitude that if you don't find time to make them your family will not have a happy Christmas because you are a loser.

After Christmas: diets, because you don't want your children to be mocked when you pick them up from school because you are fat and a loser.

Before Summer: flattering bathing suits, more desperate diets PLUS an exercise program, and how to get the perfect tan and how to provide a perfect summer for your children, because that all depends on YOU, or you are a loser.

After Summer: Skin Cancer! What the hell were you thinking, out there in the sun? And why your kids are not doing well in school, you loser.

And then the cycle would begin again. They were as predictable as the seasons, and the undercurrent of every issue was a vague sense of Mommy not living up to the standards she should be.

So my solution was to quit reading the damn things. I felt better immediately!

Now, this is not to say I don't enjoy a good fluffy magazine - I love Allure, because it is unabashedly about beauty products and girly things, but I never get the feeling that I'm being given a "message," other than that I need to try this great new moisturizer. I also like "O" because The Oprah doesn't talk down to The Reader. And it's been 20 years since I picked up an issue of Good Housekeeping, maybe they've gotten past their earlier obsession with blaming women for everything that is not perfect in their family's life.

Anyway, I've barely started FM and I'm already hooked and nodding along, it's like a nostalgic tour of my childhood. I grew up in the Happy Housewife World Friedan describes, and I can't fault her eye for detail. And it's more than nostalgia - many of the passages she describes - the kids scheduled to so many activities by Mommies determined to give them everything was one that jumped out at me - are totally, totally relevant today. It's just amazing.

And now I must get into the shower. The PMS fairy punched me in the face this week, which is very good because I have some engineers who really need killin'.


Ginnie said...

I have never read it, either, and I am only a year or two younger than you. Maybe I will do that. I was always pissed off abuot the magazines with the lose 10 pound in a week stories right next to the recipes for the best brownies ever created. I read O because there is a lot to read. Good articles. Well, actually, I get a million magazines about all my crafty interests.

Nice neighbors.

Chelle said...

I'm glad you're exposing your daughter to Feminine Mystique. My teen girl is 14. I was really proud when she did a report in 4th grade on Elizabeth Cady Stanton. I realized that feminism hasn't had much of a positive spin in her whole lifetime. It's only used as an insult that the right wing throws at us as if it's a BAD THING. I need to crack open the Feminine Mystique again myself. Thanks for mentioning it.