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..of 1939 Compared with Today's
Last weekend, Pat and I watched "The Women," and it came up in conversation with Pat's nearly 85-year-old mother yesterday; we were discussing whether or not all of us ought to go see "The Changeling," based on a tragic, true story that took place in Los Angeles in the late-20s.
Thinking about a woman of the '20s reminded me:
"Bev, we were just watching 'The Women' the other night and it struck me that while the women's fashions of the '20s differed from the women's fashions of the '30s, the fashions of the '40s didn't seem so different from those of the '30s."
"Well, you have to remember that that was the time of the Austerity. And women couldn't always get what they were looking for in stores...."
I never knew what '30s fashions looked like -- just noticed my mom during her college photos in the '40s, and then was struck that the fashions in "The Women" really didn't look so different from what my mom wore, except maybe in terms of the hats. I don't remember hats being as common.
This morning, while swimming at our Wisconsin hotel -- my mom went to the University of Wisconsin - Madison, Class of 1947 -- I was reminded of the Austerity. At 7 am, the air in the glass-walled room with the pool was nippy, and the sun wasn't yet very high, and then the temperature of the pool itself definitely was lower than the Red-Cross-recommended range of 81-83 degrees Fahrenheit.
As I swam anyway -- and I was alone in the room and in the pool...wonder why(!) -- I thought, Perhaps this is how it'll be increasingly for the duration of our country's/world's financial crisis: Pools will become a bit colder, though still swimmable.
My hair has gotten too long not to swim without a bathing-cap and the cap kept trapping water in my left ear whenever I did freestyle. Over and over, I tried to enjoy a new sensation that was reassuring and unsettling at once: When the water trickled back out of my ear, it left a trail of warmth inside my ear.
"Pat, it was weird to be reminded that my insides are warmer than my outsides," I said over breakfast.
"Well, yeah, your body temperature is 98.6 [degrees Fahrenheit]."
..of 1885-1968 Compared with Today's
As I was writing here, Pat read aloud from an October "Vanity Fair" article about Edna Ferber (see this bio and this one, as one's from the Jewish perspective, and one's from the Appleton, Wisconsin perspective). The "Vanity Fair" article refers to her in passing as a lesbian, but I had to search Google, using, "'Edna Ferber' + 'lesbian'" to find references to her sexual orientation.
In college, I discovered Dorothy Parker, of the Algonquin Round Table, but had never before heard of Edna Ferber. And I liked learning about her as we sat in a hotel 30 miles from where she spent most of her adolescence.
Last night, Pat's mother was singing the praises of Rachel Maddow while Pat said, "I've nothing against her, but I don't like to listen to extreme people on either side, right or left. That's why I like CNN -- because they interview people from both ends of the spectrum."
"Well, I think you just feel that she's a really good person, and she was a Rhodes Scholar," said Pat's mom. I listened to Bev talk on about how great Rachel Maddow was and I felt pride and envy all at once. Was Pat's mother liking her because she was a successful lesbian, and her mother needed further proof that one can be openly lesbian and still be successful?
My additional pride was around Rachel Maddow's name sounding Jewish, whether or not she was -- and I just found that her mother's from Newfoundland, so it's not 100% likely that she was raised as a Jew, as Newfoundland doesn't have a big Jewish population that I'm aware of.
And then I felt envy because we watched a bit of her show on MSNBC last night, and I thought, I used to love being on camera for "The 10% Show," that little, but wonderful cable access show we produced in Chicago, which got syndicated, in the late-80s and early-90s. During this trip, even before seeing Rachel Maddow in action, I was thinking that it could be fun to start a vlog because it's fun to share what I'm thinking here in this blog, and in this age, why not also self-publish a video-based show? We'll see....
Meanwhile, in thinking further about women of the last century and this one, I'm struck by how for most of this trip, Pat and I have been wearing jeans, turtlnecks and brand-new sweatshirts vs. the cool clothes they wore in the '20s, '30s and '40s particularly. And how Rachel Maddow, Pat and I can be openly lesbian in this country while Edna Ferber, if she was lesbian, probably could not have been openly so.
Still, we haven't yet fully arrived: When we picked up Pat's mom after landing at the airport, she introduced us to her building manager, "This is my son Jim and my daughter Pat and her friend Sarah."
"Mom, Sarah's not my friend. I don't even like her," Pat tried to make light of it in the car afterward, "She's my partner."
"I know, but you know how people can be. I didn't want to confuse him or worse."
I'm not including this exchange to tell on Pat's mom. She's lovely and inclusive to me always. It's just that women born earlier in the last century sometimes still have trouble with us, it seems; about five years ago, my own mother poured out an envelope of photos she was carrying, to show an ex-boyfriend from her high school days that she ran into in her hometown, Rochester, New York. It included photos of all of her kids and grandkids. Quickly, she handed me the one of Pat and me and whispered, "We don't need to show that one."
Edna, we feel your pain. Rachel, keep impressing and offering reassurance to Pat's mom and others like her through being at the top of your game.