Prov 17:22

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine... - Proverbs 17:22

Friday, May 26, 2023

I Shaved My Legs for THIS?

Photo from Canva
I can already hear you hollering “TOO MUCH INFORMATION!” Bear with me.

I’ve always approached shaving my legs the way I approach housework: do it on schedule, not for company. If you clean your house every Saturday simply because it’s Saturday, you’ll never need to go into a full-on panic when unexpected company appears at the door.

With leg shaving, I’ve found every third day, all year around, means I’ll never need to go at my legs with a gas-powered hedge trimmer in preparation for a summer wedding. Not to mention that the task itself provides a bit of a yoga workout.

Naturally, as I thought about writing this column, Deana Carter’s 1995 country hit, “Did I Shave My Legs for This?” has been running through my head. I decided to dig into the history of leg-shaving and see how the practice began.

Turns out we’ve all been duped, ladies.

According to Wikipedia, until the early 20th century, body hair removal was unheard of for women. The convergence of several factors changed all that. A higher population of women and a rise in women’s literacy led to an increase in women’s magazines. Fashion began to dictate sheerer fabric, shorter sleeves, and higher hemlines.

When Gillette introduced disposable safety razors for men for home use in 1903 and quickly sold 90,000, manufacturers soon realized they were missing half the American market. First, of course, they needed to create that market. Cyrus Curtis, the male publisher of the Ladies Home Journal, told advertisers the purpose of the magazine was not for the benefit of American women, but to give manufacturers a way to market their products to women. The goal of advertisers was to not only fulfill women’s needs but to create new ones.

Not so subtly, advertisers began to convince women that underarm hair was unfeminine, objectionable, unwelcome, embarrassing, unsightly, and unclean. Targeting upper-class women, a 1915 advertisement in Harper’s Bazaar for a depilatory powder called "X Bazin" shows an image of a woman in a sleeveless gown with her arm raised. The caption reads, “Summer Dress and Modern Dancing combine to make necessary the removal of objectionable hair.” The ad even claimed that the product had been “used by women of refinement for generations.”

Hair removal on legs (known as “limbs” in polite society) came next. Since women wore thick stockings even after hemlines shortened, it wasn’t until the rationing of silk and nylon during World War II that the shaving of legs took off. Women who wanted to appear to be wearing nylons began to shave their legs and draw “seams” down the back of their calves. When hosiery again became both readily available and sheer, the practice of shaving legs continued.

Whether it’s hair removal, hair dye, lash extensions, micro-blading, make-up, or an insurmountable number of cosmetic products and procedures, few of us are immune to the pressure of what advertising and culture tell us is acceptable and desirable. I suppose if we wanted to stay positive, we could view this tyranny as job creation and good for the economy. Given how each successive generation knows more than the previous one, you might think we’d have risen above the dictates of fashion by now, but it seems we’re more enslaved than ever.

If you’re someone who lets nature run its course over the winter months—or all the time—take no offense. They’re your limbs and you can do what you want. As for me, I guess I’ll keep shaving my legs for now and not complain. I’m just grateful they’re still there and they still work.

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” (Proverbs 31:30)

Friday, May 19, 2023

My Queen Victoria

This weekend marks the birthday of Queen Victoria, whom all of us are too young to remember and probably wouldn’t at all if our country hadn’t declared a holiday in her honor.

So I want to write about my own personal Queen Victoria. She’s somewhat of an icon in Portage la Prairie, known and loved by many. She’s been lovingly referred to as “a party wherever she goes.” She celebrates an important milestone birthday this month—though you’d never guess—and I’m proud to call her my friend.

I’m talking about the unsinkable Vicki Hooke.

One reason Vicki’s so recognized in Portage is that she taught at Crescentview School for nearly four decades and continues to substitute since her retirement. Countless students remember her fondly as the teacher who encouraged them and made school fun. But even if you never had the privilege of being one of her students, you’ve probably played pickle-ball with her, partied with her, seen her in a play, sang show tunes or Christmas carols around her piano, or volunteered with her somewhere.

I first met Vicki when she began attending my church in the late nineteen hundreds. Knowing Vicki, her friends quickly convinced her to join the church drama team which I led. I soon came to appreciate this bundle of energy who brought life and fun to every rehearsal, laughs and applause to every performance. She served with us for close to two decades, until church drama teams became passé and ours dissolved.

Today, Vicki serves our congregation as an usher and greeter—a perfect fit for my gregarious friend. Years ago, I declared her a “little pillar” of the church for her faithfulness through thick and thin. And so she is.

I soon dragged Vicki in with me when I became involved with the Prairie Players, our local community theatre group. We continued to act, laugh, and learn lines together. As a playwright, I’ve lost count of the parts I’ve written especially with Vicki in mind, for both these groups.

Our latest shenanigans involve riding the Herman Prior Centre bus to see plays at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, followed by shopping and supper at Polo Park, and gabbing all the way there and back. Vicki’s unparalleled ability to make friends everywhere we go makes me feel like a wallflower in comparison, but I love it. Her energy at 70 surpasses what most of us enjoyed in our thirties. You can’t hang around with Vicki and not feel better about everything. Her three young granddaughters are blessed.

If all that’s not enough, under the sparkly earrings, feather boas, and musical laughter, Vicki is a woman of depth and character. I’ve seen her handle real struggles with strength and grace. She’s not afraid to ask for help when she needs it and she passes on praise generously. Vicki grew up in a family that valued education, hard work, and service to community. She’s living proof that a woman of faith and substance can also be the most exuberant party hostess, that wisdom and humor can reside in the same little body, and that a merry heart really is the best medicine.

I thank God for my friend, my Queen Victoria, and for the wonderful way He created her. If you know Vicki, wish her well this birthday month and thank her for all the joy she brings to our community and our world.

The real Queen Victoria, after surviving her eighth assassination attempt, said, “It is worth being shot at to see how much one is loved.”

Happy Birthday, Miss Vicki. I hope that, even without getting shot at, you know how deeply you are loved. 

Vicki and Me


Friday, May 12, 2023

Good One, Mom.

What is it about young humans that makes them reluctant to give their mother any credit regarding her sense of humor? We mothers laugh at our kids’ dumb jokes. Why can’t they laugh at ours? When our children still lived under our roof, if they felt particularly generous, they might grant me one “Good one, Mom” every six months or so.

It hasn’t improved much. Last time we were together, I told my family I had a question for them: “How did the radish get its name?”

“Is this a joke?” my youngest asked. I guess he needed to know so that he could better prepare to roll his eyes instead of laugh.

“I don’t know,” one grandson said. “How did the radish get its name?”

“Because it’s sort of rad and sort of not rad,” I said.

Funny, right? 

They stared at me. Except for Nate, the tall one in the corner who appeared to ignore me as he scrolled on his phone.

“You know,” I explained. “It’s like saying, ‘Nate is attentive-ish.’”

Without even looking up, Nate said, “It’s more like saying Mom is funny-ish.”

The brat.

Do your kids do this? I know I’d probably have better luck if I stopped trying so hard, but I can’t seem to help myself. We’ve all heard of Dad jokes. I think Mom jokes deserve a place in society too.

I find my own mother pretty funny but perhaps this is simply an indication of how successfully I’ve matured. At 91, my mother still cracks jokes. As we drove west on Crescent Road one April day, we noticed more ice remaining on the southwest end of the lake than we’d seen further back. “I guess that’s because it’s further south,” she quipped.

Mom’s favorite answer when asked how she’s doing is, “From the ankles up, I’m doing great!” (Sure beats from the ankles down!)

On Easter weekend, I gave her a wee Easter basket. On the ride back to her place, Mom held my childish gift in her lap. It tickled my funny bone to hear her smacking away on jellybeans from her basket. If, at that age, I’m finally successful at making my kids laugh, I sure hope it’s because of something cute like that and not because I’ve fallen and can’t get up.

Given the choice, I suppose there are far more important things I hope my children remember me for than being funny. You too? Like every mom, I want my kids to be able to say I encouraged them, comforted them, supported, and loved them unconditionally—even when I lost my cool. I want them to cherish fond memories of home as a safe place where they felt free to be who they are. A place where Mom humbled herself enough to ask forgiveness when she blew it. I want them to know I’m still here for them should they feel they need me. I want them to know their mother prayed for them every day of their lives whether they believed in prayer or not.

You know what’s truly funny? Any of those things could be accomplished without once cracking a joke.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Mom and Me in 2021