29 Oct 2010

Lighten Up

This is an account of Day 4 of the 50s Housewife Experiment: Husband Obsessed Edition.

I've learned that a "good" 50s wife acts as her husband's press agent, so with that in mind, I'll avoid discussing why he was feeling shaky in the morning, and simply say that Patrick was a bit under the weather when he got up yesterday.

I figured it was best that I not make the breakfast I had intended to serve so as to not aggravate the situation. You merely need to see the beautiful picture of it (from Good Housekeeping's Egg and Cheese Dishes) to understand this decision:

Instead, I served him oatmeal, orange juice and toast. I didn't take a picture of it - I mean, you've all seen oatmeal before, right?

The change in plans was actually a good thing - I was beginning to feel like we were OD'ing on grease. Plus, the Eating Animals shirt I had received the day before was haunting me from the wardrobe like a ticking heart beneath the floorboards (not familiar with that reference? If you had a less than stellar English program at your high school, just think back to the episode of The Simpsons where Lisa was in the diorama contest).

Eating less fatty food is actually brought up in Help Your Husband Stay Alive! The author, Hannah Lees, is determined to show women how to avoid early widowhood by reducing the stress and risk factors in their husbands' lives. She suggests knowing how much your husband weighs and comparing it to weight charts published by insurance companies. It just so happens that on the first page of Redbook's May 1956 issue (which I just so happen to own), such a chart is printed (click to expand):
Considering that's what you're supposed to weigh while fully clothed and wearing shoes (2" heels, ladies!), I'm in trubs (ok, even if I was barefoot and stark nude I ain't hitting those numbers). Yikes, it's almost enough to make you take up a habit of ice cube-eating and vigorous Stairmastering. Well, not quite. Patrick isn't actually that far out of his ideal weight but it's enough that Lees would have insisted I take! action!

Some of her tips for 1950s dieting include:

  • Serving "high energy" foods like steak, roasts, lamb, veal and hamburger
  • Cutting down on all pork products
  • Broiling foods instead of frying them
  • Adding extra green vegetables and salads to meals, possibly even replacing potatoes, rice and macaroni
  • Diluting whole milk with skim milk, eventually 'weening' him from whole milk altogether
  • Serving fruit cocktails and gelatin instead of cake and pie
  • Finding low calorie versions of favourite products (like bread, canned goods, cottage cheese and soft drinks)
All in all, it's not entirely crazy advice. She suggests avoiding the 'too-good-to-be-true diets' frequently advertised in magazines. Curious about the miracle diets available in the 1950s? Here's a sample of what I've found in my magazines, and even one that I spotted in my vintage Sears catalogue:

The before and after pictures kills me. That posture, that pout, those shoes!:

Yum, yum. I'm guessing this is the mother of Nutrisystem:
There's nothing I can say about this diet ("lose weight the way nature intended!") that hasn't already been said by the writers of South Park:

Smize and lize while you Relax-A-cize! You might recall that the Relax-A-cizor was actually featured in an episode of Mad Men (the one where fat-but-really-pregnant Peggy accidentally discovers the 'special glow' a girl gets from wearing her client's product). It's described in just as vague terms in the ad below:

Consider them all avoided (although it's interesting to see how little the diet industry has really changed, isn't it?).

As usual, the morning rushed by quickly and Patrick was home for lunch.

Emotional! Antennae! Activated! Husband Status: Tired

I kept things simple and in accordance with the dieting advice; I served Patrick a roast beef sandwich on enriched bread with a side salad and a glass of water. I even served his food to him on the couch so he could relax-A-cize a little more. The calm lunch seemed to settle his stomach and he went back to work with a bit more pep in his step.

I decided to do a simple meal-sized salad for dinner with bread and fruit for dessert. This meant my afternoon was freed up from the usual white sauce and meat cooking. I decided to visit my friend and neighbour, Siobhan, for a bit of tea at her place.

I've read a few 1950s-era articles and letters to the editors about housewives who moved to the suburbs where they really didn't know anyone. Their lives were purely focused on their husbands and their children, and without social outlets of their very own, they sort of lost a sense of themselves. The advice they often received was to basically stick it out and enjoy their children while they were young, as they'd kick themselves for being so sulky when their children were grown.

What crap advice.

I'm not one for pity parties, but I think the loneliness of women then (and now) should be taken seriously. Being able to have a break to chat with a friend today reinforced to me how important it is for people (be they female homemakers or not) to have moments for themselves, to shoot the shit, get a chance to vent and have a laugh with people they don't have to cook for and clean up after. I think doing this in-person is a really important element, too.

Why? Because visiting with Siobhan has a nice bonus: being able to crack up at whatever her 14-month old daughter, Charlotte, gets up to. Here's a pic of the kiddo, fresh from a nap. She's standing and walking around now like an actual human being. It's so weird and crazy and funny to see how she's changing and to see her personality emerge. I love her to bits.

The visit was quick but great (thanks, Shobe!) and I headed back to my apartment to get started on our healthy dinner.

It turns out that the Betty Crocker Picture Cook Book is excited about salads ...
Salads are easy enough for a man to make!
Salads bring the family together!
Salads are for lovers!

Just look at how frisky Grandma and Grandpa get when a salad is being tossed! She's getting hot, he's getting bothered, and I'm getting ... uncomfortable (where exactly are Grandpa's hands heading? Do they not see that small child right in front of them? Awkward.).

I had to wonder, though: would my salad bring out the horndog in my man?

Not quite.

Emotional! Antennae! Activated! Husband Status: Calm

When Patrick discovered that all that was for dinner was a big salad, some buns, and fruit cocktail (which I knew he wouldn't eat anyway as it included all sorts of things on his loathe list - but I was being hopeful after his recent mustard acceptance), his reaction wasn't exactly to start groping me.

"No meat?" he said confused.

"It's a healthy day," I replied.

"Meat can be healthy," he said.

"True, but we've been eating a lot of it lately. I think a night of salad will help clean out our systems from the recent Porkapalooza," I said.

"I'm fine with salad ... but we still have some leftover roast in the fridge, right?" he asked.

"Yes," I said with hesitation, "but let's see if we can do without it first."

"But if I have some roast beef, that won't be a problem, right?" he asked. A shit-eating grin then spread across his face and he turned his eyes toward The Nag Jar.

Oh, that dirty son of a ...


Ellie,  11:53 am, October 29, 2010  

This is making me howl!

Anonymous,  1:33 pm, October 29, 2010  

I'm going to get fired from my job for reading your blog all day. Maybe you can send me the contents of your nag jar is that happens?
- Leanne

Kerri,  2:39 pm, October 29, 2010  

"Lose weight and look lovelier the AYDS way." Mmm ... think I'll pass.

Anonymous,  8:58 pm, October 29, 2010  

oh jen, you need to do this for a year.. you make me laugh everyday..i see you and pats faces and love it..t

Kris,  12:13 am, October 30, 2010  

The link to the Full House 'DJ goes on a crash diet' episode is pretty much the best thing ever. Marry me?

Erin,  9:45 am, November 02, 2010  

HAHHAHAHAHA Oh Jen ... you are the best wife/human being in the world to undertake this! I will be there to remind that brother of mine of your continued sacrifice; and that this is only an experiment when he inevitably becomes too accustomed to your servitude!!

Jen 3:00 pm, November 02, 2010  

Thanks for the compliments, everyone!

Kris: I don't know why but that episode of Full House is seared into my brain.

mama 10:12 pm, March 22, 2011  

Loving Charlotte's cloth diaper- so cute and very retro!!!

Ryan, Corrie, Max, and Jack 7:54 am, November 16, 2011  

First time commenting, but been devouring you blog! Absolutely hilarious, and in a good way! (As in, I appreciate how you are treating the 50's with respect and not mockery, LOL!)

And I was coming on to comment about Charlotte's cloth diapers, too!!! Yay for her awesome momma!

DiggityDawn,  4:40 pm, February 05, 2013  

O.M.G.!!! I CANNOT believe you have an ad for Ayds! LMAO!!! My mom put me on a diet using Ayds when I was a young teenager in the 1970's, long before there was even a whisper of AIDS/HIV. Throughout my life, whenever I've told anyone about Ayds, they swore I was lying. Now I have proof via this ad. Thank you! LOL Still loving your blog &, especially your bravery in doing this experiment! : )

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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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