When my sister and I were growing up, there was a TV show called “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.” This show starred Dwayne Hickman as Dobie Gillis and Tuesday Weld as Thalia Menniger. Bob Denver, who went on to fame and fortune as Gilligan on Gilligan’s Island, played Dobie’s best friend Maynard G. Krebs. Maynard’s main claim to fame was that he was practically allergic to work. Whenever anyone on the show mentioned “work,” Maynard would repeat the word in a loud screechy voice while scrunching up his entire body like he was having an allergic reaction.
In much the same way, both our mother Mary and our stepmother Beatrice had aversions to work. They may have considered themselves too pretty to work. My mother had held a waitress job for a short time before she and my dad hooked up and she became a full-time (alleged) homemaker. Mother also held a factory job for a short time while my sister was in high school and she worked sporadically when she lived in California. At no time did she meet the qualifications of the long-term employed.
Beatrice was no better. She was working when my dad met her and he mistakenly believed that she was a woman who enjoyed working and making her own money. He should have checked just a little bit more and he would have discovered that Beatrice had only started working when she and her first husband Ed split up and that she was hoping to stop working the minute she landed her next husband.
My dad loved to work. He enjoyed being an attorney and he often said he would do it even if he didn’t get paid. He encouraged my sister and I to find something we enjoyed and pursue it; although I must say that he too did not think we would be working for very much of our lives. Like the two women he married, Dad thought we would marry and have children and forget all about working outside of the home.
After college graduation, I got my first teaching job. My mother informed me that “Working is tacky.” She considered it something that was done by “women who had to work.” Well, I was one of those women; at least if my family wanted groceries I was.
When my sister Sissy graduated from college, she began working at a place called Woolco. Soon she met David and left to start her family of daughters. She was happy staying home and caring for her house and family and Beatrice thought that was great. When Sissy got a divorce and moved into the upper level of a grocery store, frying chicken at 6AM each day, Beatrice was disturbed. Like our mother Mary, our stepmother Beatrice also considered working unrefined. And when Sissy married the love of her life Don, and found her finances considerably improved, Beatrice threw it up to Lindy and me that Sissy had gobs of money and never had to work again.
Yes, Beatrice was on cloud nine over Sissy’s good fortune, until suddenly the stock market went South, taking all of Don’s money with it. Now, for the first time, Beatrice was singing a different tune. She began berating Sissy for not getting her teaching degree like Lindy and I had done. Suddenly we were the smart ones and Sissy was the foolish one.
That’s one of the things about my mother and Beatrice, you never knew when or why you would go from being the smart one to the dumb one. It could happen at any time, and with little or no reason.
Having worked my whole life, I can say that I enjoy having something meaningful to do with my days. I can also say that part of both Mary and Beatrice’s problems stemmed from them not feeling good about themselves. Maybe a job would have helped. It certainly couldn’t have hurt, pretty or not.