This statement vies with the desire to keep secrets and protect privacy as the top reason people give for not writing their lifestories. Poppycock! I’m pretty sure a centipede’s knee would be fascinating if looked at under a microscope and described with flair. Besides, what we take for granted today will be exotic to our great-grandchildren in fifty years. Wouldn’t you like to know what daily life was like for your ancestors 100 years ago?
In today’s guest post, Pittsburgh resident Bea Carter put her plain vanilla morning routine under a microscope in this delightful essay. With deft strokes of her keyboard, she has transformed the ordinary into a uniquely creative essay that I think you’ll agree is remarkable.
Flexing my Economic Muscle
Rosie the Riveter has nothing over me.
Now a U.S. icon, Rosie represents women who worked in factory jobs vacated by men conscripted to fight in World War II. Saying “We Can Do It!” while flexing her biceps, she became a symbol of feminism and of women’s economic power.
Following Rosie’s example, today I do my part for America—not in a factory manufacturing goods but at home consuming them. In doing so, I am flexing my economic muscle.
Some greet the dawn with a chant or a prayer. Me—I begin my days with rituals and routines that, in the end, are all about consumption—using goods and services for which marketers have created demand. Bombarded by messages to buy-buy-buy, I yield, participating in commerce that makes our nation’s economy go.
I wonder what people would think a hundred years from now if they found this snapshot of products I perfunctorily use just to get from my bed to my breakfast table…
- My hi-tech clock radio lulls me awake—its soft, far-away sounds getting louder and louder so I am not blasted into the day.
- I throw off my bedcovers—sheet, bedspread and comforter.
- I sleep-walk to the double-paned window to close it.
- I patter to the thermostat to turn up the heat…
- …then on to the bathroom (equipped with sink, tub, commode). I let the electric company know I’m awake by turning on the bathroom lights.
- Next product: toilet paper…
- Then water to flush everything away.
- I squint into the mirror. (Hel-lo Go-ah-jus.)
- I pick up my toothbrush…
- …and squish some toothpaste onto its bristles.
- After brushing my mouth awake, I remove my nightgown…
- ..hang it on the hook…
- …on the back of the bathroom door.
- I turn on the shower.
- The water comes out brisk and hot, heated by our efficient hot water heater.
- I grope for the shampoo.
- It’s in the caddy that hangs from the shower.
- After I lather, rinse, repeat, I grab my bath puff.
- I squirt some liquid soap onto it and proceed to scrub.
- I eye my pumice stone, which I use to smooth the callouses on the bottoms of my feet. Not now, but next time.
- Pushing the shower curtain aside…
- I step out onto the bath mat.
- I reach for my towel—a nice, thick, thirsty, oversized one.
- I run my comb through my now towel-dried hair.
- Then I pick up a bottle of special facial serum that promises to defy aging skin, and I apply it even though I can’t see myself in the steamed-up mirror.
- Next I grab a tube of cream formulated just for the “delicate” skin around my eyes. I dab it on.
- On top of those potions I smear an ample dollop facial moisturizer with Sun Protective Factor.
- After that I grab a bottle of body lotion, also loaded with SPF, and apply it all over.
- Now I’m ready for the next barrage of goodies. For these I don my chenille bathrobe.
- Back in my bedroom, I sit down at my dressing table, a heavy, tall marble-topped Victorian piece that a childless Civil War surgeon left my grandfather. Since I inherited it, I am not counting it as something I purchased. But at one point in its life, someone bought it. And it traveled up and down the eastern seaboard before landing here.
- I turn on a tensor lamp that gives out just the right amount of light for applying makeup.
- I pick up my hair dryer and turn it on. In 10 seconds, my hair’s done.
- Then I peer into my magnifying mirror…
- …surveying my face in general, but looking for stray whiskers that have begun to colonize on my chin. For them I am armed with surgeon-quality tweezers.
- I pick out some eye shadow (somehow I have three shades of nude) and apply it using the little sponge-tipped applicator that comes with it.
- Then I give my eyebrows some love with a brow pencil.
- I dab clear mascara over my brow hairs to keep them in place.
- I pick out eyeliner—brown usually, but sometimes blue-gray—and apply it.
- Brown mascara for my eyelashes is next. Got to have it, otherwise I look like Little Orphan Annie.
- I skip the blush, which I generally use only at night.
- I skip the lipstick, too, although I have at least 4 tubes of it. It’ll just wear off at breakfast.
- My hair gets a spritz of hair spray.
- Finally, I add a dab of perfume (not the real stuff).
- Now I dress—underwear, top, pants, sweater, shoes and socks.
- Opening my jewelry box, which I’ve had since high school, I don my watch and earrings. (When you have pierced ears, you have to wear earrings.)
- Down in the kitchen, I fill up the teakettle with tap water.
- I put it on the stove, which I turn on.
- While I’m waiting for the water to boil, I use a juice glass to take my vitamins and medicines using filtered water I keep in a pitcher.
- Then I flip on the little TV, conveniently perched on the counter, to hear the morning news show, which we can tune in thanks to our multi-tiered cable TV service.
- I open our apartment door and grab the newspaper—I like to read the news while eating breakfast.
- Back at the stove, I place a filter in the cone that goes with my drip coffee pot.
- I ladle in some coffee using a special measuring spoon. By now the water’s boiling, so I add the water to the grounds in the cone. Ahhh…the aroma of freshly brewed coffee…I fill my favorite coffee cup anticipating that satisfying first sip.
- But before that, I open the kitchen cabinet and retrieve a bowl, and open the drawer and pick up a spoon.
- Open the fridge…
- Take out some fruit and put it in the bowl...
- …add some yogurt.
- Settle down in my chair at the table, food, coffee and paper before me.
- After half an hour or so of reading, I load my dishes into the dishwasher.
- Then I mop up the counter with the dish cloth.
Write now: zoom in on one of your routines and write it down in this degree of detail. Draw on memory to record a typical day or season in the past. That day will be a composite because one ordinary act blurs with dozens of others into general memory over time. You may be surprised at the complexity of life. Your descendants will be amazed. Include enough detail about equipment and such that they’ll be able to understand what you are talking about.