Is Blue The New Black?
by Leslie Morgan Steiner
Dear Maureen Dowd:
Thank you so for your recent column, Blue is the New Black. Thanks for enlightening me about how women today are SO unhappy because of all the choices heaped upon us since the feminist revolution began in 1972. I always knew my troubles were all Gloria Steinem’s fault.
Thanks for explaining that:
- Unlike today, before the 1970s, women in America felt greater well-being than men (I’d like to insert a smiley face here, please)
- That having stepped into male-dominated realms (you don’t say which ones, but I assume you mean paid work like journalism, politics, medicine, academia, professional sports, television and entertainment, and perhaps the gym) we women have put more demands upon our wittle selves
- That women are much harder on ourselves than men are on themselves (how could we CHOOSE to be so dumb?)
- That women’s lives are increasingly crowded yet increasingly empty, even with all these darn choices
- That having kids makes us unhappy, even though of course we’d never admit that publicly
Maureen, I’d really like you to meet my mother. She graduated from Radcliffe in 1956 – when you were four years old. She got married in 1958, and like your mother, gave birth to five children long before the Pill or reliable birth control made reproductive choice available. My mother had her last child in 1972, the year your source, The General Social Survey, began tracking Americans’ moods.
Mom mostly stayed home with us kids while my father worked long, intellectually stimulating hours in the relative peace and quiet of his law firm. He traveled frequently throughout the United States, Europe and Asia for his work. He earned lots of money. Unfortunately we kids were a handful, always hungry and thirsty and just a tad bratty, energetic and insouciant; one of my favorite memories is of Mom throwing her black high heels at us because we would not be quiet while she took a phone call. She’d played three varsity sports in college so she had darn good aim.
She raised us kids without benefit of an involved husband, disposable diapers, carseats or even regular use of a car, a microwave, a breast pump, childcare, a computer, the Internet, or even a cordless phone. Dad kept her on an allowance. I recall her crying in frustration when she did not have enough money to buy us shoes or pay the pediatrician’s bill. We did in fact have the money, Dad just controlled it rather stringently, spending it on Redskins season tickets and new suits instead. His contribution to the household was to take us to the zoo for two hours on Sundays, if the weather was good and there was no football game on tv.
When she could, Mom worked off and on in the one field open to her and many other women born in the 1930s: teaching. Then after 32 years of motherhood and marriage, my father left her. He was a partner at a prominent international law firm, with lots of professional legal relationships in our town’s courts. Let’s just say Mom had to fight like a proverbial female dog to get any economic support whatsoever. She hadn’t really worked in 30 years, people said; what was she due financially anyway?
Was Mom happy? Happier than Dad? Happier than I am today?