Thursday, July 17, 2008


Lately I've read a couple of novels set in 1930s Britain, both of which reference young women hired to do housework in other people's houses. I had always assumed "hired help" was something only the rich had, but I think I was wrong. I think that in the country before there were many jobs available for women, being someone's hired girl was a very normal step between childhood and adult life.

"My girl Polly - she's sixteen now and going out to service next autumn, for whatever people may say and whatever airs they may give themselves, I will maintain there's nothing like good service to train a girl up to be a good wife. It's not standing behind a counter all day selling ribbons and bathing-dresses (if they call them dresses, with no legs and no backs and next to no fronts neither) will teach you how to cook a floury potato."

- Dorothy L. Sayers, The Nine Tailors

In a way, I've followed this pattern myself. I've spent my first year out of college doing work that won't look good on a resume, but that has taught me a lot of basic life skills. Years of my parents' griping didn't teach me to wash dishes as carefully as two months in someone else's house last summer. I finally learned how to fold shirts, and to actually want to fold shirts before I put them away. I was a good cook before, but now I'm a lot better - and I can do it for 150 people (not that that's a skill I plan to use a lot). I've seen how different families order their time and space - here they gather on the porch to play board games, there they eat ice cream on the sofa while someone practices piano.

In the fall Jeff and I will be living with his parents, where I expect nearly all of those skills to go to good use. It's been a year well-spent.

Next step: find a job that pays money.


Anonymous said...

If your next step is a job that pays money, don't do biology :(

Julia said...

Apparently sociology wasn't such a lucrative plan either.