Friday, October 2, 2009

The Woman's Page

I was thinking a quick way to do a blog was the list - Ten Favorite Dogs, Ten Favorite Books -but on books I got stuck. I can dredge up thousands, looking back - all the way to Five Go Adventuring - but I'm not reading books any more. It's not a short attention span. I can spend hours with The Times Literary Supplement, re-examining the origins of the First World War, checking out "Tupai - A field study of Bornean tree shrews" or "Can We Have Our Balls Back, Please? How the British invented Sports" and, by the way, the best review of one of the greatest Westerns ever: Kevin Costner's Open Range.

But thinking of favorite reading right now, People magazine comes to mind, the movie reviews, the fashion, the gossip. I only buy it once a year, after the Academy Awards ("Hits and Misses on the Red Carpet!") not because I'm a snob but because it costs too much. Standing in the grocery line and comparison shopping - it just can't compete. A slim People magazine, even full of George Clooney kidding around with Brad Pitt, is not worth three pounds of oranges or four heads of lettuce or almost five cans of sardines. In fact, three People magazines would pay for a year of The New Yorker, introductory offer.

But I think something about the layout, the nice slightness of it, fills in for something missing since my youth, the Woman's Page. Not a Women's Magazine, that's too much and gets stuffed with filler like Getting ready for Spring! and What to do with left over potatoes. Too much of anything doesn't work - it's like three pages of the Automotive News, and you're ready to move on.

I know women escaped and stayed wary; it was the Women's Cage. And I should know. When asked what did I want to do, to be, ("Back in the day,"indeed!) my answer was "journalist" - even, in my wildest dreams, "foreign correspondent!" Answer came from all the battle-scarred and weary teachers (all women) at my all-girls' school: "Oh, Mary, they'll just put you on the women's page."

Unless you wanted to fight the whole world you could be a teacher or librarian, a secretary or a nurse. And if you were very pretty you'd be one of those snapped up first, to be a housewife.

So I should be the last one to hanker after the old days but I miss not so much just what the Italians are doing for spring but the inside stuff, the fun stuff - like the beauty tip from Princess Di's godmother's daughter. Boot polish, she confided, was better than mascara. Black boot polish. "Stays on forever- doesn't run! Waterproof!" Or the comment from one of the grand dames of Palm Beach on finding bargains. She had just scored with some great socks she'd bought at K Mart. "I don't shop. I hunt."

I would like A Page of One's Own again- We are now lawyers and judges and astronauts and we should be frivolous too and lighten the mood especially for poor expectant mums who need to forget the solemn mother load: playing Mozart to your belly button because unborn babies need to sharpen their mathematical skills.

Not many of us are going to change course because the dominant color for Fall is mustard or one of those colors with names that only Home Depot seems to have heard of in their paint department but it's fun to relish, for example, the ongoing saga of Michelle Obama and the Humble Cardigan. Dear Michelle Obama - who singlehandedly, in spite of the whole arms thing, has brought back the cardigan. Together with the raincoat, the cardigan has been England's traditional dreary, droopy national costume -the American Express card of our national wardrobe- don't leave home without it. But Michelle has shown us the way. In fact, wasn't she wearing a good old cardy when she met the Queen? And they got on so well, that if she wasn't, I bet the Queen said as she left, like all English Mums do, "It's going to be cold, dear, so don't forget your cardy!"

And as the man says, reading about things like that -"I don't care where you're from- that's just fun!"

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