Morning: You wake, if you’re lucky, around ten or eleven o’clock, look to the spot where you know your husband was, but he’s been gone for hours now. Sun streams in through the curtains you bought on sale; they’re made of a sheer fabric, not lace - you are no longer 12. The house is empty save you, the cat, and the dog. The smell of coffee, toast, morning talk shows.


Noon: netflix plays in the background, a glass of water half-gone on the bedside table as you pop a few valiums, sitting on the plush comforter of your bed. You pull on a lilac colored dress, turquoise tights - you haven’t learned to dress in a sophisticated manner, you’re not quite 24. Taking the dog for a walk you hear birds singing, your head is muddled, you feel fine.


Afternoon: a gingham apron, a sink full of soapy water, the stereo playing The Weeknd as you dance around the kitchen washing dishes and cleaning the stove-top. Martinis made for you and only you, a crooked calendar on the wall, windows flung open to let in the fresh air. The bottle of vodka is mostly empty, you’ve started drinking straight from the bottle of vermouth. The archway from the kitchen into the living room is decorated with friends’ Christmas cards, invitations to weddings, graduations, baby showers.


Early evening: your husband is in the living room watching some movie or another while you gab away on the phone, cooking dinner, tossing a scrap of food here or there to your dog. You wonder when your life became so monotonous - your friend crows on the end of the line over the easy life you have. All you see is an empty house, your stained apron, cooking skills that need improvement, a desire to do more with your life.


Night: powder blue lingerie, light green nightie, your ever-loyal pup at your feet. A tree frog is perched outside your window as you stare in the dark at your husband. He’s magnificent, he’s distant, you never thought it would be this way. A fan whirs in the corner, making you pull the blankets tighter around you. You can never sleep, but you won’t take sleeping pills - you refuse to be an addict. On the bathroom counter is a tumbler availed of all its water and an empty valium bottle you have resolved to get refilled in the morning.

Classic Mid-Century Northeastern American Corridor Version, based on my mother/grandmother:

Up every weekday at six-thirty, a half-hour before DH. Use toilet, staring at cat staring at you, who’s also having a squat. Shower and start dressing.

Make breakfast for DH, child (optional) and self. Start first pot of coffee. See DH off with kiss at door, wave as he takes The Car into Town: alternatively, drive him down to the train (with child) station. (A car for you? Ha! Not with our money! Besides, you hate driving. OK, maybe next year we won’t trade in the last one.) Also drop off child, if old enough, and the School Bus doesn't stop anywhere near.

Take up Your Spot, warm some coffee, smoke a cigarette, and hold up your head with your hand, idly sucking a finger. Look at your clipboard, and turn on the radio, where you'll hear a lot of Italian men singers swearing eternal love to you, interspersed with show tunes. Allow child first hour of their two hours of TV time, before chasing them out into the yard where Seymour/Shirley will connect with the local ragamuffins. Make/field phone calls. Your mother, your neighbors, the repair man, the Guy who Sells Fruit off a Truck. Feed cat half can of Calo.

Write down what needs to be done. Make tentative plans for dinner. Curse the fact you have to cook dinner. Write some more stuff onto shopping list. 

Do housework. Maybe the child helps. Tell them to clean their room. Don't tell them how. Later, clean it for them, it's easier than teaching them.

Around eleven, warm up coffee again, read magazine full of articles by working wives-and-mothers who make their living telling other women that being a working wife and mother is just too much trouble. Flip on TV, and watch some ex-Olympic skier tell you that you can have more stamina if you do some moves you swore off after you got pregnant, or an old fat guy in a chef’s hat making "Continental" specialties (…”and for dessert, combine two delectable canned fruits, such as apricots and cherries, with a splash of sherry, and add a puff of sweetened whipped cream.”)in between shilling for the food cannery/freezer or a woman in a satin daydress on a couch interviewing other women in satin daydresses about how ecstatic it is, being married to Italian singers and/or manly, but still gentlemanly actors. You only get three channels, out here. Contemplate sewing project you're doing from a Very Easy Vogue pattern, but don't feel ambitious.

Lunch time! Canned soup and sandwiches. Field a few more phone calls, visitors, and/or salesmen/delivery men.

Get socially dressed, walk to corner grocery store, pick up dinner/make orders/pay last month’s grocery, electric, and oil bill. Pick up child, if at school. Walk to drug store, ignoring child’s pleas to get a comic book/toy/candy, and steering them away from adult-looking paperbacks. Go home and start dinner. Clean off His Spot, lay down evening paper, pipe, slippers, and beverage of choice. Feed cat second half of food. 

Welcome him home with a kiss/pick him up in The Car. Serve him beverage. Have one yourself, then finish cooking/plating dinner as he reads paper. Child watches cartoon show. 

Eat dinner. He talks about his day. You give a precis of all the stuff you learned on the phone. Firm up plans for the weekend and for the child/cat to get her shots.

Wash dishes while he and child watch The News, and one or two (but not three) prime time shows. Clean cat box.Join them after news, put child to bed after early show (about seven thirty or eight), cuddle and watch “adult TV” (either a western, crime, or what would be later called a PG-rated movie). Alternately, watch a comedian/singer host a variety show. Laugh at beatnik/teen sequence where they make fun of folk singing. Isn't that Dylan guy a loser!

Undress, put on face cream, braid or cover hair, put on nightgown and diaphragm, have maintenance sex. 

Sometime between rolling over and sleep, wonder whether it wouldn’t have been better if you’d actually used your college degree in Fashion Design, run away to Provincetown, and set up a boutique, while reading deep books and painting introspective paintings… Well, grass is always greener…

Repeat until death, divorce, or the kid goes to college.


Sorry if this isn't anything like the male fantasy above. Um, want me to describe my school clothes? Back then, the rich were poorer, the poor were richer, and no one wanted to do a frigging thing. I laugh when I hear of women who want to live "the Fifties lifestyle" and bake cakes from a recipe, when a good cake comes from a mix.


Followup:look, i'm trying to be as pleasant as possible, but you really can't say things like that and expect me to sit idly by. number one, my husband doesn't eat breakfast, he gets very sick if he eats within 3 hours of waking up. 2) don't ever say that i don't care for others - you do not know me. i look after my husband and my brother. 3) again, you do not know me. life is hard and you know what? i do what i can. i do what i need to. i have an extensive list of illnesses and i really don't care if you believe me or not. he point i was trying to make is that it's extremely out of line to try to tell someone that the way they live is wrong. or tell me how to handle my marriage. and to imply that i should wait on my spouse hand and foot is a bit ridiculous when the fact that we handle everything pretty equally and in our own way.


Ok. So you're Neo-Pagan. That means a) you're trying to make a new set of cultural rules and/or b) you would like to connect to an older, more traditional, way of doing things. Exactly how do you "look after" your husband, if you're not "waiting on your spouse hand and foot" in the traditional way of showing married love, especially if you're a stay-at-home wife? Any woman past the age of say, 14, has some idea of how to dress "in a sophisticated manner", at least in terms of their general cohort, if not by those of Seventh Avenue. Making your heroine "not yet 24" sounds disingenuous, at best. Sleeping in till noon, waking up to the memory of lace and doing the filmy nightie/pills-and-martini thing (while Enjoying Ill Health) is the quintessential male fantasy/nightmare of the kept woman (if young, thin and pretty enough for hot, steamy sex) or fat, middle-aged slob who's Let Herself Go (if not), demanding chocolates, jewelry, and a maid, while he slaves doing nine-to-five to bring home the bacon (and I've met at least one gay man who's fantasied being just this kind of wife).

This isn't a case of me being judgmental as to how you live your life as much as leaving off any reference to special conditions applying in your case (and also assuming I don't have experience or information about any other mid-century moms than these two, since I also hung out with other kids' moms and read a great deal about other women who were moms in the period.) I didn't talk about how we were a blended family, that I lived with Mayme (her name was Maybelle, and a fine Swedish woman, as well as being my Grandmother) and various aunts as much as "at home", and that my mom and stepdad hated identifying themselves as parents, and often socialized as if I didn't exist. Mom eventually got her car, we gradually stopped using the High Street stores (and the City Department Store) in favor of discount big-boxes and supermarkets. She sewed and designed professionally, and even got to work outside home! However, the routine of life I've detailed above looks to have been pretty much average. If he didn't eat breakfast, you were still expected to get up when he (and your kid) did, when he got home, having ceremonial alcohol, dinner in the works, and at least shown signs that you've shown interest in your appearance and done some work during the day was, well, the social contract, common courtesy, your job!

Somehow, I sense that you've fallen into the trap of the Nineties Young Woman Memoirists, who seeking to refine Real Life into Real Literature, tended towards being both over-personal and over-general without finding the sweet spot. "Recently, young women from professional families have been graduating from Ivy League and Seven Sisters colleges with B and MFA's, having had bouts of depression and substance dependency, now are having problems carving out a post-feminist identity. What can we, as a society, do to foster and sustain such women, in such a way as to keep them in organic raw gluten-free vegan food, sensible pleather footware and apartments near indie bookstores and drinkable sustainably grown coffee and cacao? (Discuss.)" If you added some of the details you alluded to (exactly what are your medical problems? what does your husband do? How does being Neo-Pagan affect your homelife? Why don't you capitalize "I"?) and made the title a bit less of a generalization, you might come off as sounding a little less fake. And lot less whiny.

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