Tuesday, January 13, 2009

13 January 1955 "McCarthyism, My first mid-century ennui and a skirt."

I researched Sen. McCarthy this morning, as I wanted to understand the context of where I am now, in 1955, with fear of the 'Reds'. It was interesting to find out that just a month ago (Dec 1954) his reign of fear-mongering had come to an end. As of 2 December 1954 Red Scare: The United States Senate votes 67-22 to condemn Joseph McCarthy for "conduct that tends to bring the Senate into dishonor and disrepute."

Beginning in 1950, McCarthy became the most visible public face of a period of intense anti-communist suspicion inspired by the tensions of the Cold War. He was noted for making claims that there were large numbers of Communists and Soviet spies and sympathizers inside the federal government and elsewhere. Ultimately, McCarthy's tactics and his inability to substantiate his claims led to his being discredited and censured by the United States Senate. He will die of alcoholism in two years (1957)

We often see the 50's as a time of whitebread domesticity with rampant racisim, and certainly it existed. But, what I am finding out, particularly from this year 1955, much of the changes to come to what has brought us the opportunity to have a president of color begins this year. Later in this year is the famous Rosa Parks incident (which I will cover when we get to that date).

I found this interesting from a 1955 magazine, that these african americans, though they would have been called negroes it looks like at this time, were in congress. Times are a changing. It is interesting to see how we have got to where we are now.

Now, for my personal history of today. I think I experienced my first moment of 1955 housewife ennui.

I was preparing breakfast as usual, coffee perking away, bacon in the pan (there are days I don't cook bacon, don't worry) set out the table, lunch prepared. The morning continued onwards. Then, at breakfast, across the table from my husband it sort of hit me. I looked down the long mahogany table. The shine of it (from my own hand the previous day) reflecting him as he ate his breakfast. It was, again, Hitchcockian, in that the table seemed to stretch onward and beyond. It was as if I was looking at my husband thru a pair of binoculars backwards. I looked down at my own plate, untouched. Dry toast points, brittle and mocking. My one strip of bacon, snearing at me with it's congealed grin. My black coffee, perfectly still. I imagined I could hear the water drip in the kitchen, though I am sure I didn't. Yet, there it was. Drip, drip...drop. Into the solidifying fat in the pan. The dishes from breakfasts preparation piled in there, like stones upon a grave. Then, I went thru the checklist of what my morning would contain: do the dishes. clean the counter. wipe down the stove. sweep the floor. I had done it every day for somtime now. It all seemed so pointless. I returned my gaze to my husband who was saying somthing to me. I wondered, 'what point is there to anything. What did it matter if the mattress got flipped or the sheets were ironed. Who cares if my dressing table is tidyed, so I can find my cold cream at night. Who cares.' It was almost overwhelming, the whole moment. And yet, as quick as it came, it's as if time speed back up and my husband was asking me if I was alright.

I wasn't sure.

For that brief moment, as all of us do, no matter our job our what century we live in, we wonder what are we doing, is it worth it, why am I here?

Then, Doris Day saved me.

I have a cd of old radios shows and music playing in the morning and I can hear it in the dinning room. Doris Day singing Que Sera Sera. "whatever will be will be, the futures not ours to see" so says the song. How true. So simple. Then I remembered, how nice it is to slide into clean ironed sheets at night. To have my current novel by the bedside and fresh water in the clean carafe, covered with a cup to keep out the dust, just in case I get thirsty in the night. The joy of opening the drawer in my vanity and knowing my makeup is there on the right. There, on the left, is the little metal box with the sailboat on that my mother in law gave me, it was her mothers, that I keep my hair pins in. The way it feels to run my hand along the just polished dinning room table, neat as a pin. These are mundane things, but they are important to me and my husband at this moment in time. It might be 1955 or 2055, but the daily task of living is what matters. And right now, order, tidyness, red nails, lipstick hat and gloves before I go out, seams straight, patterns cut out and pinned to fabric, lunch at the old diner with friends, cribbage. All of these things are apart of who I am and what I will be for this year.

I think as modern people we have been taught to analyize so much from birth that we have talked ourselves out of happiness. "This is too simple, it can't make you happy. What is happy". we always question. And I don't want to stop, for I feel that questioning IS tantamount to learning, but if I am sitting in my dressing gown in curlers buffing my nails while my husband is dressing to take me out to dinner, I am gonna love that moment for what it is. I am not going to doubt my own purpose. If polishing the dinning room table makes me happy, dammit, then I'm gonna enjoy it!

Now, yesterdays accomplishments included, finishing all of my laundry and ironing (though I worked on it thru the day. Even after dinner and dessert, I had to go finish making the bed and folding towels). I completed a dark grey wool circle skirt that I am now wearing. That felt wonderful to know I had made it on my own and now I was able to include it in my growing wardrobe. I organized my dressing table. I made a wonderful dinner, (potatos au gratin and fried steak and green beans) After we watched "The Martha Ray" show, I read more of the man in the grey flannel suit and researched more magazines. And, of course, I slid into clean wrinklefree sheets and slipped into satisfied sleep.

So, today I will be a 'lady who lunches' though it will hardly be anything fancy. Two of my vintage friends and I are getting dolled up for some shopping and then lunch at the good ole' mill pond diner. Here is a pic, it looks bleak I know, but it's an authentic diner and I will get some shots from inside, if I can remember my camera.
Have a good day all.
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