This morning the collage group I belong to didn't respond to my idea that we create The Porpoise of Art (watch this space), and I think we settled on the idea of balance. Then, as usual, I went off-road. (You don't have to do the assignment is one of our principles.) Looking at the array of magazines from which we can cut out images, I picked up a Women's Day dated September 1953.
That month and year I turned eleven. This is a moment when a child is anticipating going through puberty and growing up. Women's magazines like this were my travel guide back then. An ad for a sewing machine at the front of this issue evoked memories of being a girl dreaming of grown-up life, and the drawing in that ad became the center of my collage. Everything in the collage that's black and white was cut and rearranged from that ad.
As I made this collage, I remembered having seven crinolines for under my circle skirts, and I felt the sweetness of the aspiration for femininity and for a well-ordered home. The dream was only superficially about having a man love you and owning a house and having nice furniture and cooking and cleaning. It was also about home and family, a beautiful refuge.
I could write a book about the harm done to me by the patriarchy, especially as filtered through my parents, who never questioned it. The idea was that the man was a good breadwinner and the woman took care of their lifestyle. There was no room in that dream for loving and marrying people of the same gender, or not marrying at all, or not having children, or the two-career marriage, not for most of us. There was not room for women being smart, though a few plain girls were doomed to be. Despite this prison of expectations, there was something of value in the idea of a home and a dedicated homemaker. And also in valuing softness and femininity.
Anyone could tell you I am so far from being a domestic goddess. Yet, I found as I made this collage, that that aspect of the dream still held appeal for me, and I was glad I recently bought a pink tee with ruffles around the neckline.