Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Remembering the Good(?) Old Days

A friend just sent me a video that reminisced about the good old days when we were young and frisky and expecting our lives to be just one big "happily ever after."  The pace was slower then.  We left our cars and often our houses unlocked.  We watched wrestling on our very first TV sets.  We had dial phones and record players and ice cream sundaes for 20 cents.  We girls planned to get married, stay at home to raise our perfect children with the aid of Dr. Spock, and wear gloves and high heels on occasional airplane trips.  Our lives were filled with trust. 

Know what?  Life wasn't as easy as it appears through the veil of time.  I was in my thirties when my husband and I divorced.  Being a single woman in those days was not the norm, and there were obstacles to surmount that a 21st century divorcee would never imagine.

Our auto insurance agent called to inform me that my rates would go up.  "Divorced women are higher risk," he explained.  I didn't have the guts to ask about divorced men.

When I missed the deadline for day camp reigstration  by twenty-four hours, the director said with a sneer, he couldn't make an exception for a "divorced woman.  Maybe I would if you were a widow...."  Holding back tears, I left his office.

I couldn't get a charge account in my own name, so my father's banker wrote a letter saying that his bank guaranteed that I would be a good credit risk and in case any problems occurred, the bank would take care of them.  Delighted, I applied for a credit card at Battelstein's, my favorite store.  Two weeks later I received a letter rejecting my application.  On it the vice president had scribbled a note saying that I could be taking this letter to a lot of stores and why should Battelstein's trust me?  Furious, I called the office of Battelstein's president.  His secretary asked what I was calling about and I said, "I want to tell him why I will never shop at your store again."  "Oh," she said, "would you tell me what the problem is?"  I explained, and she asked me to send her a copy of the letter.  Within a few days I got my credit card plus a $100 gift certificate.  When I handed the certificate,  signed personally by the president, to a sales clerk, she looked me up and down as if she were wondering how that came about and what my relationship to the president might be.  I managed to keep from laughing, and I continued to shop at Battelstein's until the store closed years later.

A few years after remarrying I opened a private practice in speech pathology with a friend.  To our shock, the bank asked for our husbands' signatures before they would open a business account.

Can you imagine that happening today?  No, these aren't the good old days, but it's certainly much easier for a single woman to make her way in the world.  When my second husband died, I was lonely and grief-stricken, but I no longer had to face the stigma of "singlehood," and for that I'm grateful.



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