Kids These Days And Some Women's History

Remote In my 9th grade history class, I ended up on a group project with some other girls that was to be a mural entitled “A Century of Women: 1890-1990,” or something like that.

Now, since we weren’t actually painting on a wall – the whole thing was down on a long roll of butcher block paper – and I can’t draw to save my life, I’m not sure why this was our chosen medium of expression (or why we called it a “mural” instead of a “painting”), but there you have it. I can be pretty sure that the women’s history part was my idea since studying is something I was good at.

I had the early years, 1890-1920, and what stuck with me the most after all of that research is how the invention of the washing machine, and later the vacuum, blender, and every other appliance a man should never buy a woman on a romantic holiday, affected women’s lives. While everyone claimed that these products would make women's lives easier, it was the exact opposite that occurred. Instead of being free from the kitchen and laundry for other pursuits, women were just expected to get more done in a day.

Even then, it seemed like a raw deal.

Twenty years later or so, I feel the same way about technology. Only, whereas my industrious forebearers kept house and tended to families, I use the Internet and Netflix to watch every episode of every random television series I’ve ever liked and play way too much spider solitaire. I haven’t created more free time, but I have created more wasted time.

And even though it might seem frivolous, I do think children of this generation are completely missing out on the struggle it used to take to watch your favorite show.  Without DVR or TV on DVD or the beloved live-streaming Netflix, you actually had to be home when your show was on. And, if heaven forbid you weren’t home, you had to trust a crazy contraption called the VCR to record if for you. That was a 50/50 shot at best. How many times did you rush home only to find that you had snow on tape instead of The Cosby Show

I’m going to guess it happened more than once.

To this day, the only episode of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer I haven’t seen has to do with a drive from D.C. to Birmingham and an ill-timed VCR. (I plan to correct this shortly thanks to Netflix, but it was still rough. It was the one where Buffy and Spike finally did it for God’s sake. It left my friend Margaret and I with nothing to discuss for most of that Thanksgiving break.)

Perhaps sadder yet (on many levels, this is a dork story if there ever was one), around the time I was 14, I decided to make it my mission to watch every episode of Quantum Leap. (Again, I know I was weird.) Quantum Leap played in reruns twice a day between 10:00 and 12:00 p.m. So, not only did I have to record the shows, but I had to find the time to watch them somewhere between soccer practice, homework and dinner with the fam.

The episodes were also played in order, so if you missed one, you had to wait for the next go-round for a chance to see it again.

Oh, the struggles of my youth.

I remember when I was only one episode away from completing my goal, when I learned that that one episode was actually called “Trilogy,” so what I thought was one episode was really three.

(I know, it’s hard to believe one adolescent could endure so much.)

"Trilogy" played the week I had soccer camp, so being summer, I could watch it when it was on. I had gotten through the first two episodes just fine. I was finally down to the third episode, and last episode of my saga, which also happened to be a murder trial when, I kid you not, this happened:

Scott Bakula was standing in the courtroom, “I’ll tell you who the murderer is here!”

And my power went out -- one minute from knowing the outcome of a salacious plot line and five minutes from achieving a dream.

The next day at soccer camp was a long one.

Of course, I eventually saw all the episodes of Quantum Leap (and learned that sometimes the worst thing is for a wish to come true – oh, life without new episodes of the greatest time-traveling show the world has ever known can be rough), but it took time and patience.

These days, I don’t need either of those. Can’t recall where you’ve seen an actor before? Forgot it was Modern Family night? DVR. Don’t like to talk to pizza delivery guys? Order online.

Not only are kids not learning about the potential disappointment of missing a favorite show, they live in a world where everything rests at your fingertips 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Yes, it’s my love/hate relationship with the Internet on display for the world yet again. But, it really does make me wonder where we’ll go from here, and whether or not, like the generations before us, we’re still trading “convenience” for stress, worry and longer and longer work days. 

Laurel Mills

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