Rachel Greenspan & Sissy Carpey - 1986
My Grandmother, Sissy Carpey (Bubbie), has always prided herself on being a modern woman. Although she married young and left college to start a family, she never lost her determination to follow her dreams and create a meaningful life for herself. Bubbie worked for many years in Public Relations and also as a published writer. After talking with my grandmother recently about Quarterlette, and telling her that she should contribute in some way, she wrote me a great email documenting her thoughts regarding the quarter-life women of her generation and those of my generation. I loved the honest and humorous tone of her email as well as the free flowing thoughts, so I decided to publish the actual email itself and hopefully can make this an ongoing series.
I just read Quarterlette and I want to congratulate you and participate in any way I can. I have a few ideas. Some are lighter than others. Am I correct that the idea is to write about the way we (my generation of young women) lived and what our dreams and expectations were, and what our parents (and the whole culture at the time) expected of young women and how the women’s movement changed us?
I see my contributions as a way of revealing how the huge jump came from my generation to yours. I have included some thought-starters below.
We were expected to be virgins when we married, and our future husbands were not. For example, my mother told me that if I wasn’t a virgin when I got married, my husband would know it and he would never forgive me. And I believed that.
Of course, I walked into my college newspaper office one late afternoon and found two of our reporters going at it (he was a guy of about 23 to 25, one of the many World War 2 veterans who filled our colleges after the war ended and, as you can imagine, went for the 18-21 girls). And of course, all young college girls were virgins! Or so I thought until that day. The acceptance of more casual sex has clearly changed many things, and I could write about that.
2: Young Mothers & Homemakers
Fast forward…even as young mothers, most of us, including myself, stopped working at their careers, had babies in their early 20’s, and were pretty much dominated by the men in our lives…and their mothers.
Once, one of my favorite great aunts, Mema Frima, who you probably never heard of, was in my house. She lived within walking distance of my mother and me and we lived around the corner from each other…another major difference about life today since your generation is all over the globe, not around the corner from your parents and cousins. Anyway, my Great Aunt Mema Frima was over and my mother opened my oven in my tiny kitchen to brag to her aunt, “Look, Mema Frima, see what a good housekeeper Sissy is. Look at this clean oven! This is how she keeps the house”.
Our mothers expected us to be housecleaners. Even though I was her smart daughter who went to college on scholarship, once we were married, we were expected to be “good housekeepers”. So my mother was showing off my ability to clean an oven.
3. Carving Our Own Paths
Now, one example of how it all changed so that I can compare and contrast my generation with your generation.
Early in the women’s movement, when I was working on the communications team at the drug rehabilitation center, we had a group of friends come over to our house one Saturday night after going out to dinner.
At this point, the women’s movement was pretty new. So there we were, in our family room, having a drink after an evening out, and everyone started talking about women in the workforce and how it was affecting the culture (and, mind you, I was the only one who was working full time and loving it).
One of our male friends (a male chauvinist) said to me, as part of this group discussion in our family room, “Sissy, if you were my wife I would have had you home a long time ago”!
Nevermind that we needed the money!
Nevermind that I loved my job!
Nevermind that my children were doing fine with a working mother!
The fact is, I was becoming a member of the women’s movement, in the time of Gloria Steinem, a pioneer in the movement, and I loved that feeling, but others were not as supportive.
At our house that night, I opened my mouth to the guy, told him and the others that I was glad that if anything happened to our family, I could care for my children because I was an independent woman with a career and a salary.
His answer was, “You could never make enough money to keep this house going” to which I responded “I didn’t say I could live in a house like this with my children, but I could take care of my children if I had to because I have my own career and earn my own money!”
I’m sure that I wasn’t the only woman being challenged by a man who felt threatened by women like myself.
4. A Funny Story About How Fate Led Me To Gloria Steinem
Gloria Steinem was our idol. She started the whole women’s movement. Years later, I was in Florida with Nanny and Poppy [my other set of grandparents] and Nanny and I were in the gym working out when I learned, just by chance, that Gloria Steinem was the speaker at that very moment at the Hadassah group luncheon meeting in the room three steps away from the gym! I quickly tried to get the sweat off of me (I could not take the time to change into luncheon clothes) and walked into the Hadassah event, where the women were all eating lunch at pretty round tables, dressed in their lovely clothes, and I sat at a chair by myself in the most unobtrusive a corner that I could find (though there were no unobtrusive corners) and I waited until Gloria Steinem spoke. I will never forget that moment. It was an incredible day and I would not have changed that for a day of buying clothes, sitting at the pool, or ANYTHING ELSE.
Ok, Rach. I am writing so fast (I have so much to say!) but tell me if you think I could be one of your contributors as I can give your generation, and your website readers, a glimpse into where they came from and how they (you) have your own problems and difficulties (and opportunities) because of this new change and how life expectations and goals changed with the new generations of women.
I love you. I am proud of you