Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Vintage Housewife does MATH

I've had a few female students tell me that they're not worried about doing well in school because they just want to be "wives and mothers."  Ummmm...NO.  Bad student.  I try to insist that wives and mothers need to know a bit about everything, so these girls need to pay even more attention, but they generally don't buy it.

Today, however, I came across a concrete example of why these girls will need an extensive math knowledge.  If I didn't know math, I could have never made this delicious pie:

My husband and I love going to the Grand Traverse Pie Company about a mile from our house.  They have the best pies in town, and I've been dying to get my hands on the recipe for their crumbly strudel crust.  It's top-secret, though, and they don't sell cookbooks or anything. Instead of scouring less-than-reputable Google imitation recipes, I befriended the girl who works the pie counter.  I complimented her make-up, told her that her hair looked nice, etc.  We've actually become pretty close.  You know, in a customer/pie girl kind of way.  She's in my phone as "Ashley Pie Girl."  But I digress.  The point is, last week I felt that we were finally close enough to take our relationship to the next level.

I asked her for the crumble recipe.

Eeeeeeeek!! It was so scary.  I was afraid she would get all offended and tell me that we couldn't be friends anymore because I was nosing into her top-secret pie business.  Instead, she not only gave me the recipe, but also gave me some free pie.  Wow!  What a pal.  I might actually put her real name in my phone someday soon.

The main problem with the recipe is that it was to make fifteen pies.  It included EIGHT POUNDS of sugar.  Well, I'm not about to put eight pounds of sugar on my pie.  I figured, "Hey, no problem!  I'll just divide everything by fifteen!"

That turned out to be easier said than done.  First,  I had to divide everything by fifteen, which is obviously not a tidy number.  I ended up with crazy decimals, like 0.3654 pounds of butter.  Clearly that was going to be easy to measure *sarsasm.*  After I found how many pounds I needed, I had to find conversion tables to convert pounds into cups and/or tablespoons because I don't have a kitchen scale.   Then I had to find a separate conversion table for the flour, the butter, etc. because a cup of sugar does not weigh the same as a cup of flour.

Twenty-minutes later, I found myself sitting at the kitchen table with pages of numbers that would have challenged my smartest math students.  Phew!  Who knew pie was such hard work?  Especially before I even touched a single ingredient?!

I finally figured out calculations that I thought were correct (or as correct as I was going to get), and I started assembling my pie.  I was nervous the whole time it was cooking, and to be honest, I still don't think I got all of the ratios right.  I'm going to try a little bit less flour next time.  The crumble tasted close to that of the Pie Company, but not quite right on.  If I figure out the perfect recipe, I'll post it so that you can enjoy the delicious fruits of my mathematical labor.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Magic Web Girdle

I came across this ad in the August 1954 Ladies' Home Journal:

May I just take a second to say...WHAT IS THAT??  It looks like a torture device from the Middle Ages  I know they wore corsets back in the 1800's, but this is from 1954.  Women were still wearing this stuff.  Shoot, do women still wear this stuff?   Should I be wearing something like this?  I think Spanx has taken over the market on "ways to keep your body parts where they are supposed to be,"  but I don't even own any Spanx.  In the interests of trying to be like a fifties housewife, I'm going to have to go find some sort of body-shaping thing and wear it all day.  I wish I could actually try this "Magic Web Adjustment" girdle, but I would only probably want to wear it for about five minutes.  It looks so complicated.  Were women supposed to get into that by themselves?

This ad says that if I buy their product, I can have that "girdle off" feeling anytime.  That's so great!  Do you want to know how I currently get that great "girdle off" feeling?  I don't wear a girdle.

Do you know of any places that sell legit girdles?  Because I absolutely want to go try one on in the interests of this project, but I have no idea where to find one.  Let me know if you have any ideas.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Christine Webb, the Feminist

I have never considered myself a feminist.  I just haven't.  I think men and women are of equal worth and are equal citizens under God's eyes, but I also think they have different roles that should be respected.  Today, however, I found myself thinking very feminist-y.  Or maybe it's just that this situation is so abhorrent that finally feminists and I would agree on something.

Here is the introduction letter to a feature article in a 1954 issue of Ladies' Home Journal (I will type the words underneath so you don't have to read the tiny print):

Dear Dawn Norman,
       When I was 16 years old, I weighed 287 pounds and wore a size 54 dress.  I looked older than my mother.  Today at 23, I am 150 pounds and a size 14.  I'm still dieting.  My doctor tells me that 135 lbs would be better for my height of 5' 6 1/4 ".
       I have started dieting many times, would lose 20 or 30 pounds, and then quit.  Then I fell in love with a very handsome fellow.  Of course he wouldn't give me a tumble.  I was at rock bottom.  It was the Journal stories about real-life dieters that gave me fresh courage and made me realize that I could do something besides feel sorry for myself.  
       In one year I lost close to 100 pounds.  By the time I reduced to 190, Dennis asked me for a date.  At 165 pounds we started "going steady."  When I reached 150 he proposed.  Today we are happily married.
       My heartfelt and most humble thanks to the Journal for giving me a new and wonderful life.
Doris Stradley McFall

To be honest with you, I read the entire article that follows this letter with the kind of mixed intrigue and horror with which a person would watch a true crime show.  I could not believe this girl's story.  Here it is in a nutshell, just in case you didn't get the picture from her introduction:  The girl loved ("loved") this guy, and her friends tried to set her up with him, but he was totally uninterested.  She decided, "I love him, so I must lose weight in order to make him love me back."  She started losing weight, and he got progressively more interested.  It took losing 97 pounds before he asked her on a date, then she lost 25 more pounds and she was worthy to be his official girlfriend, then after another 15 pounds he proposed.  Um.  How did no one see an issue with this?  How did the editors of LHJ look at this and think, "Wow, what a great example to set for our readers"?  This was a feature article, so clearly they thought it was important.  Nowhere in the article did it emphasize, "Once I lost the weight, he was finally able to see my great personality, which attracted him to me even more."  Nope, it was all about, "If you're skinny enough, you too can get the man of your dreams!"

What kind of way is that to start a marriage?   What if she gains the weight back?  Will he still love her?  What if she gets pregnant?  You can't expect a woman to be skinny if she's pregnant.  Also, nobody is sexy when they're old.  (With the exception of George Clooney, who I contend will always be sexy).  You don't look at an 80-year-old and think, "Wow, what a hottie."  Presumably marriage is forever, though, so eventually you would hope to be married to an 80-year-old (when you're approximately 80).  If that 80-year-old isn't as sexy as the twenty-something you married, does that mean you leave?  Of course not!  That's why your marriage has to be built on a solid foundation, and that solid foundation doesn't include temporary perks like attractiveness.  Come on, Doris.  You can do better than this guy.  You need someone who's going to love you no matter what you weigh!

Also, side note - I think it's great that she lost the weight.  I have friends currently struggling with weight issues, and I think it's awesome that they're working so hard to get healthy.  They're doing it for themselves, though, and because it's good for their health.  They're not doing it to "get a man" or to make their husbands love them.  That is absolutely the wrong reason to do something.  Imagine the constant insecurity that would stem from that mindset!  If a guy is going to love you, he should love you for who you are and not for your dress size.

Interesting side note...I did a bit of Google research, and I found a marriage record between a Doris Stradley and a Dennis McFall that lasted from 1954-1956, which would be consistent with the timeline of this article.  I don't know how reliable the source was, but assuming it's true...that would mean that their marriage lasted two years.  Either one of them died (possible), or Dennis was a misogynistic a-hole and one or both of them got sick of that (probable).

I realize this doesn't exactly translate to my project of trying to be more like a vintage housewife, but the article made me really mad so I just had to write on it.  I suppose I could hit the gym, go on a diet, and try to lose weight for my husband in order to better identify with Doris.  I feel like if I did that, though, I would start resenting my husband (which is totally unfair because he would never ask me to lose weight for him) and also  I would lose respect for myself.  Also, I'm not overweight, so losing weight isn't even a necessary goal at this point.  I think I'll just leave this as a "take it for what it is" post, and I won't integrate the principles into my life.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

How Well Do I Know My Husband?

Everyone knows that a mark of a good wife is that she knows her husband well.  In July of 1954, the Ladies Home Journal published a quiz in order for women to see how well they know their husbands.  I figured I would take it too, to see how I measure up.  Here is a picture of the quiz, but I will rewrite the questions as well for easier reading:

1. Do you know positively what...
      Color he thinks most becomes you?  Ummm...  I'm not sure that Rex actually cares what color I wear.  He doesn't notice fashion much.  So I guess my answer to this question is "no, I don't know."  Blast.  I'm not off to a good start.
       Are his three favorite desserts?  Homemade pie, shamrock shakes, and homemade snickerdoodles.
       He wants to do when he retires?  Sit on his front porch with his bloodhound and his gun, surveying his hunting land.
       Kind of vacation he likes?  Anything rustic and low-stress.  He doesn't like airports, so flying places is not his favorite.
       His true religious views are?  Uh, YES.  Probably summed up best by Jesus's words in John 14:6: "I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me."  I even know Rex's definition of life success, which is "Bring as much glory to God as you possibly can, and have as much fun as possible along the way."  So ha.  Do I get a bonus point for knowing both?  I have a quick comment, though - why would someone get married without knowing her husband's religious views?  That would be really strange.  And why does this question come after what color he likes best on me and his favorite desserts??  These questions had better not be in priority order...
      Trait he likes most about you?  Physical or non-physical?  We'll go with non-physical.  I think he likes my sense of humor, which is good because I couldn't be with someone who didn't get it.  I also think he likes my cooking.
       Habit of yours that most annoys him?  Hmmm...  he really hates when I use any of the plethora of pet names I've tried to invent over the years.  He just wants to be called "Rex."  How boring.  He also hates when I refer to his underwear as "panties."  So the sentence, "Rex, honey-bear, would you like me to wash any of your panties?"  would really drive him nuts.
       First attracted him to you?  I really don't know.  I guess I lose points on this one.

Do you know positively whether he...
      Likes or dislikes your friends?  Yes.  For sure.  And I'm positive which ones he likes and which he doesn't, ha ha.
       Loves or doesn't love you?  What kind of a question is that?!  That's so sad!  What if a woman knew all of the other answers to this quiz, but got to this one and was like, "Hmmm...tough one..."  That's horrible.  Yes, I'm sure my husband loves me.  He tells me all the time, in a million different ways.

Do you know positively why he...
       Is friends with his best friend?  Assuming the best friend can't be me...  I think he's friends with his best friend JB because he and JB endured the entire traumatic experience of physical therapy school together, and that somehow bonds people.
       Likes or dislikes certain relatives?  Ha ha... I like this question.  And yes, I do know which relatives he likes and dislikes, but I'm definitely not publishing that online lest I get him and me both in trouble.
       Is or isn't proud of you?  Again, sad question!  Yes, Rex is proud of me.
       Does or doesn't like to talk to you?  What??  These poor housewives!  Whose husband doesn't like to talk to them?  Like, "Make me a sandwich, woman!  Now go sit in the corner because I don't want to talk to you!"  Did that actually happen?  Is this one of those questions that is supposed to be really easy and boost your point score for when you didn't know why he was first attracted to you?  That's what I'm going to tell myself.
Okay.  Time to score myself.  I get two points for each "no," one point for each where I wasn't sure, and zero points for yes.  Hold on while I add this up.

My score is 5 (two points each for the "what attracted him to you" and "what color does he think looks best on you," and one point for why he's friends with his best friend because I'm not positive on that one.)  Here is my prognosis from the article:  "If you score four or lower, you either know your husband very well or think you do.  A score of 5 or 6 is average, but with a score of seven or more you are either not observing your husband as you should or you and he have very poor communication.  Spend more time with him, watch his reactions to what you say and do, and you may get better acquainted with him."

Alright, I'm average.  I guess I can handle that.  I'm going to quiz him on all of these plus a million other random facts tonight, though, so that next time I stumble across one of these types of quizzes I'll look like a rock star wife.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Buy This Cheese

I had a fun time doing some research at the MSU library today - they have every issue of Ladies Home Journal from 1918 until 2013.  No lie.  They take up two book shelves, but they're a wealth of knowledge. They show how women coped with the fallout of World War I, the Great Depression, World War II, the crazy "Free Love" movement of the sixties, etc.  It's like an entire commentary on women's history, right there in the basement of the library.  It's fabulous.  Since I'm focusing on the 1940's and 50's, though, I read a few magazines from that era.

I have a lot to say about a lot of different articles ("What To Do if a Negro Asks Your Daughter to Prom") or ("How to Get a Husband by Losing Weight"), but for now I just want to show you an ad that struck me as strange.  It has nothing to do with feminism or women's rights in general.  It's basically just weird.  A lovely "What?" moment that I found stuck right in the middle of August 1954:

Dear Miss Wisconsin Cheddar Cheese,

How is this ad supposed to inspire me to buy your cheese?  I'm confused.  Is it supposed to go well with pie?  Does anyone eat cheese with pie?  Because that's messed up.  Am I supposed to see the pie, take the subliminal message to become hungry, and then replace those feelings of hunger with a need for cheese?  Also, why isn't the cheese melting?  Isn't the pie warm?  No one likes cold pie.  Is that what you're trying to tell me about the cheese?  That it's so hardy that it won't melt even when placed upon hot pie?  I don't think I like that.  That's not a desirable quality that I consider when choosing cheese.  What if I'm trying to make nachos and your cheese won't melt?  Then when my husband gets home dinner won't be ready and he'll freak out because of it (at least, that's what an article from July's issue told me he'll do).  It's just...I don't understand the point of this ad, Miss Wisconsin.

Although...all my considerations of this ad have made me kind of hungry.  I kind of want some cheese.

Sneaky - I see what you did there.

Christine (60 years in the future)