funny isn't it
by jeanne charters
I was 15 years old back in Ohio, I told my mother that I wanted
to be a newspaper columnist when I grew up. She said, "No,
Jeanne, that's a job for men." This was in the fifties
decade that looks so great in retrospect. My daughters think
it was a perfect time and wish they had been young then.
That's because they grew up on "Leave it to Beaver"
and "Father Knows Best", TV shows that glorified the
simplicity of life in small-town America. Those programs revealed
the fifties as a time of blissful satisfaction when everyone
respected each other and all problems were solved by parents
within 30 minutes of raising their ugly little crew-cutted heads.
Folks don't often talk about the underbelly of the fifties,
although the movie Pleasantville did, in my opinion, a pretty
Women really did wear housedresses all day and spent their time
cleaning already spotless homes, while preparing three full
meals each day for their "hubbies" and kids. They
were truly judged for the shine on their floors and furniture,
and were neither required nor requested to think. Does this
sound good to you in this time of two-job families, kids in
multiple sports, all of which require transportation both ways,
and meals grabbed on the fly or at a fast food joint?
Yes, I'll bet it does; but let's look at that underbelly a little
Men worked women stayed home. Men walked in at 5:30pm
and sat at the kitchen table waiting to be served their dinner.
My father would as likely sign up for a shot on a space ship
to the moon as get out of his chair and pour his own coffee.
This was true whether my mother had a raging flu with a temperature
of 102 degrees or had spent the afternoon baking him his favorite
black raspberry pie.
Women truly were objects in those days; and while they were
not easily discarded, they were easily disdained. And it wasn't
totally the men's fault. After all, they were out all day doing
the important work of commerce
selling, writing, banking,
while the little woman needed only worry her tiny
head about taking care of the house and kids, clearly simple
matters on a scale of importance.
What in the world did they talk about in those days? He spoke
of his view of a world reaching far beyond the front door of
their home while she commented that Alta, next door, was hanging
out her laundry just before the storm broke and never even bothered
to bring it in. And, by the way, Alta's wash was looking a bit
grey. Maybe Alta's husband, Beanie, was drinking away the money
again and there was not enough left to buy Tide and Clorox,
so poor Alta had to make do with the cheap stuff. My father's
eyes glazed just as he picked up the evening paper.
I don't remember my mother reading that paper. I do remember
her listening to soap operas on the radio, though. Then, when
TV came in, she would watch a program called Queen for a Day,
in which women would compete to determine which one of them
was the saddest victim. Then, weeping, she was crowned and given
flowers and a cape and a year's supply of Tide and Clorox, and
maybe a new washing machine. Too bad Alta never got on that
show. Her laundry would unquestionably have improved.
Anyway, back to my desire to be a columnist. My mother said,
"You can be a nurse, a teacher or a secretary. Those are
suitable jobs for a girl until she gets married." Since
I didn't think I could stand the sight of blood and didn't relish
the thought of being around sick people, I figured nursing was
out of the question. I really didn't like little kids, so I
didn't think I would be a very good teacher. That left "secretary".
That seemed the right solution, my mother thought, because it
would be a good place to meet a successful husband.
After two years of college
enough to say I went
not enough that I would be wasting money on a useless career,
I married Ed, my high school sweetheart. Ed gave me 18 years
and 4 wonderful daughters. I wouldn't change that. I would change,
if I could, the fact that Ed became a raging alcoholic and died
early of smoking-related emphysema.
That's when I found out what a "girl" can do if she
has to. How she can make money to send four daughters to college
while still demanding that each of them contribute financially
to the effort. I started as a secretary, went into TV sales
and marketing jobs, and ended up as a V.P. of Marketing for
a major television conglomerate. Hated that job. I was the token
female to end all tokens. One day, after returning from a visit
with my stress-management psychologist, I was called into the
"big guy's" office and informed that my department
was being eliminated it was the downsizing of the early
90's. My present husband, Matt, (God love him.) poured me a
glass of wine to celebrate and told me to start my own business.
That's what I did. I've successfully run television campaigns
all across this country for the past 11 years.
When we moved to North Carolina, Matt was retired from his old
job and was working for me as a business manager. That's worked
out well, but somehow, it seems time for a change.
So, guess what? I'm going to become a columnist! You are my
first readers. I promise you some fun and as honest a look inside
me as I can muster. Funny, isn't it? I'm finally doing what
my mother said girls could not do. I think she'd love it!
Charters moved to the Asheville area from upstate New
York last September. A former V.P. of Marketing for Viacom Television,
she started a successful broadcast agency in 1990 and continues
serving her clients in areas of writing, production and planning.
In her most recent incarnation, she plans to become a syndicated