Thursday, June 21, 2007

…Especially if you are a woman...

"Let us not have a garden of tiring care or a user up of precious time. That is not good citizenship. Neither let us have an old- trousers, sun-bonnet, black finger-nails garden — especially if you are a woman. A garden that makes a wife, daughter or sister a dowdy is hardly Joyous Gard. Neither is one which makes itself a mania to her and an affliction to her family.”
- George W. Cable, “The Amateur Garden", Charles Scribner’s sons, New York, 1914

A kingdom of sea monkeys! An Amazing Pastel Growing Crystal Garden! A magician’s bag of mysterious tricks that will amaze your friends! None of that stuff ever delivered the promise of the picture on the box. Perhaps it’s just as well. These false promises inside the back cover of comic books prepared me for all life’s little disappointments, such as making sub-equal pay for super-equal work.

Which, in turn, prepared me to accept the news that my sunflowers will never look like their pictures on the seed packets either.

No gardener should ever become obsessed with their garden, particularly a “wife, daughter or sister” whose “affliction” may harm her family. Better you gals stick to gardening only so much of the day as you can spare from washing and cooking and cleaning. And don’t forget that there is a real danger, ladies, that your garden may make you look dowdy in your work clothes, or make your fingernails black. Or, oddly, make you a bad citizen. Need I say that if that were to happen, the terrorists would have already won?

These are all fates to be avoided, – or they certainly merited dire warnings in 1914. I find it encouraging to see I’ve come such a long way (baby) and that I can apparently use my precious time to surrender to my primal urges and garden obsessively, or to afflict my family with my dirty fingernails. Take that, EEOC!

This is reassuring, particularly if – like me – you once envisioned a thriving civilization of sea monkeys building tiny skyscrapers in a chipped glass fishbowl. Or if you expected a dazzling perfusion of sunflowers in that sunny corner of your garden, and only one showed up.

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