Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Green Dress of Every Generation

Here it is after 11 PM and my brain is somehow still going, despite the 6 AM run and a busy day.  I went to bed for a bit, my body seemed tired, but my brain wouldn't shut up. So, here I am sitting at the computer, in a quiet house, listening just to the sounds of the moths and stinkbugs throwing their bodies against the screens trying to touch the lamp in the room trying to figure out what to write about.

Maybe I'll start with my desktop background (we change it every few days to whatever image catches our fancy, it creates family conversation), a painting that I really seem to understand.  I don't know if they will throw a conniption if I put it here, but I'm going to, with a reference, of course. The artist is Kelly Reemtson the painting is called Orange, the website where I found the image is
 There is a whole series of these paintings, I love them!

OrangeThe dress the jewelry and all that were all a part of my media upbringing, not my everyday upbringing, but the one that happened on Saturday afternoons when the old movies/shows played.  The women all wore dresses like this, seemingly everyday.  It was the message about womanhood: parties, makeup, jewelry, and men, it all seemed so foreign.  My mom had one of those dresses tucked in the back of the closet, dark green taffeta, it seemed like a remnant of a secret past life.( Now I know it was the maid of honor dress for both my mom's and my aunt's weddings.)  The womanhood I knew from experience was very different.  The adult women I knew wore pedal pushers, sneakers and a shirt.  They poured concrete, chopped wood, cleaned house, cooked dinner, tended the garden, made applesauce, shoveled snow, used the chain saw and spent every Wednesday evening going over the bills and budget.  The party dress didn't figure into it, a little lipstick, but certainly not taffeta and chiffon.  The second part of the painting is the part of womanhood I clearly recognize. Hedge shears, yes and rototillers, crow bars, hammers, screw drivers, they have always been a part of my image of womanhood.  My dad used to chuckle when asked what attracted him to my mom, he answered that he figured that any woman who could shingle a barn must be a good catch. He was terribly afraid of heights, so it definitely was a good thing for him.

I think this is all going through my head because my daughter is now having to shop in the junior department because she is just too darned tall for the girls' department.  Her preadolescent mind is trying wrap itself around all the low cut t-shirts on the racks, the low cut jeans, the dress code that says that she can't wear leggings to middle school, since she has always worn them (she hates scratchy jeans).  The no pockets in women's clothes bothers her as much as me, we're supposed to have a purse with us at all times, I guess. She is trying to wrap around the lists of activities that are considered masculine and feminine.  Sports are for boys? But she has been playing soccer for five years. (Just try to find a card appropriate for a female soccer coach!) Tools are for boys? But Mom is usually the one using them, You need make up and jewelry, but most of the adult women she knows wear little of either.  The weaker sex concept was completely foreign, her response was somewhere in the neighborhood of, "Huh?  Who made that up?"  I think she even snorted  a little.  It is like watching a movie of myself thirty-six years ago.  In thirty-six years from now, will my daughter be writing about the green dress in the back of my closet ( my wedding dress)?  Why does society persist in doing this?  It keeps telling girls that they are ornaments to sit on the shelf, when really life is a lot of work and being ornamental might get you noticed for a few fleeting years, but it is shallow and boring. It is a life on the side lines rather than in the game, or the garden, or in the workplace.  I'm going to stop now, I need to figure out how much lumber I'll need to rebuild the permanent chicken coop.

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