Wednesday, September 18, 2013

I'm pregnant again (it just can't be so!)

This can either be seen as a sociological treatise - and God knows, I've written more than my share of those - or just a headshaking, gasping peek at life in the mid-1960s.

I don't for a minute think this song was meant to be serious, and the video is even less so. Most likely it was a sendup of Roger Miller's huge hit King of the Road.  Never mind the sexy and semi-glamorous images in the video: the lyrics bespeak domestic drudgery, shabbiness and unquestioning self-sacrifice. (I was sort of hoping they'd dramatize all that, rather than go with all this bustier/leg-lifting stuff.) The acrobatic flips of - who is that guy, the ice man? - help jazz it up a little, and to me the guy looks uncannily like a pre-Star-Trek George Takei.

This song/video sprang from a specific genre, probably beginning with the jaw-dropping 1950s TV program Queen for a Day. Four broken-down housewives would come on the show each week and pitch their tale of woe, after which the audience would determine who was most worthy of financial rescue using an applause-o-meter. This always looked rigged to me, but it was considered sufficiently accurate to determine which horror story was ghastly enough to warrant an array of Lovely Gifts.

There are snippets of this horror on YouTube, jerky, smudgy old kinescopes that look like something out of a bleary dream. People actually took this show seriously and wanted to be on it, desperately. No doubt many of the sob stories were fabricated, but the point is, the show proved to us all that, just like every dog, even the everyday housewife could have her day.

The genre of the downtrodden yet celebrated matron of the house took many forms, including the dreary Loretta Lynn song, Pregnant Again:

Pregnant again oh where will we go
Pregnant again it just can’t be so
But I never could count when the lights were down low
And I’m pregnant again (pregnant again)

There goes the new washer we needed so bad
There goes the vacation that we never had
There goes the new TV I thought we’d enjoy
Oh honey who cares I hope it’s a boy

Now THAT'S a save, embracing noble martyrdom in the very last line (in case anyone thought for a minute she was considering
the last refuge of many an overburdened mother-to-be).

The other one that pops into my head is even more melodramatic. I think Glen Campbell sang it. I remember my mother being quite angry about this one. "What does he mean, 'the good life'?" she would cry. "This IS the good life!" Obviously, her conditioning, positively Orwellian in nature, had taken, and taken completely.(I don't think it's a coincidence that she was also a heavy user of those little yellow pills.)

She looks in the mirror and stares at the wrinkles
That weren't there yesterday
And thinks of the young man that she almost married
What would he think if he saw her this way?
She picks up her apron in little girl-fashion
As something comes into her mind
Slowly starts dancing remembering her girlhood
And all of the boys she had waiting in line
Oh, such are the dreams of the everyday housewife
You see everywhere any time of the day
An everyday housewife who gave up the good life for me

The wrinkled old drudge who stares into the mirror like something out of that bleak Auden poem ("O look, look in the mirror/O look in your distress") once was a fair flower just ready to be plucked by some handsome young man, a man of class and means, and instead - ? He doesn't spell out how ghastly her life is now, and what kind of loser she got stuck with, probably by getting pregnant. 

And nobody really talked about what a bomb pregnancy could be for a young woman then, an explosive that could blow her life and her dreams to bits. The expression "she had to get married" used to puzzle me, along with an even more incomprehensible term, "shotgun". 

Which, when you think about it, has some pretty ominous connotations of its own.

(Blogger's note. I made these gifs from an old YouTube clip from Queen for a Day. The winner, looking morose even in her supposed victory, was a clear choice because her husband had been paralyzed in a hunting accident and had to lie on his stomach, completely immobile. She won some sort of fancy bed that cranked up and down and a week's stay in a luxury hotel, a dubious prize for someone forever chained to a man who couldn't move.)