Then and Now Essay
Then and Now
“I was married and had two children already. We didn’t have a television in our house. We worked every day from the time woke up until the time we put the girls to bed every night. I don’t even remember my 21st birthday. ” In a few weeks, Lena will be celebrating her 91st birthday with her friends and family, although if you remind her of her age she’ll jokingly tell you to stop calling her old. Lena uses a cane to help her get around these days, but she still remembers what it was like to spend every day hard at work on her family’s farm.
She’s seen nearly an entire century, and some days, Lena cannot believe how the world has changed. “When I was 21, it was 1937. I got married three years before that, when I was 18. I had my first child when I was 19 and my second when I was 20. I had another beautiful little girl when I was 22. We were a real family, not like some of the families you see today,” says Lena. One of the main problems Lena sees in the world today is the high divorce rate. She says that families are not cohesive units as they once were. “It’s like every man for himself.
Divorce was something that I never even considered. You just didn’t. Even if you weren’t always happy, you were a family and you had kids. You stayed together and worked on things and it worked out in the end. ” Family in the 1930s and 1940s meant something much more than what it means today, in Lena’s opinion. She says the divorce did not break up most of the families in her neighborhood—war did. “Some of our men never came back. Divorce wasn’t a factor. War made us thankful for what we had. Infidelity wasn’t a real problem either. Girls liked having a man to wait for.
It was a thing of pride. Divorce and cheating happened, yes. But not like today. Today, it’s a normal part of most marriages to deal with it. When I got married, neither of us ever even considered the possibility that we’d get divorced. ” She says that her marriage had its share of problems, but they worked through them. “What people don’t realize today is that it is unlikely to be head over heels in love with a man for your entire life. That fades away, but it doesn’t mean you have to split apart. Your love matures and you are responsible for a marriage.
A marriage is about more than puppy love. It’s teamwork. I didn’t love my husband in the same way I did on our wedding night forever. The love changes and you take care of each other. ” Lena and her husband, Louis, were married for 52 years before he passed away. She says that the marriage was planned while she was still in high school and was mostly her father’s idea, because Louis, ten years older than she was, had a successful farm not far from her parents’ house. For Lena and Louis, dating was much different than it was now.
“We would do respectable things together, like eat at the diner down the road from my house or go to the town’s carnival in the summer. Today, you see girls and boys doing wild things like drinking at bars together and even spending the night at each other’s houses. When we were dating it was more formal. We still had fun, but dating wasn’t about seeing how many men you could kiss. It was about finding that one man that you liked kissing enough to marry. Louis is the only man I ever kissed. He could provide for me as well. Marriage depended on that, not just love. ”
Today, Lena thinks that too many young adults are “playing the field” when it comes to dating. She reflects that this is because marriages are usually put off until much older. “It’s a lack of responsibility sometimes. It’s also sometimes a need to have a career. I didn’t want a career. Almost no girls I knew wanted to work. We wanted to get married and have babies. That was our work. It was what everyone did and it was what we wanted,” she says. Dating, therefore, was more like a job interview, unlike today when most people date for fun until they are ready to settle down.
“The problem with the dating world today is also that dating implies sex to men and young women,” says Lena. She often finds herself disgusted at what she sees college-aged girls wearing and does not understand the appeal. “To us, sex was a gift you gave your husband. No one was ‘sexual’ in the sense that they are today. Sure you had your exceptions to that. There were gentlemen’s clubs in my day too. But sex wasn’t a hobby. Not everyone was a virgin on their wedding nights, but if you did have sex before marriage, you sure as heck didn’t flaunt it or usually even admit it.
” Lena feels that today’s society makes sex appealing and casual instead of special and private like it once was. Of course, many things other than family, dating, and sex have changed since Lena was the age of college students today. She herself didn’t attend a college, but instead worked on her husband’s farm. “Girls didn’t go to college most of the time. We didn’t want to. ” In fact, where Lena was from, most of the boys didn’t go to college either. She says that she graduated with about 30 kids in her class, and about 10 of them went to college. She thinks that one of them might have been female.
“It wasn’t really a sexist thing. It wasn’t like people thought girls weren’t smart enough. It was just that you wanted to get out of school and have a family, and you couldn’t really do that if you went to college. It was our own choice most of the time. ” She also says that college was very expensive, so only girls who didn’t plan on having a family ever went to college. Otherwise, it would be like throwing money away, because girls did not have both a family and a career. She says that the war really changed that because women were forced to do men’s work while they were off fighting.
After that, gender roles began to change, because women found that they were not only capable to do men’s jobs, but they liked doing men’s jobs. Lena says she was fortunate that her husband wasn’t drafted, but that she knows of many wives in her neighborhood who got jobs to help support their families and the war effort. “Today, you can see a female doctor, a female dentist, and a female lawyer, no problem. Women were always strong and powerful, but they used to just show that by being mothers. Now, super-moms have their families and their jobs. ”
Lena thinks that this is both good and bad. While she admits that the changing gender roles have helped put the most qualified people in the right roles regardless of gender, she also thinks that it has helped to contribute to the high divorce rate. When Lena first married Louis, she made his meals every day, mended his clothing, cleaned the couples’ house, and helped him in any way that he needed help. Today, she finds that women simply don’t have the time to do that. Lewis provided her with financial and physical security. Today, she finds that women simply don’t need a man to do that.
Subject: Knows Best,
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 19 April 2017
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