1 Nov 2010

All Dressed Up And (Thankfully) Nowhere To Go

This is an account of Day 6 of the 50s Housewife Experiment: Husband Obsessed Edition.

Friday evening had been a busy one for us, so we were looking forward to a calmer Saturday. I woke up to the sound of something marvelous and positively un-50s: my husband doing the dishes. Me thinks it was an attempt to make amends for the previous night's jackassery faux pas of arriving late to our dinner party. I suppose for the sake of a so-called 50s housewife blog I should have run out there and stopped him and insisted the dishes were my job to do, but letting myself sleep in a bit felt much more right.

Since I wasn't up to make it, neither of us had breakfast. Therefore, I decided to serve an early lunch of grilled cheese and tomato soup. Campbells products are pretty heavily advertised in 50s-era magazines, although they're rarely portrayed simply as an actual soup. Rather, their purpose in culinary life appeared to be to completely drown other foods - like as shown in this ad:

I opted to go for the "classic" usage, as you can see. In the sandwiches, I used processed cheese, a product that is promoted almost endlessly in some of my cookbooks and was even suggested as a "health food." Good motherfucking grief, Charlie Brown.

Patrick had plans to meet a friend to watch the Manchester United match at a local sports pub, so I took the time at home to get reacquainted with (and newly introduced to) some 1950s beauty tips.

While the act of lotioning and potioning ourselves beautiful may seem like "me time", advice from the 50s suggests we should be doing this with our men in minds:

"Cater to his tastes ... even in your appearance. Indulging his wishes, even his whims, is a sure way of convincing him that you really want to please him," said an article in the Ladies Home Journal of September 1950.

(This particular project just keeps getting better and better, doesn't it, ladies?)

Patrick is a man of simple tastes when it comes to my appearance: the more boob, the better. He's not the type of bumbling husband who can't tell if you've gotten a hair cut. In fact, he's pretty quick to offer compliments when I've done my hair or make-up or have put on a new dress. He seems to appreciate even the small efforts without ever really expecting them.

This made my "job" of catering to his tastes pretty simple - just do something. You can read about some of the previous 1950s beauty advice I found and how I applied it back in my original 50s Housewife Experiment, but here's some new information I came across since then:

  • If you wish to have darker hair, rub a touch of olive oil on your scalp before going to bed (in the morning, take your pillow case and make a salad with it)
  • If you wish to have lighter hair, wash it in beer every two weeks (perhaps this is why Patrick has never really had a thing for blonds - they might waste the precious)
  • To stimulate hair growth, rub the scalp with kerosene (a totally genius thing to do in the age of unabashed chain smoking)
I also found a recipe for homemade dry shampoo in the Modern Household Encyclopedia. As I neither wanted to a) look like the personal pooping grounds for a bird nor b) look like the personal buffet for a bird, I decided to skip it (but if anyone tries it, do let me know. For all of my mocking of certain finds, I'm actually curious to see if this kind of thing works):

Once you're done taking care of your hair, you can move onto your face. Girls over 25 were encouraged to avoid that "matronly look" by using Pond's cream as follows:

Keeping with the theme of skin, to give your hands the Michael Jackson treatment (whitening them, not sending them and other under-age hands for a sleepover with a skeletal 50-year old man), the following advice was found in the Modern Household Encyclopedia:

Once your hands were taken care of, it was onto the nails. Long, beautiful, perfectly manicured claws were highly valued because they were considered quite feminine. I spotted several ads in my magazines about how women could achieve this goal with a simple cocktail:

Since I had deprived myself of jello moulds this time around, I figured I owed it to myself to get at least one gelatin fix in. And so, I tried this tip and dumped an envelope of Knox unflavoured gelatin into a glass of cranberry juice.


Did you know that unflavoured gelatin has the smell of vomit? I do now! Down the hatch it went anyway, including all the chewy grains at the bottom of the glass. Oh, the things we do for beauty.

All gooped up - inside and out - I then put on some make-up, attempted to do my hair in a 50s style (it always ends up looking more 40s, though - probably has something to do with the fact that I don't have a perm) popped on my perkiest of bras (because, as the ad on the left shows, having your chest ogled means you're being loved) and then put on a vintage cocktail dress and necklace (a birthday gift from the folks!).

Emotional! Antennae! Activated! Husband Status: Curious

"Was she going out?" "Were we going out?" Patrick clearly wondered these things when he arrived home to find his wife without her usual mask of facial hair all dolled up.

The occasion was "Date Night In" - a quiet, economical evening of what Mrs. Dale Carnegie called "raising our standard of loving." A wife does this by showing her appreciation, being affectionate, demonstrating understanding and caring, being generous of spirit and being good-humoured.

... Or I could just make his favourite food - Italian. There happens to be a fair amount of Italian cooking featured in my collection of 1950s cookbooks, specifically in the Good Housekeeping's Around The World Cook Book.

To get into the mood for reading about our dinner, enjoy Rosemary Clooney's 1954 "Mambo Italiano":

It's understandable to wonder whether 1950s American cookbooks could really "get" true Italian food. I imagined they would dumb the food down by substituting things like Cheez Whiz for mozzarella or Marshmallow Fluff for amaretto. Thankfully, you can tell straight away that the recipes in the book are authentically Italian because there are little drawings of the Italian people on the pages, and those *certainly* capture the essence of this fine culture.

(If you think that's goofy, you should see the depictions of "Orientals" - their phrasing, not mine - when dishes from Asian countries are featured. Yikes.)

The cookbook suggested hunting down antipasto from an Italian bakery or import store. Admittedly, I just went to the grocery store. There, I picked up marinated mushrooms with artichokes, roasted red peppers (Patrick's favourite), prosciutto and bread. The entree was Salsa alla Sophia (spinach, ricotta, milk, nutmeg, butter, Parmesan over spaghetti).
I served the pasta with Kraft Parmesan because an ad in one of my magazines indicated that real genuine Italians like-a it-a so-a much-a.

Over dinner and coffee, we played a made-up game called "Smize, Lize or Dize." The object is for a person to "make eyes" and the other has to guess if the person is smizing (Tyra-style smiling with the eyes), lizing (50s housewife-style listening with the eyes) or dizing (modern-style dying from boredom - and having dead eyes - during a conversation not about ourselves). We both excelled.

Afterward, we watched one of my favourite movies of all time, the 1959 Some Like It Hot. I realize a true housewife in the 1950s would not have had access to DVDs - but give me a break, will yah? I haven't watched TV all week (except for the news), even though I heard a superbly good episode of Community was on.

Here's another picture of John Hodgman Patrick and I during the evening, our "standard of loving" raised to a lovely level ...

And here's one of us being us:


Chris 2:05 pm, November 01, 2010  

You guys sho' clean up real nice-like.

ChefJoAnna[@]gmail[.]com 3:05 pm, November 01, 2010  

you look adorable, even in the last photo :-)

and... oh my, that's a LOT of knox to consume in one serving!

j.d.,  4:26 pm, November 01, 2010  

LOL!! Just had to say how much fun I'm having reading your blog!!

Anonymous,  6:42 pm, November 01, 2010  

Hi Jen, once again, you put a smile on my face, the thing with the breasts he got from his DAD, never a day went by that, well you know what I mean, TMI.
Love the pics too.......Love Mern and MOM

Emily 3:13 am, November 02, 2010  

The pasta looks superb! Will there be a recipe posted for it???.. :)

Jen 3:13 pm, November 02, 2010  

Chris: Thanks! Amazing what showering will do for us. Har.

ChefJoAnna: You are too kind. And yes, that is a LOT of Knox to shoot down. They suggested drinking it DAILY. Yarg.

Thanks, j.d.!

Mern: Haha - indeed. The apple did not fall far from the boob-loving tree.

Emily: Thanks - the recipe is basically this (for 2 - 3 servings):

- Heat 0.25 cups of butter over medium heat

In a bowl, combine:
- 0.5 lbs of fresh spinach that has been snipped into little pieces with scissors.
- 0.5 lbs or ricotta
- 3 Tbs milk or cream
- 0.25 tsp nutmeg

Stir that all up and then dump it into your buttered pan. Stir it up. Let it get warm but not overly hot.

Add in 0.25 cups of grated Parmesan. Stir and then serve over hot spaghetti.

To be honest, I found the above recipe to be rather bland. It needed some salt, for sure. Patrick actually cut up and added some roasted red peppers to his serving and said it was much better that way.

Pita,  5:24 pm, November 02, 2010  

Just wanted to let you know that I love your blog! You're so funny and clever. I usually end up reading part of it out loud to my husband, who also enjoys it. The 50's stuff is my favorite. My husband thinks we should try the experiment (of course lol).

Anonymous,  2:19 pm, January 25, 2011  

What a nasty mouth you have, Lucy van Pelt!

Anonymous,  11:08 am, October 05, 2011  

I came across your blog while trying to find ideas for my best friend's bridal shower of which she wants a 50's housewife theme.. your blog is hilarious! i think i may suggest to her that we try this experiment to get in to the swing of things!

Thankfully they didnt skimp on the booze in the 50's! Keep up the Great Work! -Vivian, Houston TX

vintage eye 11:06 am, October 09, 2011  

I found you through the History Chicks podcast! Great stuff!

kat,  12:41 am, February 20, 2012  

funny thing ive drank that knox stuff before. the kind we had wasnt that bad i just mixed it with water

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Need words? I'm a Toronto-based freelance writer who injects great ones into blogs, websites, magazines, ads and more. So many services, one lovely Jen (with one 'n').

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