Nos­tal­gic

fan­tasy or real life?

Ottawa Business Journal - Ottawa at Home - - LIVING ON SECOND THOUGHT -

about mod­ern women’s fond­ness for 1960s ad-man Don Draper of TV’s “Mad Men.” The sangfroid! The ur­ban­ity! The well-tai­lored suits!

But long be­fore ac­tor Jon Hamm first slapped a fe­dora on his slicked-back hair, I’d be­gun my long-run­ning love af­fair with the whole post­war vibe. So great is my fas­ci­na­tion with Dior cock­tail dresses, mar­tini shak­ers and jazz stan­dards that I’d be tempted to say I was a sub­ur­ban Le­vit­town house­wife in a past life, if I be­lieved in past lives.

I’m far from alone in my love of all things 1950s and 1960s, if Ottawa’s shop­ping scene is any in­di­ca­tion. A stone’s throw from our house in Old Ottawa South, I could pick up groovy Eames chairs at Found De­sign, a re­pro­duc­tion jet-age lighting fix­ture at Mikaza Home and vin­tage Frank Si­na­tra LPs at Planet of Sound, if I felt so in­clined. Fur­ther afield, the folks at Young Jane’s in the By­ward Mar­ket or Rag­time in Cen­tre­town would hap­pily sell me a vin­tage frock wor­thy of Grace Kelly. If I looked hard enough, I could prob­a­bly find a lov­ingly re­stored 1959 Cadil­lac El­do­rado con­vert­ible for sale—just the thing to drive around town while wear­ing a silk scarf over my bouf­fant ‘do.

Just think­ing about it, I’m drift­ing away on a sea of nos­tal­gia for times I never lived in. I can pic­ture it now: days spent bak­ing cook­ies in my pearls and high heels, week­ends danc­ing the night away at Ricky Ri­cardo’s Trop­i­cana Club, all the while madly swill­ing cock­tails and smok­ing end­less cigarettes…

And that’s where the fan­tasy comes screech­ing to a halt. I loathe the smell of cigarettes. High heels make my feet hurt. And while I love my pearls, I have no de­sire to wear them ev­ery day.

As Stephanie Coontz points out in her eye-open­ing book, The Way We Never Were: Amer­i­can Fam­i­lies and the Nos­tal­gia Trap, stud­ies have shown that hu­man be­ings re­mem­ber mainly the good things about the past as time goes by, and con­ve­niently for­get the un­pleas­ant stuff. Sure, life looked swell for tra­di­tional, white-bread Ozzie and Har­riet, but it wasn’t quite so easy in the real world for any­one who was gay, or black, or di­vorced. And, in fact, 25 per­cent of Amer­i­cans lived in poverty in the 1950s. As Coontz drily points out, “Con­trary to pop­u­lar opin­ion, ‘Leave it to Beaver’ was not a doc­u­men­tary.”

And think about all the great things we have to­day that the Cleavers and the Drap­ers never dreamed ex­isted: Thai take­out; yoga stu­dios; in­de­pen­dent women; civil rights of all de­scrip­tions; the In­ter­net; high-def­i­ni­tion tele­vi­sion…

Ah, yes, HD TV. Now that I think of it, I’d much rather en­counter Don Draper and his sex­ist cronies within the con­fines of our flat-screen tele­vi­sion than in real life. When I’ve had it with his drunken wom­an­iz­ing, I can just switch it off and re­turn to 2010. Which, of course, I’ll be wax­ing nos­tal­gic about in 2050.

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