Friday, May 6, 2011

Friday Five--Things I Wouldn't Really Mind So Much about Living Back in the Day

So, it seems that whenever history-o-philes like me start waxing poetic about how we actually wouldn't really mind living back in the (fill in the century here), some wiseacre feels the need to remind us of those little inconveniences that life in the past would present. Some, of course, are totally valid. Like no running water. Notice I don't say no toilet. I can deal with that. But I like my running water. More on that later.

So, a Friday Five--historical difficulties I can actually deal with:

1) Complicated Systems of Undergarments. I like wearing a lot of clothes. The more the merrier (until July...but then nothing is pleasant, clothes-wise). I don't mind the corsetry and petticoat layers required to acheive historical style. In fact, I kind of wish we'd return to more formalized underthings--they make one feel much prettier, in my opinion, than something boring and cotton from a Hanes package. Despite the fact that this may be an overshare, I'm wearing a 40s style garter belt and stockings right now. For Kicks. And I've discussed before how Stays Don't Stink.

2) That Whole Not Voting Thing. Yes, this stinks on a theoretical level. But consider the way it could work for you. Your husband gets to vote. OK. Now, who makes dinner? And pie? That's right! You make dinner and pie! And who likes when you make his favorite dinner and pie? Exactly. You see where I'm going. He gets to go stand in line to cast your vote. For dinner and pie. And let's be honest--you like making pie anyway. (PS And we all know that you'll know, in that polygraph test that is inter-gender communication.) Before anyone gets all indignant that I'm trivializing women's rights, two points: Yes, I'm joking here and No, I'm not completely joking here. We seem to have a notion that women must have all been oppressed and unable to effect any change, and that's a belief I see bucked over and over again in the quiet histories of ordinary people. Women were smart. They found ways to assert themselves.

3)It's Really Hard Work. You're right. It is. Totally is. And I know I only really dig in on it a few weekends a year, but I do love it when I do it. Scouring tables. Jointing chickens. Hauling firewood. Stoking the fire (ok, not that part. I'm bad at that part. I make a boy with bigger lung capacity than me do that part). But here's the thing--hard work is really, really gratifying. Manual labor makes you feel alive. After sitting behind a desk more hours of my day than any human should, I've come to value the experience of fresh air and blisters. And you sleep great.

4) They Didn't Have TV (or computers or phones or whatever). Well, they did have books. And sewing. Two things I like a lot better than TV. And, whenever people comment on crazy-passionate lovemaking in historical films, novels, or nonfiction? My response is always, "Well, they didn't have TV." There are trade-offs, people.

5) No Toilets or Running Water. OK, yes, toilets are nice. But I think one would get used to privies and chamber pots without too much inconvenience. And giving up frequent showers in favor of less frequent baths and daily washbasin touch-ups wouldn't be a terrible swap--who doesn't like baths? But the part that would stink? No running water in the kitchen. Holy mackerel, do you have any idea how many buckets I go through washing stuff to cook, boiling stuff in, and washing up after? Now that's a pain.

So, what could you live without? What would you not be willing to deal with?


Brooke Johnson said...

I could easily live without electricity. It's certainly a great thing, and so many inventions have come out of it, but I love the simplicity of life without it. Imagine the only means of correspondence being by letter and calling on friends when you go to town twice a year. If I lived in a historical novel, it would be in the country, far away from anything and anyone.

Like you, I could probably go without the running water, as long as we lived near a creek or spring or something similar.

I don't think I could do the intricate underwear. If I were from the time, I wouldn't mind it it all obviously, but to go from comfy cotton to everything else would be a pain. Though I do agree that corsets, garters, and stockings are a lot sexier than Hanes and Fruit of the Loom... lol.

Connie said...

There are a ton of things I could do without. And I do like hard manual labor. But the one thing I would miss is feminine hygiene products. (That's probably way too much information, but seriously that's what I would miss a lot.)

Abby said...

I agree with you 100% on everything. The only major major drawback I see with the past is medicine. That's it. And for people to think women didn't have any influence? Ha. Puh-leese. You might call it dinner and pie, but we all know what we're actually talking about...uh huh uh huh....that's why I would always rather be a royal mistress and never a queen. ;)

I loved this post, just loved it!

Jenny Wren said...

It's difficult to say what I wouldn't miss... this is the best time in history (so far) to be a woman, and I'm really tied to my laptop. I agree with Connie, too- feminine hygiene products are a must.

I could- and do- live without TV, but I adore and cherish the Internet. I hate cooking and manual labour, and while it's nice sometimes to wear old-fashioned style underwear, long bras and waspies cut into me when I sit down, stockings never stay up, and you'd better believe they were making far fewer D-cup and higher bras back then. We often underestimate how modern fabrics have changed underwear, too- with Lycra it becomes so much easier to achieve a fit that's comfortable.

Jen said...

I would love to live "back in the day", but only if I was rich, and had servants to take care of the labour0intensive stuff like washing, cooking and cleaning. I would be a lady of leisure, and spend my days reading poetry and entertaining lovers. And occasionally entertaining my husband - he's the trade off for the good life, right?

Rowenna said...

Brooke--definitely! Lots of little joys to be found in the simplicity.

Connie--I hear ya. I think I'd rock the Diva cup if I had to go back in time.

Abby--So true! Pie and..."pie." And medicine, so true--though even just knowing germ theory would be super-helpful, even if you don't have antibiotics.

Jenny--definitely true that modern fabrics makes our modern underthings possible. Though I still maintain that stays are comfier than lacy thongs. Why?!? do we put lace there?

Jen--definitely--the maids can handle the scouring and the scrubbing :)

Maybelle said...

Yeah, I would agree with the manual labour. Definitely a more tactile approach to things. And I've always liked the idea of knowing your way around forest, a creek, or the environment around you because you're collecting firewood, water, farming, and so forth. Whereas now I would hardly ever venture into said woods, because I have modern conveniences at beck and call.

And if I was rich, all the better. Women were definitely influential in their own way...

And you can't beat the exercise! Today, we practically pay out of our own pockets for healthcare, gym memberships, etc. just to exercise more! Of course, people back then had a whole other set of diseases to deal with because of their active lives... but, for someone like me, a day or two of "active" living wouldn't hurt.

MrsC said...

Ever so slightly off topic here so apologies, especially since such devices didn't exist back in the day but in terms of feminine hygiene (great euphemisim!) there is a fabbo device called a Keeper that is SO much better than the usual things, not only for our bodies but also for the environment. Try googling it :)
Me, I find these questions real tricky as if I lived then I wouldn't know what I was missing! It hought about things like pain killers but there are natural things we don't get to access much these days that worked well I would have known about. Possibly good quality specs. If I had to sew big-ass skirts by hand, I suspect my eyesight would be suffering and there's nothing like a prescription ground lens in a gorgeous red frame to make it nice again!

Rowenna said...

Maybelle--good point, you'd save on gym memberships!

MrsC--so true that you wouldn't know what you were missing. I know if I had to go back in time, knowing what I'd be missing, I'd want a lifetime supply of contact lenses and solution. Because I'm terribly nearsighted and HATE wearing glasses.