My Mom’s Turning 70! Here Are 7 Things I Can’t Believe She Lived Through (like, girdles. How were they ever a thing?)

My Mom’s turning 70 TODAY!!!!! We have big fun things planned, including strawberry shortcake for dessert and going for a nice drive. And as a bonus, I thought I would put out some things that happened in my mother’s life that I find astounding. Some of you may have experienced them as well, some of you may have heard of them, and some of you may have no idea such things ever happened.

In my mother’s life:

  1. In high school, the girls had to take “grooming” classes to learn how to sit down properly
  2. Nice girls wore girdles
  3. In college, my mother knew people who ironed their hair with an actual iron (she didn’t, just because her hair was naturally straight)
  4. After college, my mother owned a flowered cotton dress that was only halfway to her knees (10 years later, my sister would wear the same dress at age 6 and it was floor length and adorable)
  5. My mother did not change her last name after marriage and it was A Thing
  6. As a mother to young children, my mother stayed up all night to make 30 cupcakes for the classroom for our birthdays (who would have thought that would become a thing of the past!)
  7. She was also part of a neighborhood conflict over whether a vegetable dish could be considered a “main dish” in the context of a potluck, or if it was by definition a “side dish” because only meat was a “main dish”
You wanna see a real fight? Get a bunch of midwestern American woman in the early 90s to debate their views on vegetarianism in community meals

Additional less common random highlights of her life:

In college, she met Hugh Hefner and Shel Silverstein (together)

In the 1970s culture wars, it was Hugh Hefner v feminism | Samira ...
This is not her

A photograph of her in her 20s illustrates Our Bodies Our Selves

Our Bodies, Ourselves'? It's Shelved - The New York Times
This is also not her

She was in an encounter group with the ex-wife of one of the Chicago 7

Background: Chicago 7 trial - Chicago Tribune
None of these people are her, or my father, but the hair is similar

Some of these things which were not a big deal at the time are now unusual, and other things that were unusual at the time are now not a big deal. Isn’t it funny what 70 years can do?

(also, ironing hair is bonkers and y’all were crazy)

History of the Hair Straightener timeline | Timetoast timelines

33 thoughts on “My Mom’s Turning 70! Here Are 7 Things I Can’t Believe She Lived Through (like, girdles. How were they ever a thing?)

  1. I am nearly the same vintage as your mom, having turned 70 last year, and I can verify all those things. And here are a few more:

    1. When I went to a doctor to get a prescription for birth control pills, I had to lie and say I was married. (1968)

    2. When our car broke down and we tried to rent one while it was in the shop, we were turned down because the person with the credit card (my husband) didn’t drive and the person with the driver’s license (me) didn’t have a credit card.(1971)

    3. We were both accepted in a graduate program and got separate financial aid award letters telling us we had teaching assistantships. Then it turned out that what they meant was we were going to share a TA position because we were married. (also 1971)

    4. I knew three girls aged 14-18 who “had to get married” be cause they were pregnant, and one who nearly died from an illegal abortion at 19.

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    • 1. I realized I had never asked my Mom about this! So I did, and she said that there was word of mouth on campus about which doctor to go to, so she went to that doctor and just asked and he gave them, no fuss. Probably could have been arrested, but who would report him?

      2. I thought this was going to be that you couldn’t rent a car because you were a woman! but it kind of makes more sense. Other weird thing, several decades later that I even remember in my life, remember when you had to leave credit card information to rent a VHS because they were So Valuable?

      3. That’s terrible!!!! Reminds me of when teachers in public schools couldn’t be married because it was “wasting” a salary

      4. Somewhat similar, my Mom was a bridesmaid I think 7 times before she was 25. I have yet to be a bridesmaid once, people just don’t get married so much and so young any more.

      On Sat, Jul 11, 2020 at 9:04 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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    • Oh, follow up question! I had a vague memory of something but I wasn’t sure I was right or not because it seemed odd. In the same “grooming” girls only classes where you learned how to stand up and sit down, did you also learn about the Fragile Male Ego? Or was that more just something you talked about informally?

      And thank goodness you all learned how to stand up and sit down since 10 years later you were wearing ridiculously short flowered cotton dresses.

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  2. I have photos of my mother and father in 1965 dressed up in Mad Men clothes: suit for my father, hair with a bread knife part, and my mother in a sheath with a hair flip like Marlo Thomas on That Girl. Then just four years later, my father with shoulder length hair and a mustache, my mother wearing florals, pucci prints and bell bottoms. The 60s were a ride.

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      • I never ironed my hair – that was crazy. Instead, I went to bed every night with my hair done up in Campbell Tomato Soup cans. You emptied the can, removed the top and the bottom, then wrap your hair around them and bobby pin the hollow cylinder to your head. We slept like that. Every night.

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        • My mom was just saying most people didn’t iron, there were other ways. And this is the other way!

          Thank goodness you clarified that you empty the soup cans first, i was alarmed by that for a second.

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          • My favorite 60s family hair story is from my aunt, who had some styles herself, went on a train ride when my cousin was maybe one year old. He was standing on her lap and reached over the seat in front of her, buried his baby fists deep in this woman’s beehive, grabbed on and wouldn’t let go. The lady was yelling – I’m sure it hurt, but also all that work to make the beehive, now getting yanked apart! – and my aunt trying to unclench his fingers and pry his hands out of her do.

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          • Ha! I can totally see that Beehives are extremely grabable.

            On Sun, Jul 12, 2020 at 1:05 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  3. People still bring cupcakes to our kid’s classrooms for birthdays. 36. But I don’t, I bring popcorn because I don’t like baking and I don’t want to pay for 36 cupcakes. Pretty amazing that your mother is in Our Bodies Ourselves. Happy Birthday to her.

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    • Really? I’d heard that in most places outside food was completely forbidden from schools, you had to buy the approved cupcakes from the school cafeteria. You must live in some wild lawless land where home food is allowed!

      My sister and I actually have summer birthdays, but we wanted the attention and honor of being The Cupcake One, so my Mom would make them for our half birthdays instead in the middle of the school year.

      On Sat, Jul 11, 2020 at 10:43 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  4. When you mentioned about curling hair with actual iron,I thought Fe-26(nowadays alloys are used).Then I saw the picture of the “iron” and realized how stupid I was.
    About girdles,was it just a fashion accessory to wear one,or something that you had to wear as a proper woman?Because many Hollywood productions discard the girdles and achieve that silhouette with just a play of darts,seams and pad-stitching(nowadays it is mostly seen on collars fof men’s shirts).Did women who found girdles uncomfortable used this techniques back then too?

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    • It was something you had to wear. Absolutely essential to be considered fully dressed, going without would be like going without a bra now. Maybe okay at home, or even outside for quick errands, but not at work or school or social events.

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    • Oh, and everyone found them uncomfortable. A bra is actually comfortable and supportive, or should be. A girdle was painful and unhealthy and just generally terrible.

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  5. Wait, your Mom is on the cover of “our bodies ourselves??” I want to hear that story. I just turned 69 and I never wore a girdle. Maybe cause I was in Europe? We did beer cans: I did it once and never again. Freshman year my best friend and I used to keep a subway token on our dressers and when a girl started talking about having sex with her boyfriend, we would hand her the token and the address of planned parenthood!

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    • She’s not on the cover, just one of the illustrations. Our Bodies Ourselves is written in Boston, and my Mom was living there at the time. She had a friend who was an aspiring photographer looking for models, she did a practice photo shoot with her in her apartment. And then later the friend said “hey, this group is writing a woman’s health book and needs illustrations, is it okay if I give them the photos I shot with you”. So there’s this very nice black and white photo of her somewhere in the middle of the book. They finally cut it in the newest edition (it was time, the photo is from 1976 and looked super dated), but it was there through the early 2000s.

      HA! I have to tell my Mom that someone her age in Europe never wore a girdle! She heard all these stories about European Woman (they wore earrings, they weren’t proper), and I guess it was all true.

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  6. Our Bodies Ourselves and Shel Silverstein! I’m impressed. Happy birthday to your mom. And my mom didn’t change her name either, which means it always seemed a bit weird to me that it’s a thing women do, and I didn’t change mine when it was my turn.

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    • When I was growing up, there were enough divorced Moms around that it was a new layer of confusion, because we had to explain that our Mom had a different last name from us, but our parents weren’t divorced. Also, one of our favorite stories, a new member at our church called the house looking for Mom and Dad answered, and we heard from a friend later that the next Sunday she was all atwitter because she thought she had uncovered an affair, calling a woman and a man answers? And then the friend had to explain it wasn’t an affair, they had been married 20 years, they just were listed under different names in the church directory.

      On Sun, Jul 12, 2020 at 1:10 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • My parents divorced when I was two, so I guess my mom mainly saved herself some paperwork and her name situation was easier to explain by the time I was in school.

        I have one aunt who addresses cards to me with my husband’s last name, and sometimes telemarketers call and ask for my husband using my last name, so I figure we’re even. I did just recently explain to a college-aged guy at the taekwondo school why I go by Ms. instead of Mrs. and how my last name is different from my husband’s and my kids’, so I feel like I’m carrying the legacy forward. He was open, just not familiar. I guess that’s progress.

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        • I knew a lot of mothers when I was growing up who didn’t change their name. Not a lot at school, but a lot among my Mom’s friends, and at least a couple others at school. I just kind of assumed by the time I was an adult, it would be the standard thing, because that’s how it seemed to be trending. But no! Seems like it’s still just as common as when I was a kid, more like 1 in 30 mothers instead of 15 in 30.

          On Mon, Jul 13, 2020 at 1:27 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  7. Happy happy belated birthday to your, Mom.

    Also, having her picture in the original Our Lives Our Selves is just so cool! My Mother-in-law, who turned 70 last year, also never changed her name and yes, apparently it was a thing. Not for the family so much as the school system where she had to constantly “prove” that she was her children’s mother, or have to answer awkward questions like, yes we are married; no we are not separated; yes I am the children’s biological mother. She told me all this when I kept my last name in the hope that things are progressed, hopefully I don’t have to go through what she did.

    She also said something very similar to what your mother said about birth control — there were always rumors about who to go to get birth control. (If your mom went to school in Chicago, I wouldn’t be surprised if they heard the exact same rumor or went to the same doctor).

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    • Unfortunately, just this year I heard from a friend who had shocking name issues with her daughter’s school. The teacher sent out a message introducing her as a room parent with her husband’s last name. She sent a nice note in response asking for a correction, since that’s not her name. And he said he wouldn’t do it because it was “too confusing for the children”. She ended up having to go to the principal to force the issue, and the end result was an incredibly passive aggressive note saying “I have been informed that it matters, so I am correcting my previous message, her name is actually —–“. BLECH!!!!

      My Mom was at U of I, if your mother-in-law was there at the same time, yeah, it probably was the same doctor!

      On Sun, Jul 12, 2020 at 8:25 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • Ugh!!! I am so sorry your friend had to go through that. My MIL shared how frustrating it was to not be able to just say her name without having to also add, I’m FIL’s wife or Husband’s mother after it. I hate that stuff like this is still happening.

        MIL went to school in Chicago. So not the same school. But good to know there were multiple doctors in the Midwest helping women have access to birth control!

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        • On the flipside, I have a cousin who just got married and not only changed her last name, but also changed her middle name (which used to be her mother’s last name and now is her mother’s first name). I find that far stranger, to completely erase her pre-marriage identity like that. But I guess it is what she wanted.

          On Sun, Jul 12, 2020 at 9:10 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • I never changed my name because I would have either had to give up my middle name or pay $300 based on CA rules. And my husband didn’t care. BUT I do go by his name, so basically I have two identities. My legal one, and my social one. I kinda like having two identities, I get to keep the name I grew up with, but I don’t usually have to spell it out for people because my husband’s name is way easier. Also I get to confuse people at school board meetings by using my real name, and thus not making it obvious which teacher I’m married to.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Ha! I actually had a friend who did something similar. She wasn’t ready to change her name, but she did it anyways; however, she was a government employee, and didn’t change her name on the government forms, and her husband was on her insurance and finally figured out something was up when her child was born and the hospital tagged the child with her last name.

            Liked by 1 person

          • My Mom enjoyed something similar, my Dad was a government employee, but she could go to protest rallies and whatever without worry, because with the different names it was unlikely to track back to him.

            On Sun, Jul 12, 2020 at 3:57 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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