Lament of The Eighties Ladies....
Revised Version: Distress Later Deemed Delightful
This poem , first inspired by an old Duncan Hines commercial and later reinforced by Gail Collins’s When Everything Changed , addresses the changes and challenges that those of us who grew up in the 1950’s and 60’s faced as the doctrine of women’s liberation took hold in the 1970’s and 80’s. Before that time, “a woman’s place” truly was assigned to the homefront. The only jobs which were open to women were as secretaries, teachers, nurses, or airline stewardesses. It was an unspoken rule, of course, that once a woman had snagged Her Man and entered into matrimony, she was expected to defer to her husband on the job front and assume her “natural” role as wife/ mother/ caregiver/ carpooler/ shopper/ chef/ and overall domestic.
The first stanza of my poem refers to the fact that years ago local butchers actually would show up in their trucks at customers’ homes once or twice a week to make shopping for meat more convenient, while milkmen would even make daily deliveries. The disappearance of these conveniences, in addition to a host of other societal changes, marked the end of the “good old days,” while the apperance of shopping centers and their more sophisticated cousins, shopping malls, heralded the advent of The New Wave Consumer.
At some point, the unspoken two-cars-for-every-hosehold doctrine broadened to include two TV’s, a bigger house, more and better vacations, and, inevitably, the necessity for two paychecks. Also, many women who had witnessed the Women’s Liberation Movement first hand as they were growing up began to feel that the domestic role that had heretofore been assigned to women just wasn’t all that fulfilling, particularly when all the kids were in school. Suddenly, they began to see their friends returning to the job front. A whole new world, one for which they had been prepared, perhaps, but not encouraged, appeared. Thanks to women like Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem, who at the time had been considered “trouble-makers “ by many, the role of women had been redefined, impacting society and reconfiguring dynamics on many levels. Though somewhat shell-shocked at first, most of us welcomed and adjusted to the changes. (In my case, a classroom full of teen-agers certainly posed more of a challenge than a house full of dust bunnes.)
There was no doubt that the Days of the Domestic Diva were over.
The butcher and the baker have gone home,
And milk’s delivered only to the store.
You have to do your shopping at a mall....
What happened to the way things were before?
The social lives of five-year-olds demand
That they be driven to and fro each day
To learn piano, swimming, gym and such....
What happened to some good, old-fashioned play?
It cost me forty cents to buy a cup
Of coffee that once cost a lowly dime.
I’m not so old for things to change so fast....
What’s happened to that concept we call "time?”
I used to love the kitchen, where I could
Be found quite often mixing up a batch
Of something special; now my friends exclaim
“You have the time to bake all that from scratch?!”
I’ve cleaned my house a dozen times this week.
(My shiny mirrors cast Windex smiles on me.)
I’ve read six books, twelve magazines, and still,
Why am I tired and bored by ten of three?
I used to spend my time as volunteer,
But now I feel like such a useless jerk:
Attending meetings, planning, and the like....
While all my friends have drifted back to work.
My boredom threshold’s always been quite low,
And cleaning makes me feel like a blob....
So maybe I’ll just turn off the TV
And head on out to find myself a job.