I know that I said yesterday that this month was going to be one of expanding my reading horizons, but that's going to have to wait until tomorrow. I didn't realize it was Groundhog Day until this morning when I glanced at the calendar - and all I could think about was that movie that shares the same name - so I decided to read a book that I've already read over and over again.
I was about an hour into reading today when I began to feel a slight change in regards to the whole blogging experience. Just yesterday I was feeling a bit overwhelmed by the thought of the 11 months that remain on this project - but today, that feeling began to dissipate and was replaced by excitement about all of the books that I get to read this year, and all the different subjects I'm going to get to explore.
Today's book: "What does it take to be the ideal woman? Women from the 1940's to the 1970's were coaxed to "think pink," by persuasive advertisements and meticulous (though often misguided) advice experts. Feminine perfection meant conforming to a mythical standard, one that would come wrapped in an adorable pink package, of course. With a savvy eye for curious, absurd, and at times funny period artifacts, Lynn Peril gathers here the memorabilia of the era...."
One of my favorite books is called Mommy Knows Worst - it's a collection of the worst parenting advice from the 1940's and 50's - and this book contains some excerpts from old magazines that are worthy of being included in that book:
- An issue of Parents magazine from 1956 advises parents, "Long before it's time for Mom to help plan the wedding dress or Dad to give the bride away, it's time to be raising a future wife in your home. Because wives aren't born - they are made. Your daughter is born a female, but she has to learn to be feminine."
- Eve Nelson advises in her book Take It From Eve (1967), "It's up to you to create a female aura around her before she can even say 'goo' . . . Ribbons and ruffles and other 'pretties' will not only subliminally impress her with the specialness of her own gender but will also influence the behavior and attitude of family and friends who hover around the cradle."
I'm going to file that away in the mental filing cabinet so that the next time I see my Grandmother I can ask her if she was ever advised to "raise her girls to be wives." I'm actually quite excited about this because our list of conversation topics has grown a little stale lately, having already exhausted the "How much did bread cost when you were a child?" and "How did you feel when television first came out?" avenues.
The "good" advice didn't stop at parents. Advice was given rather liberally to teenage girls and women in their early 20's as well. Here are the most "helpful" examples:
- "If you use a better man trap, you'll catch a better man." - That advice came from Jayne Mansfield, an actress from the 1950's, who used her own advice to catch 3 husbands, and five lovers (including 2 Kennedy brothers). Apparently Jayne spent a great deal of her time building man traps - and she still managed to find time to learn five languages, attend UCLA, become a Playboy Playmate, have five children and star in 29 movies - which is amazing to me considering she only lived to be 34.
- "You can and should pursue your own interests and always do your best, but not to the disadvantage of that boy in your life, whether he be your date, your steady or someday. . . your husband." - The sterling piece of advice came from a book published in 1963, The Secret of Being Feminine.
Not to worry, the men were not left out of the "wonderful" advice:
- Here is Dr. Albert Ellis' advice on the proper way to kiss a woman on a date, "Here you share a joke and both laugh. Reach out and cradle her against your shoulder in the spirit of camaraderie. At the split second the laughter stops she will inhale a deep breath. Place your hand under her chin, make it coincide with the inhaling, and kiss her in one motion." - This advice is followed by a chapter on "Surviving Disappointment in Love." But wait a minute, how on earth could a man ever end up disappointed in love when he's getting stellar advice like that? Since, according to the experts in the 50's and 60's, everything is the woman's fault - I'm going to assume the disappointment came because the little killjoy didn't laugh at his jokes and he had no idea how to improvise (I'm thinking now of the scene in Pleasantville where the guy who owns the soda fountain can't figure out what to do next when because Bud wasn't there to put the cheese on the burgers) - or maybe she didn't take a deep breath at just the right moment. I'm sure the problem couldn't possibly lie with Bob/Fred/Bill being unable to figure out how to "cradle her in the spirit of camaraderie."
- The advise didn't stop with kissing either. Here are a few items on a list of reasons why a man should get married: Item number 5 - A wife is a built in chef. Item number 25 - A wife is a built in secretary. - I think instead of calling the instructional booklet "Reasons to marry," it should be called, "How to acquire servants that you don't have to pay."
- There is even an instruction on the correct way to beat your wife. Good husbands never beat their wives in front of the children, because it's bad for "morale."
Now it's time for a fun quiz called "How Do You Rate as a Girl?" - from the February 1960 issue of Seventeen magazine:
- Do you wait for a boy to open a car door, even though you both know you are quite capable of managing it yourself?
- Do you listen responsively to a story you have heard before rather than squash the pleasure of the boy who is telling it?
- If you are going to the movies with another girl, do you look presentable enough to cope with an unexpected encounter?
- If your bureau drawers or closets were open to view without warning, could you stand the inspection without apologies?
- In a serious discussion which includes both sexes, can you keep from being overpowering even though you know a great deal on the subject?
- If a boy forgets his manners, can you restrain yourself from correcting him?
- Are you able to refuse a kiss without hurting a boy's pride and sending him home in a huff?
- If that special boy told you he liked your hair long, would you keep it long to please him?
- Have you the courage to be nice to a boy whom the other girls consider a bore?
- In stores, are you apt to moon over pretty lingerie and perfume?
- Are you really good at being a lifeless, boring, subservient doormat who has no original thoughts, feeling, ideas, or interests of your own? - Okay, so it's possible that I might have added that last one in.
It's score dear readers - Seven or more yeses and you're a veritable flower of femininity! Five to seven yeses: there are a few thorns. Under five: ouch! - If you're wondering what my score is - well, let's just say I'm not a flower. . . or a thorn.