19 Apr 2011

Parents of 1961: Crueler, Hilarious & Probably Better Than Us

I'm in the midst of working on a bit of a follow-up to the 50s Housewife Experiment, and so I've been diving into more glorious vintage magazines. It's really a lot of fun to see what's changed and what hasn't. What I find most obvious is the impact political correctness has had on us all - including moi, the girl who doesn't care much for political correctness for political correctness' sake.

Don't get me wrong - it's not like I go out of my way to disrespect people or make people feel uncomfortable (hence why I started wearing a better bra). Being aware of others' feelings matters and if I'm using a term that is truly, legitimately a shitty thing to say (and not just a term someone 'dislikes'), I'd prefer to know about it than continue to be ignorant. However, I can't stand how some people like to make a point of policing every little word others say in fear of the risk of possibly, maybe, potentially insulting someone. Can't you just disagree with the way someone puts things (or their ideas) without turning it into a campaign? Ugh. We're becoming such language pussies.

While they're not alone nor is everyone among them this type of person (like the amazing and hilarious Kelly Oxford), one of today's more prominent roving vigilante gangs of PC-enforcers are the Mommy Bloggers / Social Media Moms. It's a sweeping generalization, I know. People have gone from writing an online diary about poopy diapers and those adorable things kids say to becoming a part of impressive online communities and networks that offer moms a ways of connection and commiseration - and companies an identifiable target to pander to. This is fine in itself; if peeps want to chat with each other and make cyber friendships, and if companies find a demographic that will buy what they're selling - more power to them. Plus, sometimes Mommy Bloggers and their social media firepower do a lot of good - like raise awareness and funds for childhood diseases, support a mom who's going through a rough time, or just simply provide a connection to others who are in the same position they're in. However, more and more, Mommy Bloggers have grown a reputation for creating a united front against anything mommies disagree with. And if a mommy disagrees with it - it's clearly wrong and should be scrubbed from the earth. At times, it feels like they're actually on the look-out for things to get all uppity over, or as I like to brand it:

Mommy Bloggers: Let's Get Offended

The fact that there is a growing and noisy group of them, that they can spread the word quickly (via blog, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) and because they offer a certain coveted collective buying power, Mommy Bloggers and Social Media Moms have some perceived clout - and they really, really know it. Well, let me tell you - if BlogHer or any other lady / mommy network was transported to 1961, there would be a colossal pantshit and / or noisy-but-ultimately-not-really-bottom-line-impacting boycott of Ladies' Home Journal. (And, yes, I wrote that article I just linked to. I am nothing if not self-promoting.)

Here is what is entertaining me immensely today: "Cheerless Chubbies: Our Fat Children" by Dorris Conway in the April 1961 edition of Ladies' Home Journal:

"What causes your little fatty's insatiable hunger for food?" the article matter-of-factly asks. And without quotation marks around "fatty's" to suggest that they're simply using someone else's term and not their own? It surely paved a direct path to Hell, but, oh, how I howled. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I don't often laugh out loud by myself, but it totally happened when I saw that. And that's just the opener. Check out the rest:

Can you imagine someone telling a person that their child is "obviously too fat", has a "psychological problem" - or referring to them as "mothers of fatties"? Oh, the Mommy Blogger Indignation Machine would be fired up to an unheard of level. Dying.

Perhaps some of the most blunt reflections are from the mothers themselves, like Ernie's mother:

"... she can hardly believe that he's hers - with that repulsive spare tire around his middle and his pink, puffy face!" Oh, man, poor Ernie. "Repulsive"! I'm sitting here trying to visualize someone today daring to say such a thing about their own kid. I'd put money down that someone would call Child Protective Services on her. That said, even those in the 1960s acknowledged that Ernie's mother was being a bitch, in a round-about way:

Maybe I'm taking a leap, but I have the feeling that Mrs. Minton probably came to see and accept her own faults regarding her son more quickly when speaking with a doctor than if she had been shit on and shamed by hoards of self-righteous and offended mommy bloggers, but who knows.

And since this article is brimming with retro honesty, the issue of Ernie's obesity couldn't be mentioned without blaming her and other active mothers for contributing to the problem to begin with:
Now, I'm not going to disagree with the assessment above because it seems lady-blaming. My disagreement with it is just out of personal experience. Whenever I had a babysitter and I had some lame stories from school that I was "bursting" to tell - telling the babysitter was always way more enjoyable because she was a much more attentive audience than my own parents. Don't get me wrong - my parents are wonderful, loving, caring people. But you know how 'interesting' a seven-year-old's stories are? Unless by some miracle they've caught wind of actual adult gossip, their stories are the worst. "Oh, really? You tried to do a somersault in gym? And what happened? Nothing? No twist to the story? Well, holy fuck! I better call up the papers and let them in on that one." This is especially true if you have to hear their disconnected rattling streams of consciousness everyday, as most parents do. A babysitter, on the other hand, is paid to do what parents can't be bothered with be engaged and generally finds the experience of a chatty kid much more novel than tired parents or crusty assholes like me. Hence, having your kid yap to a babysitter after school doesn't strike me as a reason for being a "fatty."

I only include this snippet because of the frequency the f-word is used, by a doctor, at that:

Should you be curious about the solution, the article goes on to suggest that you should tackle the issue head-on: See a doctor, have them checked out, use a sensible doctor-approved diet, look for reasons that cause overeating (like boredom, unhappiness, mindless snacking in front of the TV - it existed even then!), and acknowledge how you, as parents, contribute to those issues - which you then must tackle as a family. In all, not bad advice.

To be clear, I'm not giggling at these children - I'm laughing at how much we've changed when it comes to how we speak about kids and parenting. I'm laughing at how shocking even I find the bluntness that was apparently pretty commonplace 50 years ago. I'm not suggesting that we go back to a day where we can casually refer to overweight kids as "little fatties" - but maybe we don't have to be so darn delicate about an obvious issue either. And I say that as someone whose seldom used Wii Fit character is more wide than it is tall.

With the exception of anonymous Internet trolls, we're so busy being offended or trying to avoid offending others that we (including doctors!) can no longer say things or be told things as they are. And to suggest that someone (be it a mom or a dad or the kid themselves) actually played a role or has some responsibility in an issue? Off with their heads! Diabetes, high cholesterol and a risk of early death are apparently nothing compared to a bruised ego. Good grief, are we ridiculous or what?


Ali,  4:43 pm, April 19, 2011  

Wow, what a find! I'd love to see the whole article in its entirety! Mommy blogger mobs rub me the wrong way. The freak outs are usually over things that are so comically "white people problems" that's its hard to take them and their outrage seriously.

Anonymous,  8:17 pm, April 19, 2011  

LOLOLOL! I love this. All of it.

Unknown 8:36 pm, April 19, 2011  

Awesome post, and even though I'm a little embarrassed, I can admit that I laughed out loud the first time I read the reference to "little fatty".

K2 9:51 pm, April 19, 2011  

Too often nowadays parents refuse to even acknowledge that their child IS overweight. Or they will brag about how tall their child is while ignoring the fact that their kid also outweighs his smaller classmates by double. Too bad we can't bring back this kind of honesty but tone it down to about half power.

Anonymous,  11:07 pm, April 19, 2011  

Hah! Good post. Yay! 1950s experiment follow-up :)

Anonymous,  11:12 pm, April 19, 2011  

Just noticed "cheerless chubby" has what looks like a snack cake in his hand while watching the other kids play?! Poor guy. Then again, maybe cake tastes better than being accepted feels. Go, fatty, go.

Brassy 12:15 am, April 20, 2011  

Hell, as an overweight adult I noticed that the only time I could get a doctor to talk about my weight was by specifically bringing it up - even in a general check-up where that sort of thing SHOULD be mentioned. Especially when I was gaining weight - that kind of info is on their charts! If your patient gains 40 pounds, isn't that medically relevant? And when I did start bringing it up myself with doctors, they would tend to skirt the issue. It was like no one wanted to talk frankly about weight, and that really wasn't very helpful.

Anonymous,  9:35 am, April 20, 2011  

I was a "little fatty" up until the age of 13 (4'-9"/125 lbs), then in the summer of my 13th year got my "growth spurt" and went from the above to 5'-0"/100 lbs in a matter of 6 - 8 weeks. It's true that we often avoid "speaking the truth in love" out of fear of offending, but in the words of a quote seen in Reader's Digest, "Just because you are offended, doesn't mean you are right."

Jenne 1:20 pm, April 20, 2011  

Wow, been skinny most of your life, have you? We get (slightly less slamming) messages sent home in the kids folders every year, it's on the news, it's everywhere. Always has been, always will be.

I know an article I think you'll like-- it's in a recent issue of Men's Health. The title is "Why we hate fatties".

Lemur 4:59 pm, April 20, 2011  

Haha, great article, Jen.

I love "cheerless chubbies," What a great term. It's far less offensive to the ears than "mommy blogger."

Kallzor 1:17 am, April 22, 2011  

Haha! I would love to be a doctor right now so that the next time I came across a sanctimonious mummy in my practice with her "hefty" child I could casually throw in the term "little fatty" then sit back, relax and enjoy the utter shitstorm that followed!! xD Great article Jen x

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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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