When she was born, women used binding for birth cords and were told that putting a baby on a schedule was most important. Fresh air and sunshine everyday were keys to keeping healthy. How to discipline children was a major theme of motherhood. How to keep a house and how to be a good wife were themes she was raised on. When she was growing up as a child in '30s and '40s books were treasured. When we are together, we talk about the now and the present mostly, my mother and I.
But perhaps we're missing an important conversation in talking about cultural changes between the women who have shaped us and the women we've produced and the women we have become. Now that her granddaughters are maturing into grown women. The Chinese writing for Then and Now illustrates the idea of character bounded by these changes. What is her Then and Now? What is mine, what is our next-gen of females take on what mattered in the past and what matters at the moment and what will matter over time?
It is more than the cultural moment, this conversation. What has brought us to the point where Sex & The City draws women of a certain age out in groups, Facebook time is more than face-to-face time, the sexism some have dwelled on so stridently with the run of a women for president, and what threads run through our female lines and what threads fray out with time or with technology? Are we different structurally? Has the essence of female-hood mutated?
Today she is hitting her mid-70s and she's seen many changes. Her grandmothers were among the first generation of women to seek professional degrees yet instilling character in the children and exhibiting self-discipline were high-ranking values defining daily living. She, like the women in her family before her, defines culture as refinement and considers a well-cultured person to be an important character trait. She gave up the girdle. She, like the women before her, found much to embrace outside the home yet understood the home to be the well-spring of the family and the place where hospitality is most meaningful. She, like the women before her, cherishes her life-long friendships and girlfriends. She has given much thought to what is important in life. The autobiography of Benjamin Franklin was a fundamental book in defining how she would live her life and her Bible is a living book and the most constant presence from her birth to her present.
Yesterday my husband called his mother for an important conversation about an interpretation of the past. It made me think that these conversations are ones that should be written down in an era where we don't write letters anymore. The laundry line of my mother's early days is the Facebook/MySpace of her granddaughters -- the place where any peering acquaintance can try to grasp the private presentation of the personal self in a drive-by sort of way.
Then and now and the idea of the female self in relation to ourselves and our families and our world. What is the same, what has changed besides the fact that Hillary broke the dress code barriers of Congress and the Wall Street Journal this week took a long column to discuss panty hose and the office dress code. The girdle is long gone but female bonding isn't. Hmmm. What else.