Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Growing Up In Mad Men Times

I have been home sick a few days. As I have been telling anyone who asks, and lots of people who haven’t asked, I feel like I got hit by a truck. Just the flu, which I am sure, will pass in a day or two, but I haven’t been able to go to work. One reason, because I haven’t been able to actually get out of bed, and the other reason, I don’t want to spread any of these flu germs around. It is OK if the principal doesn’t make it to school (no one will notice) but if the teachers don’t show up, them we have problems!

One thing I have accomplished since being home is a Mad Men marathon. Terry was able to find the first six episodes of season three on-line so I can catch up….even though we don’t get Mad Men in Canada any more…….

There have been so many scenes in Mad Men that suddenly bring back flashes of memories from my childhood. I got to thinking, (thanks fellow blogger Ed for the idea) to list things from my childhood that seemed so normal and yet in today’s society we would never do. It’s funny how my generation ever grew up at all without all the rules we now have in place.

Seat Belts: No seat belts in our cars. Well, eventually there were seat belts but only Donna McDonald's mother made us use them. Usually on long car rides my brother and I would fight about who got to lie down in the back window part.

Recyling: There was a scene in Mad Men where the Draper family goes on a picnic and afterwards the clean up is throwing all of the garbage away into the trees. I remember actually doing this! That was before the term “litter bug” came into our consciousness.

The Family Television: Growing up we had one TV in our living room. Another thing my brother and I would fight over was what channel to watch (there were only four or five channels at the time) I remember buying our first colour TV. It was a big wooden console colour TV. It was a huge deal since it was the first time I remember my mother going ahead and doing something my father didn’t like. He couldn’t understand why we had to have a colour TV since most of the shows were still in black and white anyway. When we finally did get our new TV we sold our old one to someone up the street. Why would any family own more than one TV?

Dresses: It wasn’t until grade seven I was allowed to wear pants to school. All girls had to wear dresses. Going to school in Canada made it very cold on the legs some days. Our principal relented one year and did allow us to wear pants to school under our dresses as long as we took the pants off when we arrived. In grade six, “pant suits” were all the rage. We were allowed to wear pant suits as long as the top part was long enough it could be worn as a dress. In grade seven we graduated to a senior elementary school and we were allowed to wear jeans. I still didn't wear jeans however since my mother thought only “those kind of girls” wore denim.

Smoking: While watching Mad Men, sometimes I want to start coughing. I do recall however life was really like that. Everybody smoked. Even when I started teaching, there was the smoke-filled staff room. Now smokers aren’t allowed to smoke anywhere except outside. The smoker’s circles are getting smaller and they certainly aren’t the cool group anymore. My mother smoked until 1970. That was the year her brother died of cancer.

Stay at Home Moms: When I was a kid there weren’t any “stay at home moms.” All moms just stayed at home. They didn’t have a title. They were just Moms. My mother didn’t go anywhere because she didn’t have a car. On Thursdays she would drive my Dad to work so she could have the car to buy groceries and go around and pay the bills. No on-line bill paying back then. No two car families. Eventually my mother even starting curling on Thursdays. That was once my brother and I were in high school and we didn’t need her at home. In my circle of friends, I only know one Mom who was a “stay-at-home Mom” She is working now because her husband left her. She is financially in dire straights as she doesn’t have the education and/or skills to have a higher paying job. At times she is very bitter that her husband “put her in this position” as she says. The thought has never occurred to me to rely on a man financially. (maybe to open tight jars, but not for finances)

Breast Feeding: Betty had her baby in my recent Mad Men marathon. At the hospital she was asked if she was going to breast-feed. She replied no and that was the end of it. When I had my children (in the late ‘80’s) I said I wasn’t going to breast feed and I had to literally listen to an hour lecture from a nurse about the benefits of breast feeding. I wanted to bottle feed because I was going back to work and I figured feeding this child was going to be a 50-50 proposition. (that didn’t exactly work out, but that is for another day) The Mad Men episode also relegated the men to the waiting room while the mom’s delivered the babies in a drug-induced haze. Times have certainly changed there.

I thought this was going to be a brief list of funny things but as I started writing I can how it turned out to be an essay on societal changes. Sorry for the seriousness of it all. As my daughter often tells me “Times change Mom” (that would be said with a tone of disgust on her part, because I obviously just don’t “get it”)

Does anybody out there have any memories of childhood that would seem outrageous now?


Ed said...

Sue, your memories are similar to mine. I was going to write about stay-at-home moms, but you beat me to it. Yep, that was the norm. When I started to school, and my mother worked during the school day, it was a bit of a scandal in the neighborhood. I can recall when seatbelts first started in cars. I was in the 9th grade. I also remember the bloody noses from hitting the dashboard upon sudden stops by the driver!

Regarding Mad Men, we get the episodes here on American Forces Television, but they are a season behind. My wife buys the entire season on iTunes. We download it every week, put it on our iPod and then plug that into our television. So we can watch it just a day after it airs in the States. You might want to look into that.

City Wendy said...

I love reading these lists/essays. I grew up in the 80s and things have changed quite a lot even since then. Back then, Atari was the big thing, a dime bought a song on the Jukebox, and when you moved away from friends (like I often did) letters — and an occasional long-distance call that you had to save up for — were your only option for keeping in touch.

Jenn Jilks said...

I love this! Never watched the show. We were able to wear pant to school in Gr. 9.

I attended Jarvis, the first year that we had a female principal, and the first one in TDSB! We were so proud.

We had great times in Kingston. Hubby went there in 1973. He worked at the library nights, too. It is bizarre walking around a campus these days.
Thanks for visiting My Muskoka!

P.S. Between husbands I dated a young man. Once. He asked me what music was popular in 'my day'. :-Q