Jun. 22nd, 2017

pen_grunt: (Fred and Ginger Dance)
As part of a new experiment/project, I've been making some buttons using my grandma's old vintage magazines and my grandpa's old button maker. 

Looking at magazines from the 50s and 60s, it IS easy to sigh and sigh and sigh and say, "Oh, look how pretty and SIMPLE everything was then. Wasn't it just better? Don't you wish we could go to there again?" There--a place I've never been and that didn't exist. 

Enough mid-century-modern will do that to a person. It's worth noting that going into about 1969 it starts to feel more like a dystopic hell of dark wood paneling and pre-soiled-looking shag carpeting and dicey propositions of male advertising executives trying to commercialize on women's lib while simultaneously enforcing the roles of mother-wife (and if you MUST have a job...sigh...).

But looking at all the prim pictures of pretty, unharried, early 60s mothers whose only goal is to provide the best for their angelic children and be the social center of the home is tantalizing. You only have to come up with new meal ideas (have you tried the onion-fish-pimento loaf? Your family will say "that's different!") and decorate your home in a tasteful-yet-distinctive way (the vinyl-asbestos tile is easy to clean, and comes in so many gay patterns!), and think of ways to entertain and quietly suffocate (the homemaker of the year in 1969 was a Minnesota woman from Brooklyn Center whose husband was a Greyhound driver--gone for 15-20 days at a time, missing all the births of their children....of which there were 6 boys...can you feel the silent cry for valium in the tension of her perfect homemaker smile?)...

I mean, not for me--that kind of thing would make me go out of my skull in a hot minute (but think how clean my house would be if I had kids at school for 8 hours and zero responsibilities aside from keeping the house clean? SO MANY PICTURES of shirt-waisted women reading by the pool in their suburban ramblers.) One could not keep up with the standard. Hence the lifestyle magazines always giving the white-washed picture of a glistening life. Hence the push to make yourself more. Be prettier. Reduce. Douche. Do more with less. Get the perfect coif. Change your coif. Be just unhappy enough with the imperfection of your life to buy this and this and this to get closer to a fly trapped in amber on a magazine page--a second of perfection captured for eternity. 

You know...the more things change, the more they stay the same. We still get images of that picture-perfect life; gleaming modernist condos--all chrome and exposed ductwork, a cherubic baby on a strategically placed, suspiciously white, sheepskin rug overlooking a view of Manhattan or Chicago or Minneapolis or or or... The trends have changed but the message is the same. The pictures have changed, but the deception of the veneer is the same. 

Life is so much messier and imperfect and nuanced than an impeccably groomed brick rambler with Eames chairs tended by a young mother with salon set wave in her gleaming platinum-dyed bob. The people who look back and say--"I wish we could go there again"--aren't remembering that "there" never existed outside of the glossy pages. But somehow real memories of drama and trauma and pain and dirt and the sloppy business of life (and the racism, sexism, classism....the stifling patriarchal construction pushing down women and squeezing the life out of men) have been supplanted by rosy perfection. 

But it's hard not to look at all the loveliness and want it. 

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