Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle was out-dated when he woke up after only 20 years. Imagine snoozing away for 50, and suddenly waking up in our present age of electronic technology! I seem to be fairly current with technology, although I REFUSE to allow myself one of those pokey/punchy little phones or I-Pads. My laptop is ENOUGH!
But sometimes I do wonder where I’ve been for 50 years. Because I remember that time so well, it seems like the above photo was taken yesterday. But actually it dates back to (are you ready for this?) 1960. That’s 50 plus years ago! The children are (left to right) Eric and Judy Been—now “mid-lifers”. They are seated with their mother—me. I’m (thankfully) still their mother. But the natural, God-given dark brunette hair has long since been replaced by a series of chemical hues from blonde to black with many shades of red in between—and now it’s plain old natural white (with a bit of platinum rinse enhancement from JOHN FRIEDA®).
The earrings were clip-ons, the kind that ended up pinching like there was no tomorrow so that I would take them off and sometimes lose them. Judy’s saddle shoes were classics I’d love to see return. But my 4 inch heels? No way would I wear such life-threatening catastrophes today—although some young ladies whom I dearly love do wear them very effectively, while chasing after their little people just like I did “back then”! And The Saturday Evening Post? That goes all the way back to Ben Franklin.
Someone might look at this “vintage” photo and say, “YIKES! That mother is wearing a SKIRT!” Well guess what? She still does. The 4 inch heels have been replaced with lots of support, but skirts will always be the main features in my closet, and on my torso. As chic and trendy as today’s jeans and slacks may be, they simple don’t have it for comfort. In fact, except for gardening and fishing I find pants to be useless and miserable—there’s no room for moving around in them. And pants don’t hide a thing, where as skirts can easily conceal that extra dessert.
Although the people I know who wear slacks and jeans do so with such flare and pizzazz that they are definitely “dressed” up in them and they look very neat, I have been wondering if casualness has gone too far in our general culture. Whether pants or dresses are worn, there is such a thing as neatness and such a thing as scuzzy sloppiness—or at least there was 50 years ago!
Recently I sat at the SUBWAY shop in Walmart, sipping my raspberry iced tea while waiting for Joe to finish shopping, and for some strange reason it suddenly dawned on me that sloppiness has become the norm of our day. That’s why I’m wondering where I’ve been for the last 50 years. Certainly this didn’t “just happen” last Tuesday or whenever it was that I sat in the SUBWAY shop. I just happened to be suddenly, blatantly aware of something that has been gradually heating up for decades. And suddenly I, the frog in the cooking pot, have realized a “cook off”.
Well yes, I guess I have realized it for some time now—but I wasn’t pondering the change as much as I have been doing of late, and that makes me a boiled frog! Does that make any sense? Oh, well!
Some questions swim around in my head, concerning not what women are wearing—either pants or skirts—but how these items are being worn. Where is self-respect, in a culture given over to sloppy attire? Where is simply caring about oneself? Yet more importantly, where is respect for others who have to live with (or encounter at Walmart) the sloppiness? What is the mental attitude behind confirmed sloppiness?
Where is a sense of order in our culture? Does the fact that so many have turned from belief in our God of order have anything to do with the disorder we see everywhere, from litter on public ground to disheveled personal attire? No, we are not to judge another’s inside from the outside—and yet, wouldn’t order (or the lack of it) on the inside often be reflected in one’s outward appearance? (Not always, but often?) Does maintaining a neat and orderly appearance (or the failure to do so) have anything to do with economics? Is the lack of order really a failure? Or is it a point blank refusal?
Rather than answer these questions (although I think I do know the answers!) I’ll briefly share “the way things were” (at least in society as I knew it) 50 years ago. And 60 and 70 years ago. We did the best with what we had, took care of what we had, and didn’t worry over what we didn’t have. We were raised to believe that a neat, presentable attire was like gracious table manners—a matter of respect for other people, and a kind of stewardship of ourselves. We were raised to realize that our behavior mattered, whether or not anyone was looking.
Wherever I may have been for 50 years, that’s the way things were. It may sound simplistic but that’s the way things still are, in my world!
Margaret L. Been, ©2013