Thursday, July 31, 2014

Small Victories

The simple statement which began the Facebook thread was this:

" Nothing like the Quarterly for making you feel useless."

Of course, I thought. The Mount Holyoke Alumnae Quarterly. My own copy had recently arrived. And I knew that my friend's comment was a reference to the Class Notes portion of the publication. I've written about Mount Holyoke before. I received an amazing education there, but it came with a burden:

Can women "have it all"? And by all I mean career, family, and saving the world. Mount Holyoke Types, or MoHos, as they are now called, are instilled with founder Mary Lyon's earnest charge: go where no one else will go, do what no one else will do. The response to this falls rather heavily onto the Class Notes.

My friend went on.

"I don't have a problem with the Quarterly in theory. There are things in it that I like reading, like the history bits (there's a funny story in this one about making beer in a science lab in the 70s and a letter in the letters section from a woman who was the station manager at WMHC in the 50s when they went from AM to FM and thought "who will ever have an FM radio?") But I find it difficult to disconnect my own life sometimes, even though I'm generally happy, and not compare myself to others. It's like a grownup version of 'I have more to do than you do.'"

Then she issued this invitation:

"Contribute! Something which depicts your life as it is actually happening, not glossed in Quarterly varnish."

And so, here is a sampling of Real Class Notes:

Linda, who has just realized it has been two weeks since the handle broke off her fridge and she has yet to do anything about it, has a spider bite but no spidey-super powers of which to speak. She has also spent a lot of time starting books but never finishing them this summer. Other than that, she is often bored.

Hannah has not put away the laundry in 3 weeks and is eating pie for dinner because she just can't be bothered to cook. Oh, and she somehow managed to break a finger and a toe at the same time, while already having a torn rotator cuff and impending gallbladder surgery. Her body is telling her she's getting older fast. Fantastic.

Melissa has started wearing eyeshadow again, and recently purchased several new Brita filters so she can stop using the one that has been languishing in her pitcher for a year. She also sorted out the slow drainage problem in her tub. She went to the gym once two weeks ago and didn't cry even a little.

Jenn--It's nice to hear that others feel the same way! The quarterly focuses so much on grads who "change the world". I wish they did stories on the rest of us too. I am happy to work part time and take care of my kids. My victory today was to finish the laundry and give my kids a bath at a decent hour so I can get back into my jammies.

Shannon is exhausted from working full time and commuting 90 minutes a day on public transportation. She wonders how anyone has the energy to take care of kids. She loves her kitties sometimes more than people and looks forward to watching Jeopardy on tv.

Ellen--I think some real class notes would be awesome. I just want to read that someone is plagued by self-doubt and worry, manages to have some fun, is shelving Great aspirations for Good ones, and is mostly doing the best she can. Welp, there's mine.

Lynn-- The one time I wrote in during the last 16 years I did say something about getting engaged, running a marathon, blah blah. Haha. If I wrote a real update it would be: Lynn wishes she could get rid of that extra 10+ pounds of baby weight but cupcakes and ice cream are just too darn good. She spent the last 5 months watching loads of HGTV while her partner was away on a submarine. She thought of a million different ways to renovate and redocorate their crappy rental house but never got around to doing any of it. Her dog died in February and that really sucked. She misses him every day.

Maddie--But last year when you won the London Marathon and cured ovarian cancer was such an inspiring post!

Linda--I like the quarterly in theory as well, but it is nice to check in with your peers to see that we may all be "uncommon women" but we are all pretty normal and have lots of very unexceptional moments in our lives. It is also fun to celebrate small victories...


Elizabeth Topham Kennan, the president of Mount Holyoke College when I was there, said in a speech, "We have no reason to exist if we are not the best." It bothered me then, and it seems to weigh heavily on many of us even now. This thread represents a thirty-year span of graduates. We go along, living our lives, and then an issue of the Quarterly lays us low. Are we Uncommon Women, or merely "others"?

Oh, and my submission for Real Class Notes?

Julia is making the most of her summer break by going through boxes in the bedroom closet and just today finished organizing the kitchen mish mosh drawer.



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