by Sugar Kay
Time travel. It’s something I’ve fantasized about since childhood. I became convinced early on that I had been born in the wrong time. All I needed was a time machine to correct this cosmic error. But it wasn’t Marty McFly’s short-distance journey to his parents’ adolescence for which I longed…no, I wanted to go back to the really “old-fashioned days.” I wanted to skip stones with Laura and Mary at the creek or embrace slender willows with Anne Shirley. I was a voracious reader, and my favorite books were set in the nineteenth or early twentieth centuries. I adored costume dramas set in days gone by. Of course, I had no conception of the hardships and social inequities of the past – it was a Disney colored fantasy world to which I clung.
As I’ve grown older I realize that some of the allure of time travel was escapist, as well. I was not well-liked by my schoolmates, and I was frequently mocked and ridiculed. I read too much. I dressed differently – I positively loathed pants and refused to wear them except under duress (gym day). My mother bought (with my enthusiastic consent!) most of my school clothes at the Cinderella factory outlet. This was a basement wonderland of old-timey dresses – calico shirtwaists (like Laura and Mary!), drop waisted sailor dresses (like Pollyanna!), and the like. I did my best to ignore my reality of 1980s East Coast suburbia – History was where I wanted to live. Life was better back then, with no complicating newfangled technology like telephones or sticker collections.
Then I got older. I discovered boys, and makeup, and music…and that early sense of displacement was shoved far to the back of my brain. In college, I studied history, specifically medieval and Renaissance history. I learned about the women who lived and died then. I learned what life was really like. I learned the languages of the past. I learned the harshness of past oppression.
Now, the feeling of displacement has surfaced again, as I watch with the dismay the crumbling of our hard won progress under the Republicans’ clumsy hands. Does history really repeat itself, as the sages have so oft warned? Are we who study the past doomed to watch as those in power turn back time on women and minorities?
And what is history, anyway? In future pieces, we will dissect the concept. Watch this space for future explorations of time and history and womanhood and all the beauty and danger therein implied. We will meet strong, empowered women of the past – who wore the lovely clothes and managed to make a dent in the patriarchy.
And I still ardently wish for that time machine.