Posts Tagged ‘personal’

I must say, I am looking forward to the year 2013. 2012 was not a spectacular year for me overall, and I figure 2013 is bound to be better by default. However, some amazing things happened last year.

  • My oldest and dearest friend got married! I’m so happy for these two and I was honored to be involved in their wedding.
  • I learned a lot professionally from my current position. Granted, most of it was what-not-to-do and how to handle less-than-great situations; but now I’m more prepared.
  • I did pretty well on my 2012 resolutions. I resolved to exercise regularly and widdle down my credit card debt. I can honestly say that I never went a full week without exercising at least once. I admit, however, that I need to work on a better schedule. While I am not credit-card-debt free, I did make a sizable dent, and hopefully I can take care of that this year. (Although I probably need a better paying position first.)
  • I read well over 9,502 pages! I only counted the completed and reviewed books for this blog, not including professional material and books started. I’m going to track my pages read this year as well. It’s fun to see the progress.

I only have two official resolutions for next year:

  1. Learn to knit socks. It seems like all good knitters know how to do this, but I failed at my attempt. Fortunately, I got good instruction books for Christmas, and I got some lovely yarn on a year-end sale. I’m going to make this happen.
  2. Break the 10,000 pages read of completed works. I’m a slow reader, but I got awfully close last year.

I have some things I want to work on/tweak in the coming twelve months.

  1. Come up with a manageable, consistent exercise schedule.
  2. Obtain another job. I do love my profession, and have a fondness for my current position (as mentioned.) Unfortunately, I’m not terribly fond of the locale, nor am I fond of the pay and general lack of respect and support from the community. It’s starting to wear me thin.
  3. Keep working on that debt. It will be slow but hopefully steady.
  4. Work on corresponding with far-flung friends. I do love all of my friends, but it’s hard to stay connected since we are all scattered to the wind.
  5. I’ll be attempting knitted items for the holidays next year. Like reading, I’m a slow knitter, so we’ll see how this goes.

So there you have it, folks! Do you have any new year’s resolutions, or things to tweak in twelve months time?

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I might have mentioned in passing that I work in a library. It’s a great job. I’m particularly proud of my profession despite the fact that most people, for example my brother-in-law, have no real grasp of what I do all day long. (“Why do you need a master’s degree to check books out to people?” is a question I get on a regular basis. Le sigh.)

However, as with every occupation, there are downsides. One in particular for my job is that I love books! I love reading books(though not always in their entirety.) I adore delving into a well-written novel or learning something from non-fiction. I love the feel of books; new books with crisp paper and fragile old things which have yellowed from love and light. I especially enjoy the small of books. When I do go out into the rows of books to find something, I often take a moment to crack a spine and inhale. Since I like art, as well, I also have a fondness for book cover art. I like to see how books are marketed and presented in an age when so many of us judge a book by its cover. (You do it, too; admit it.) I love talking to people about books. I gather great joy from watching faces light up when they get that books they’ve been waiting on for months, maybe years if the author is particularly slow. Or how some people cannot wait to get home or check it out and plop down on the floor to peruse a passage or two.
City, public library
You may now be thinking, “Where is this downside?” But didn’t you just read?! I love everything about books! It’s terribly distracting. I like to stay professional and attempt to limit my book-sniffing to only once a day, but it doesn’t always work. I’m almost certain it takes me twice as long as it should to order books because I want to read the tagline, then the synopsis, then the excerpt, and so on and so forth. After being exposed to so many potentially fantastic volumes, my to-read list if off the charts and growing by the day! While I have no trouble taking books out of the library’s circulation collection, I inevitably want to take many of them home with me. (99% of the time I do not in favor of passing the books along to our Friends of the Library used book sale. But it’s a struggle every time.) I definitely have an excuse for talking to random strangers about books, but it does become slightly problematic when there’s a line and I still really want to recommend a certain title.All in all, I really love my job. Even though the bookish portion is only about 40-50% of what I do on a daily basis, it’s a fabulous 40-50%. The other 50% or so isn’t bad either. I get to teach classes, write (usually grants, but that’s not so bad) and generally help people out. True, there’s about 10% that involves less-than-stellar people with less-than-polite attitudes, and employees that may not be up to snuff. However, 90% job satisfaction is pretty darn good.

I write all of this because this is the season to be thankful for all of the good in one’s life. I hope everyone else derives as much joy from their paycheck as I do.

Do you have a job you love and want an excuse to brag? Or maybe just more questions about mine. Either way, I’d love to hear from you.

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A quick apology everyone, because I have not posted here in quite some time. I have not because my streak of reading ADD has continued and I’ve not actually finished a book yet.

Books I’ve started only to put down after some time include but are probably not limited to:

King, Kaiser Tsar by Catrine Clay

To End All Wars by Adam Hochschild

Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff

The Alienist by Caleb Carr

I did re-read some of Doyle’s Holmes short stories, and I’ve been boning up on professional literature (because I’m currently job-searching.) While all of the above books were good in their own way, they did not hold my scattered attention long enough for me to finish. Just for the record, Kristoff’s novel and Clay’s non-fiction showed promise. I just wasn’t really in the mood.

Luckily, I had a conversation with a lovely library user. She had come in to pick up a book that she had been waiting on for years. It was the second book in Ken Follet’s Century Trilogy. I’ve heard a lot about these books. (The first and now the second one made it to the bestseller list, after all.) Unfortunately, the prospect of committing to a trilogy with each book coming in at over 900 pages is always a bit daunting.  But this nice lady who happens to share my love of good historical fiction, couldn’t stop talking about Mr. Follet’s writing.

I didn’t get to check out the book, because apparently, two other people also had the same brilliant idea. So, I figured when it came back in, maybe after some of the hoopla had died down and I remembered it, I would read the first installment, Fall of Giants.

Fall of Giants by Ken Follet


As luck would have it, I ran out of professional material on my plane ride from an interview (cross your fingers, readers!) and what should I see sitting on the shelves of the airport bookstore? On sale and in handy paperback? Ken Follet’s Fall of Giants.

I’m not that far into the book yet, (only 168 pages so far) but I’m far enough in to tell you that it is well worth the hype. The only reason I’m not reading and typing this post is because 1) I felt guilty for not posting in so long; 2)I got vexed with a character’s situation and needed to cool down a spell before continuing. (I get overly-emotionally attached, remember?)

So, here’s to hopefully ending my reading ADD turmoil. And I wish you all Stateside a very happy Thanksgiving!

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My Life is a TLC Song

The other day, I was walking to the train from my house, minding my own business, on my way to work. I passed the local dry-cleaners, the Irish pub where the locals drink Guinness and watch basketball, and waited for traffic to stop so I could cross the street. By the time I made it to the end of the crosswalk and rounded the corner of the bus stop, I heard it. The catcall. A guy who thinks he’s fly, hangin’ out of the passenger side of his best friend’s ride, trying to holler at me.
Oh, Oh.

The car wasn’t even nice. It was a beat up, old, brown clunker from the 1970s. Furthermore, this was at 8:30 in the morning on a Wednesday in a residential neighborhood known for its quiet and respectable families and young professionals.

Plus, I was wasn’t even wearing provocative clothing! I had on dress slacks, a Victorian-esque lace shirt up to my neck, and moccasins (don’t judge, the heels come on at the office). I was looking like class and he was looking like trash, and somewhere between the surprise at processing a catcall and dredged up disdain for men everywhere before my morning coffee, I realized that I had broken the fourth wall (or whatever the acoustic counterpart of that is) and had fallen into a TLC song.

All day at work, all I could think about was this pre-commute event and how disgusting men are. Do they think it makes women feel good to be yelled at with lewd phrases, sexualizing them to a walking piece of meat? They can not think this kind of behavior will elicit anything but at least an eye roll and at most an angry bout of man-hating and disillusionment of the notion that women are seen with respect and equality in the 21st century.

Then I started to do a little fishing online (it was slow at work), researching how other women feel about the catcall. Predictable, I found in other blog posts, reader comments, and lifestyle articles on various news sites that most women think the catcall is either vulgar and demeaning or annoying but ignorable. What did surprise me were the comments I saw saying that women feel buoyed up by what they considered male appreciation of their body. Some women think catcalls are flattering. Not that these women would stop and run off with the men doing the catcalling for a date and/or roll in the hay, but some say catcalling puts a smile on their face and makes them feel empowered by their feminine charms.

I respect everyone’s opinion, but I still can’t understand how some women enjoy what I find to be a horrible but inevitable experience. Maybe these women are not getting the same kind of comments I’m getting such as the three examples below:

  • “Ooooooo girl, yum, gimme, gimme!” (while banging on the door of the car) – last Wednesday
    -Yum? Really?
  • “Oh girl, you thick!”- last year
    – Thank you for pointing out that I am “thick.” I don’t like to be reminded that I have what my family calls “the Murrin hips.”
  • “Hey, you in the black t-shirt! Oh, give me some of that, yeah, unnhh” – Age:16, Location: Washington, DC, Parties Present: MY PARENTS
    – Underaged. And, thanks for giving my Mother a heart attack.

All of my catcalls have been made by low-class, sloppy looking cretins. Perhaps if a preppy-looking man in a business suit catcalled me outside of my office, I’d have a better outlook on this male tradition. Yet, it seems like the only kind of men who catcall are the scuzzy undesirables whose comments make women feel less “hot, sexy woman with the power to turn heads” and more “piece of ass that I’d like to fuck.”

Men need to get their act together when they catcall and class it up a bit. A “hey, beautiful” or even a whistle wouldn’t bother me like the trashy sexual comments do. Yes, I can see the other side of the coin. I have turned a few heads while walking by a construction crew on their lunch break while wearing a red dress, and I felt pretty sassy.* Otherwise though, men should expect nothing but derision from the recipients of their remarks. Do men actually think shouting at women from the street is going to work? I’d like to know the success rate of catcalling in getting a woman’s prolonged attention.

So what do you think? Catcalls: flattering or flustering?

And with that, I leave you my inspiration for this post and a piece of classic 90’s awesomeness:

* The stereotype come to life. And yes (because I know you were wondering), the construction workers were hot burly young men. Girls look too; we are just more subtle and classy about how we do it.

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We write a lot about history here, but no necessarily our personal history. I am a firm believer that if we pay attention to the lessons of history, we can learn from them. In that spirit, here is a portion of my history, and I hope it helps someone.
I once dated a real jerk, let’s call him Jerkface Root. Don’t get me wrong, he had good qualities, too. He was brave, good-looking, intelligent, and funny. Unfortunately, he was also a liar, inconsiderate, selfish, and had a temper. For a while our relationship was good. Yes, I saw the bad qualities he possessed, but I thought it had to do with his time in war. I thought those unpleasant tendencies would ease up after he spent more time stateside. After all, I’m not one to shirk from a challenge, and I have a pretty nasty temper myself. We fought occasionally. (Not physically, mind you. True, Root had some PTSD issues. However, I only ever felt he would actually hit me once, and to his credit he restrained himself.) We had a lot of good times, too. Most people really liked him. Most people thought we worked very well together.
We talked about our future, about getting married. As we talked a funny thing began to happen, I noticed that the more we talked about our future the more it seemed like his future. He had very specific ideas about his life and very little concern about what that meant for mine. We fought.
However, at this point, about two years in, I was convinced that we were meant to be together. I actually started thinking about different ways to change my plans to match his. He never budged.
Everything shifted when I spent a summer in a foreign land in which I did not know a soul. I was happy. I realized I didn’t actually need Root for my life to be fulfilling. I could be happy all by my onsie. Still, I wanted to make it work with Root. I did love him after all. When I returned to the US, I began to stop budging myself. I decided that if he wanted a life with me, he would have to work with me instead of me just giving in constantly. I really dug in my heels. We began to fight a lot more.
Right before a holiday celebration we had a doozy of a fight about his unwavering position, and how that would absolutely not be possible with what I wanted to do, and couldn’t he just move an inch to help me out. He didn’t. I gave him an ultimatum: he had to either change and compromise with me, or he would lose me. I gave him three weeks.
He did not change. We broke up.
For a while after breaking up we maintained a friendship. He saw other people. I saw other people. We remained on good terms and even went camping together. (Separate tents and all, no worries.)
Twice after we broke up, he asked me back. He said he had changed. He said he wanted a life with me. Twice I believed him. Twice he shattered my heart.
I was wrong. He was still the same inflexible, inconsiderate person he had always been, and probably always will be.
Do me a favor, if you find yourself in my position, get out when you first notice these inhospitable traits. Get out before you waste four years or more of your life on a man who does not deserve you. Because whoever he might be, he is not worth re-directing your life when he would not do the same.

This is just my side of the story. I shouldn’t have to point out that I’m no saint. I have not-so-good qualities in my own personality. However, in my defence, I have managed to remain on friendly speaking terms with all of my other ex-boyfriends, which I figure is a pretty good character reference.

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I’ll admit, I’m not the greatest at keeping up with the goings-on of the world. Considering I have a B.A. in journalism, it’s probably a good thing I never went on to pursue a career in journalism. There are, however, a few things that I keep watch on–namely gay and reproductive rights.

Today, I came across this petition and letter. Personally, I’m shocked that the Susan G. Koman corporation revoked funding for Planned Parenthood, based on new company rules that exclude supporting foundations under investigation from the government. I don’t care what your views are on abortions or birth control, I think it’s amazing that the Susan G. Koman, a BREAST cancer research and funding organization, stopped funding another organization that provides medical services to underserved and/or insurance-less women in America. These medical services include Breast exams.

I really, really, wish the people wielding the power in these situations would stop and think about what they are doing and saying. Imagine you lost your job and no longer had insurance. Where do you (or your wife/daughter) go for their yearly pelvic exam? Not the doctor’s office, because that would cost far more than you can afford at this point in time. In these situations most women turn to Planned Parenthood. Yes, there are other organizations, and they are just as important. However, Planned Parenthood has a history and a following. You might think you’ll never need them, but, come times of trouble, you’ll know at least one place to turn.

I know this from experience. I won’t go into detail, but I had a scare while in school. I was still under my parents health insurance, but I couldn’t find a doctor’s office near me that accepted that particular insurance. I could go to the clinic at school, but since I didn’t have the school’s health insurance the visit would cost $80-$100. Being a poor, lowly student, I couldn’t afford that. The first place I turned was Planned Parenthood. Without that option I shudder to think of what would happen (nothing health wise, well maybe mental health. It turns out I was fine, but I was getting really stressed  and scared).

In my opinion taking away organizations like Planned Parenthood (once PP goes away, you know smaller groups will slowly die) will bring us back to the days of yore. Yes, we at 3 Bluestockings love history and historical fiction. But do we really want to live in those periods? Sure they have some advantages, but there are several disadvantages. Like lack of suffrage. Terrible treatment of women in lower positions–if you watched Downton Abbey the past few weeks you’ll know what I’m talking about (although it can be argued that this problem still exists today, see this video about slut shaming). Taking away women’s rights would bring us back in time, and not just to the turn of the century and earlier. Have you ever watched Mad Men? Granted it’s a fantastic show, but I cannot watch it without feeling for my grandmother, my mother and her sisters. It’s unfathomable to me that my mother was a teenager at time when sexual innuendoes and what-we-call-harrasment today were an everyday occurrence.

My mom worked at a factory before going to college, and once I asked her about Mad Men and whether or not the office interactions are accurate, she told me this story: Apparently there was this foreman type guy at the factory who would ask the female workers to sit in his lap and “see what comes up.” As a child of the late 80s, I am totally appalled at this type of behavior. What scares me most, is that this interaction happened around 1969. That’s only 43 years ago. Technically, 1969 does not fit our (mine, Sapphire and Cornflower’s) definition of bygone times.

I have a really hard time accepting the view that it’s okay to deny basic human rights to someone just because they can’t afford health insurance, and yet this, along with rampant sexual harassment was the norm only 40 years ago. We’ve come so far, yet we could fall back so easily. The first step is denying women basic health rights. Which include breast exams, which if you ask me requires an experienced medical hand. Breasts are naturally sort of lumpy…  Also, cancer and STDs terrify me, and if we got everyone in the United States to get tested regularly I truly believe the world would be a better place.

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I think Indigo and Cornflower would agree that we all judge a book by its cover. I know, where would the axiom “don’t judge a book by its cover” come from if there weren’t some truly fine works of literature lurking beneath hideous or just plain boring bindings? But, everyone does it, so I refuse to feel ashamed by wanting my bookshelves to look nice, however nit-picky it may sound.

I have been guilty of laying a book back on the table at Barnes & Noble because a synopsis clashes with the cover illustrations and have often walked by books with silly, odd, and strange covers. Some covers inspire embarrassment (Romance, I’m looking at you), or deter me from giving the book a chance because the artwork screams a particular genre too loudly. At the other end of the spectrum, I have picked up books in the past with gorgeous, sumptuous covers, only to find that the writing is mediocre.

Like Goldilocks, I’m looking for the cover that is just right. Something that is evocative of the story itself, but aesthetically pleasing. We live in a visual world, with images thrown at us with increasing frequency and speed in our digital environment, which is why I think judging a book by its cover is not always a bad thing. There is a proliferation of literature available in even the tiniest of bookstores and with an increased visual literacy, covers only serve to enhance the reader’s visceral reaction to what is essentially a stack of paper. Will I be able to spot the historical fiction novels in the overly broad “fiction” section at the bookstore? You bet. Will I be able to instinctively skim right over the science fiction books without looking at the signpost on the stacks? Without a doubt. Without pigeonholing genres to a certain type of reader, specific, explicit cover art is a good thing. It allows us to see what kind of book a tome will be without having to read the back cover. I know I do not like hard-core science fiction, so, I avoid books with mechanical artwork or robots (cliché, I know) on the cover.

On the other hand, I have encountered really spectacular cover art that both describes the kind of book it graces and brings interest to new legions of readers. Take, for example, The Magicians and Mrs. Quent by Galen Beckett.

This book is definitely fantasy, with a main plot involving magicians, as the title suggests, and the fight between evil and good, darkness and light. Yet, it is also historical fiction. Granted, the story takes place in a parallel universe world, that has different rules of physical boundaries and planetary motions, but essentially is a hybrid of Regency and Victorian England. The cover says it all: woman in Empire waist gown, mysterious crystal ball with a view of a stark, unnerving landscape, and rolled up scroll. The woman on the cover suggests the historic period, Regency style society, manners, and culture, while the crystal ball reads fantasy. The scroll lends a reference to some kind of secret missive, making my mind wander to spies, clandestine meetings, and political intrigue.

The Magicians and Mrs. Quent delivers everything the cover promises. What’s more, the cover draws in a varied crowd of people who might not normally read the fantasy genre. The appeal to female readers with a woman in period garb on the cover art along with the foliate overlay on the title draw in readers who might read Romance or historical fiction. After doing a little research, I even found out that Galen Beckett is a female pen name for a male author. The cover reads female, but of three protagonists, two are male and the story appeals to both sexes.

I guess what I mean is that covers can be expressive, are an important part of the marketing process for literature, and after much circumlocution, I come to my point. I enjoy adding books to my library that have pretty covers, artwork that compliments the tone and plot of a book, and dust jackets that provide visual continuity on my shelves. Which is why I was much angered to by the new publication of Agatha Christie’s works.

In my lifelong quest to read every one of Christie’s books, I have bought paperbacks of her books for years. They have always been mass market publications from St. Martin’s (an imprint of Macmillan) Minotaur Mysteries. Observe, the cover for And Then There Were None to the left. This version of Christie’s books fits nicely on my bookshelf with other mass market paperbacks. I own a lot of Christie’s books, all of uniform size, texture, and artistic tone. So, imagine my dismay when I walked into Barnes & Noble, only to discover that my collection would be forever changed! My usual supplier of this mystery maven no longer stocks Minotaur copies, but HarperCollins printings of Christie’s works. While I must admit that the cover art is superior (see right), and the binding easier to read from, the visual and organizational continuity of my personal library has gone to pot! Out of necessity, my books are roughly arranged by genre and then size, but with a trade paperback size, these new Christie books will have to live separate from their comrades. Furthermore, glossy finish paper has been traded for matte, moody, atmospheric artwork swapped for symbolic still-life*, and the sense of order snatched from my life. I know that I am being slightly anal about the uniformity of my book collection, but I’m sure I’m not alone. Has there been any book series or favorite author with changing cover art that really irks you?

* Of course, And Then There Were None is not a good example here. See Three Act Tragedy.

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Did anyone else do this/have this done to them as a kid? Let me paint you a picture. Shy-ish first grader is sitting against the bookshelf in the first grade classroom reading, when the boy who eats glue comes over and asks, “what are you eating under there?” And since the girl isn’t actually sitting under anything, she says, “under where?” and then of course, the boy shrieks with laughter and shouts, “she’s eating underwear!” Fun times in first grade..

Anyways, underwear is on the forefront of my mind recently, because I continually commit the grave panty line fashion faux pas. I think I’ve figured out why this keeps happening to me, and I believe it’s because I’m not used to wearing dress pants. Mind you, in my mind any pant this is not made of denim is a dress pant. The obvious solution is to wear a thong, but I hate thongs. Who wants a piece of dental floss riding up their lady parts? Besides, it’s been proven that continual thong wearing increases your chance of yeast infections. No fun. On another, yet related note, women who wear tight pants (i.e. jeggings, leggings, too-tight trousers) are more likely to have ingrown hairs and other irritations in the bikini area.

I don't know why the other two stewardesses were cut out when I pasted the URL and I don't know who this pilot is, because he isn't cute Dean. But it still shows the glamour of the show.

Due to these negative side effects of today’s stylish clothing I find myself fantasizing about the day when flowy skirts were de rigor. Or even when skirts in general were common place, preferably with supportive undergarments which might mask any lingering panty lines, like in the 1960s. My new mother-daughter ritual is watching Pan Am, and a girdle check is part of the standard  beauty inspection. Perhaps modern ideals took over, but the characters wear pretty tight skirts and there are no lines, so I must conclude that the actresses cheat with anachronistic thongs or girdles actually decrease those embarrassing lines.

I digress. The history of underwear is fascinating. How civilizations went from wearing loincloths to layers upon layers of garments–chemise, petticoats, corsets–just to name a few. I suppose the change in our undergarments, as well as the change in our outergarments has a lot to do with society’s view on what is appropriate. Back in the day, a woman couldn’t show her ankles yet, today, we see much more. Just watch an episode of Jersey Shore for proof. However, while today’s short hemlines are new, in certain eras, showing an expanse of bosom was all the rage. Personally, I don’t mind showing off a bit of cleavage (or a lot if you’re my mother), but even these grand ladies show more skin than I am comfortable with. Men also, went through a phase, thanks to King Henry, of stuffing their codpieces*. Perhaps this is why men have such issues with size of their penises?

Anyway, underwear changes with the socially acceptable outerwear of the time. For example, by the middle ages the loin cloth served only as a genital cover, while new pants or, chausses covered the legs(1). Women and men wore other undergarments to protect their outerwear from their dirty skin, while women wore petticoats for warmth and protection. Men wore something similar to the modern shirt(2), while women wore chemises(3). Fun, or not so fun, fact, women menstruated right into their chemises(4). There was no device or special garment to protect their clothing. It wasn’t until Bloomers entered the fashion world in the 1850s that female undergarments as we know them today came into existence(5).

After the sexualization of the 1920s and the flapper, lingerie entered the fashion world(1). I remember reading and watching Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day and being astounded by the existence of a lingerie fashion show. Looking back, it was probably in the early years of undergarment acceptance. Previously corsets and bloomers and whatever else fell under the “unmentionable” category. And, by the 196os the bikini underwear hit stores and the thong in the late 1980s-early 90s(1).

While I have no desire to wear a corset I do sometimes wish we could go back to the days of girdles. I suppose I could wear little girl’s bike shorts under my clothing like Zooey Deschanel in The New Girl.* I tried really hard to find a clip with this specific part, but unfortunately the only way I can post it is through not-so-legal channels. So check out Hulu or hope a family member DVRd The New Girl!


* What’s your new favorite TV show? I just mentioned mine!


1. http://www.amazing-planet.net/history-of-underwear.php

2. http://www.maletribe.com/mensunderwear/historyofmensunderwear.html (renaissance)

3. http://elizabethcbunce.wordpress.com/historical-costuming/18th-century-middle-class-ensemble/shift-undergarments/

4. http://www.mum.org/underhis.htm

5. http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org/entry.php?rec=42

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If there is one thing I hate more than my unpaid student loans, it is being sick, especially during my favorite time of year. It’s fall, the weather is perfectly cool and breezy, and I’m stuck inside with a fever, chills, runny nose, sore throat, and queasy stomach. Every time I’m sick, I pull out the box of lotion infused tissues, herbal teas designed for specific ailments (Throat Comfort for a raspy, scratchy throat, Breath Deep for respiratory relief and coughing, or Cold Season, for general symptoms1), cough drops, homeopathic remedies, plain, unscented chap stick for my dry lips, and extra vitamin C tablets. I have an arsenal of flu-fighting weapons on hand, like any good disaster preparedness kit, because honestly, my immune system leaves a lot to be desired.

So, here I am, in day six of of my illness, high on green tea and vitamin supplements, finally well enough to do more than moan in my bed of pain.2 During the quarantine period, laying in bed, staring at my ceiling, too dazed to even watch television, I had a lot of time to think. With all of the modern conveniences and medical developments, I’m actually really lucky to have my arsenal of cold medicines, et cetera, and to be surviving the flu.

In the big-picture scope of things, modern medicine allows most people to live past childhood, unlike the recent past. In 1900, 25,802 out of 70,867 total deaths were registered for children under the age of five years, just in New York City alone.3 That counts deaths from any number of diseases, many of which are avoided today by vaccines. Furthermore, look at the influenza pandemic of 1918. Worldwide, more people were killed from the Spanish Flu than those in WWI, at between 20 and 40 million victims of the pandemic.

My intent is not to scare you with these statistics of diseased history; I could have just told you to go watch Contagion for a modern take on contagious diseases. I’m just trying to put my own woes into perspective. There were times when you could die from the common cold because it turned into pneumonia or a fever grew fatally high without any Tylenol to bring it down.

Puffs Tissues

Puffs tissues... they're wonderfully soft and have an adorable ad campaign

Beyond the severity of making it to your sixth birthday alive and being able to take medication that allows you to breeze through a fever unscathed, there are the simple sides of a common cold that we take for granted. Take tissues for example. Have you ever used a handkerchief? It sucks. My stepfather, the proper British gentleman that he is, carried around a clean handkerchief with him when he was dating my mother. I was eight or nine, so at first, this quirk of his was entertaining and sated my desire to feel glamorous and Victorian. I had already stolen my grandmother’s lacy vintage handkerchiefs and would play at being a genteel, delicate lady in my dress-up clothes. My illusions were shattered when I actually had to use dear old dad’s hanky.4 I had a cold, we were on a day trip, and my nose was runny. At first, the hanky was a quick fix, with no tissues at hand and I readily accepted the cloth. After a few hours though, the shine wore off my antique adventure in the realm of the sniffles and I had a miserable, wet, handkerchief left. Without getting graphic, just imagine using one tissue when you are sick or having an allergy attack for 12 hours. How would you imagine that would feel? Not nice. Thinking back to times when handkerchiefs and cloth were all that was available, it makes me hope that I never get sent back in time during ragweed season. Lesson one: handkerchiefs are absolutely to be used solely for tears; it is the only glamourous usage.

Beyond tissues, think of all the other modern conveniences like over-the-counter drugs, cough drops, preemptive flu shots and vitamins, and heating pads. People just didn’t have these things in most historic eras. With the wisdom of my thoughts, I can’t believe that Mrs. Bennet sends Jane off in the rain to catch a cold so that she can be nursed at the Bingley estate in Pride and Prejudice! Jane reports her illness in a letter home, and her parents have an exchange about her health afterword:

I find myself very unwell this morning, which, I suppose, is to be imputed to my getting wet through yesterday. My kind friends will not hear of my returning home till I am better. They insist also on my seeing Mr. Jones — therefore do not be alarmed if you should hear of his having been to me — and excepting a sore throat and head-ache, there is not much the matter with me. Yours, &c.”

“Well, my dear,” said Mr. Bennet, when Elizabeth had read the note aloud, “if your daughter should have a dangerous fit of illness, if she should die, it would be a comfort to know that it was all in pursuit of Mr. Bingley, and under your orders.”

“Oh! I am not at all afraid of her dying. People do not die of little trifling colds. She will be taken good care of. As long is she stays there, it is all very well. I would go and see her, if I could have the carriage.”5

Pride and Prejudice, Jane ill in bed

Pride and Prejudice (2005) screen capture

The Bennets always make me laugh, but poor Jane gets stuck with a cold from running around in the rain, looking ragged in front of her suitor. I used to look at women in classic novels and historical fiction books with a bit of disdain. If ladies could fall ill just from getting caught in the rain, they must have some weak constitutions. This opinion changed when I really thought about what kind of a lady I’d be in the 18th or 19th century. With my track record of catching colds, I’d be like Jane or worse, in fact. I’d probably be more of a Miss Anne de Bourgh, between my previous illnesses of pneumonia and mono, my weak immune system toward the common cold, spring and summer allergies, and chronic headaches. Imagining facing all of that without modern comforts makes me cringe. Ever wonder how a woman could be put out of commission for 20 pages, or a whole day in a novel by a headache? Try getting through one without taking Advil, Motrin, or Tylenol. Again, it does not feel wonderful. The few times I’ve tried to ride out a really bad headache, or even a mild one, sans popping pills in hopes of going natural and avoiding the toxic drugs that aren’t good for your body long term, I felt like I was dying. Light sensitivity, throbbing, vice-like pain, and that feeling the next morning I like to call “the headache hangover,” are crippling when there isn’t anything to calm the tension.

I guess my point here is that I’d be one of those delicate ladies hitching up her shawl because she’s afraid to catch a chill, sending word to visitors that she is “in disposed” because of a megrim, or fainting left and right because her corset was too tight (constricting garments + asthma = fainting spell, but hopefully the lithe drooping kind and not the dead-weight, sloppy kind).6 I am not ashamed though. In fact, I have more tolerance and patience for characters in novels and my ancestors who lacked modern medicine. Let’s just be thankful for the things we take for granted.

1 Thank you Yogi Tea for your tasty herbal teas that get me through bouts of the common cold and flu!

2 Alright, I realize I’m being dramatic, but for anyone who knows me, you’ll realize that I don’t cope well with any form of pain or physical discomfort (see also: panic attack / hysterical fit at IV insertion during hospital visit, age: 8).

3 My source for these statistics comes from the CDC’s Mortality Statistics 1900 to 1904. To view the CDC’s website, and other vital statistics from other years, check out the CDC Vital Statistics of the United States.

4 Which was clean, by the way. He washed them and had a set of several backups for laundry day.

5 From chapter 7 of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I would cite my source further, but I only have an iBooks version, which doesn’t give any other information or have page numbers.

6 Fact: I have fainted twice in my life. The second time was the most embarrassing, being in front of about twenty people at my friends wedding rehearsal. Unfortunately, I neither drooped lithely nor dropped dead-weight to get it over with. My faint was more of a stumbling, whirling attempt to stay standing, grasping out toward the other bridesmaids until I was rescued by the FOB and MOH’s date.

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Happy 31st!

One of the cutest love stories I know is that of my parents, who were married 31 years ago today. I’m not going to splash about the details all over the internet (at least not this year,) but suffice to say that my Dad stole my Mom’s heart. Oh yes, he is a sly one my dear Dad. They are still very happily married.

True LoveI’m so glad I have parents who are often embarrassing to be around in public. Happy Anniversary you two!

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