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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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From My Window

The Agony of Style

By Jane Thibodeau Martin,

I was slipping on my daily wear pair of small hoop pierced earrings today when I had a memory flashback of the clip-on style earrings worn by my mom and grandma back in the late 50's. I found the women's earrings an irresistible attraction, and would sneak them off dressers and put them on myself to admire the effect in the mirror. But after a few minutes, the "pinch" of the earrings, even on my small sized earlobes, was too uncomfortable to tolerate, so I'd take them back off. It made me wonder how on earth women were able to wear them for more than five minutes at a time. I don't see clip earrings much anymore, (although I know they are still sold,) so it may be that women have finally given up on this particular style statement, due to the discomfort it causes.

There are plenty of other highly uncomfortable things to wear - I remember hearing women complain about their restrictive girdles, although such a garment was practically standard for women dressing up in the 50's. And one style still with us, ebbing and surging in and out of style, are high heeled shoes. They look great, let's admit, but the blisters and smashed toes are no fun, not to mention the ongoing risk of topping off them and falling. Another item of style, always cute to look at, is the hard-plastic hair headbands. After a short time, the pressure behind your ears of the unrelenting plastic vise becomes unbearable, even causing headaches. I was laughing to myself watching a darling little girl in church last Sunday, repeatedly pulling off her headband and twirling it around in her fingers. I knew right away it was not the boredom of the homily she sought relief from, rather, the headache-inducing headband, as adorable as it looked on her.

When I had long hair as a teenager, I loved the fashionable look of a high, tight pony tail but the itching and pressure were a pain. Same thing with French braids, my scalp would be pulled so tight I was constantly rubbing and pulling on the braid trying to relieve the discomfort. After a short time the tidy braid would be in total disarray, giving me a great excuse to take it out entirely.

So it comes full circle, as I see on a news item on line recently that "corsets" are coming back for women. The article showed photos of several famous women attired in these restrictive undergarments of yore (although the new style is apparently wearing them in a manner so that they show instead of being hidden under outergarments.) Have at it, stylish ladies of Hollywood! I am not fashionable enough to want to suffer that much. My ribcage does not like to be squeezed.

I am sure there are some things that men detest as much as I hate some of the women's stylish accessories. I know that most men do not like neckties, and that any wedding or funeral features a few gentlemen slipping out of their dress shoes to relieve their foot pain. But in general, women in the United States are way more willing to suffer for their style than men.

One notable men's style that women have so far declined to follow is the "young men's saggy pants" trend. I don't share people's horror over the sight of young men's pants hanging so low the top of their underwear is showing (certainly, it's not much different than women with their corsets showing, right?) But what cracks me up about it is watching these young men walk around " step, step, hitch up pants. Step, step, hitch up pants. Wow. That looks like fun. About the same effect as a woman's hobble skirt restricting their ability to walk. Women's jeans are highly complex " do you want jeans with a waistband that "sits at the waist," or "just below the waist?" Or maybe "low rise?" Trying to find the right jeans is a nightmare. But young men's jeans must be labeled "fits" or "requires assistance to stay up" as their choices in waist style.

I don't expect things to change in the future either. Styles change, but some portion of us will continue to tolerate wearing "the latest" things that are uncomfortable, dangerous, painful or impractical. Just don't expect to see me going along with it. I never met a sweatshirt I didn't like.

On a separate topic, I received a sweet letter from Mary T. who lives in Peshtigo but apparently grew up in Coleman. She confirms they had a Ben Franklin on Main Street and it closed sometime in the 90's. She said there was another store in Coleman called "Gambles" that also had odds and ends of things, with Christmas music during the season. She recalls all stores staying open until 9 p.m. on Friday nights only, which was something that I forgot used to be a standard. The country people would come to town on Friday night after work or chores to do their shopping, because Friday was payday and the stores stayed open later to accommodate the influx of money.

Mary, thanks for sharing your memories, I liked your story about kids running through neighborhoods to play games like "hide and seek" and "tag," with none of the homeowners minding the presence of the kids. There is enormous charm in the tales of growing up in small towns.

You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: Janiethibmartin@gmail.com.


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