I don’t remember how this tidbit came to me, in fact I was afraid I had dreamed it, but a Google search confirmed that women in the 18th century wore false eyebrows made out of mouse fur (still attached to the mouse’s skin.) The women shaved their own eyebrows, just like my mom’s friend Dot, and then replaced them with said fur. Dot, however, penciled hers back in with Maybelline.
While researching the eyebrow thing, I also discovered that women in France during the French Revolution wore neck ribbons in memory of the recently beheaded.
If you were a young woman in the early 1970s, you may have worn neck ribbons, too. I did. I remember a particularly beautiful brown velvet pant suit I wore to a fancy party in Nashville. I wore a brown satin neck ribbon, tied in the back so that only a smooth line of satin rested against my neck. And we hippie kids thought we were so original.
Given the fact that Adam Walsh disappeared from a Sears department store in 1981 and later was found murdered, am I the only one deeply disturbed by a current ad depicting a child separated from his father in Sears? It’s all light and lovely and the child clearly never is in danger, but those of us who still think of Adam and his family (I worked with his father briefly) don’t find it humorous. As far as I can see, creative young people have one deficit — they haven’t lived long enough.
If you’re a fan of “Downton Abbey,” I recommend “Below Stairs” by Margaret Powell. It tells of her life in domestic service in the great houses of England. Her experiences as a kitchen maid, the lowest in rank of the domestic corps, are both fascinating and appalling. It is amazing the level of fussiness people rise to when they have others doing the work for them. Margaret, who left school to go to work at 13 and got her first job as a domestic at 15, was required to rise at 5:30 every morning to scrub 14 wide stone steps leading up to the front door, wash the door and polish its brass, which included a many-creviced gargoyle. That was just the beginning of a day of shining the household’s boots and ironing their shoelaces before she began her kitchen duties that continued long into the evening. The life of the downstairs servants at Downton Abbey seems relatively blissful. Julian Fellowes, creator of the show, said Margaret Powell was the “first person outside my family to introduce me to that world,” and her memories haunted him until he made his “own attempt to capture those people for the camera.” Thank you, Margaret Powell.
And while I’m making recommendations, if you didn’t watch the PBS series “Call the Midwife,” go to PBS.org and watch it. I didn’t catch its TV run because I’m not keen on watching babies being born. I endured the first generation of births documented on film by my friends who were too eager to share. But I kept hearing how wonderful the series was, so I gave it a try. The characters are dear and the stories touching and beautiful, I highly recommend it. You will consider Chummy a great find.
I suppose I should close with a quote. This from James Baldwin via “The Week”: “I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.”
Jan Hearne is the Press Tempo Editor. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.