You know, we all have ‘ways of doing stuff’. When practiced by society as a whole, these little quirks and habits become cultural norms which define who we are. Some of these are perfectly wonderful – birthday cakes and coffee dates and Christmas presents. But there are certain things we take for granted that…well, that really, really ought to go. Here is my list. No doubt you’ll have your own!
It appears that no one is prepared to own up as the first person to be sufficiently obsessive – or bored enough – to insist on getting a few wrinkles out of cloth, but I am blaming the Chinese. They were using coal filled, hot metal pans to press over stretched material well over a thousand years ago. Vikings were also in on the act early; simple ironing stones and glass smoothers have been found in women’s graves (I will let you quietly ponder that point alone). And while today we have technology which is certainly more practical and efficient, it doesn’t make ironing any more meaningful.
Yes, yes, I know there exist those odd souls who actually find ironing relaxing. But I’ll bet that far more people would prefer to spend the time chilling, walking the dog or drawing rude pictures on ping pong balls. Seriously, why not agree to just add a tiny bit of wool or polyester to our cotton and linen and be done with it?
Formal school uniforms
Posh school uniforms have come to represent a high social status. Ironic, really, given as the first uniforms were worn by children attending charity schools, who needed to be clothed as cheaply as possible. But cheap, today? Hell, no. Not when a single blazer costs $150.
I have no problem with school uniforms per se. They prevent the morning drama of what to wear, and some say they encourage discipline. What I have an issue with is excessively formal school uniforms: eight year olds wearing stiff blazers, pressed white shirts and stripy ties – to say nothing of matching sock trims.
I’ve heard one school principal defend his school’s strict uniform policy by saying that formal attire will ‘help students feel comfortable in the business world’. Pfff. If Johnny needs twelve years of tie wearing to feel comfortable in a boardroom meeting, he is possibly better suited for an alternative career. And the most creative entrepreneurs seem to wear jeans, anyway.
Word usage changes over time. Once, the abbreviation ‘Mrs’ stood for ‘mistress’ – a word which could mean many things: a woman who governs, a teacher, a female who is skilled at something…or, equally, a concubine. The title ‘Miss’ wasn’t really used by adult women until about the end of the 18th century, when socially ambitious ladies chose the term to distinguish themselves as more genteel, different from a businesswoman or a mere upper servant .
Fast forward to today, and the differentiation between ‘Mrs’ and ‘Miss’ serves purely to define a woman’s marital status. It seems bizarre, at a time when women – in the West, at least – are protected by equal opportunity and anti discrimination laws, to have these distinctions still thrust upon us on endless paperwork, with no equivalents for men.
I fully appreciate that it’s nice for a service provider to know whether their client is male or female, and use the knowledge for data analysis, marketing and what not. But I’ll be damned if the local pizza store owner needs to know whether I am married or not.
There are many baffling things about women’s clothing: stilettos, see through fabric, random sizing…but the one that takes the cake is the lack of storage space.
A pocket is an easy enough concept, and something that lucky men take for granted. No worries for them where to place their keys and spare change. But women’s clothing? Bah. All too often the pocket exists, nicely formed and where it should be, but it is sewn up tight.
In days gone by, pockets were made as a standalone item, tied separately under women’s petticoats, and accessible through a discrete slit on the side of the skirt. As ladies fashion became less voluminous, pockets fell out of grace. Designers may well justify their absence because such extras are most convenient when located near the hip area, not exactly a spot to which most women want to draw attention. But I reckon I could be trusted not to put a wombat down my pants; all I want is a spot to store my phone.
For centuries people somehow managed to celebrate Christmas without the need for mass produced greeting cards. But then, mid 19th century, an enterprising English civil servant pays some dude to draw a picture of a family raising a toast and voila, the Christmas card – and yet another way to spend money – is invented.
And aren’t they pointless, really? A pre-printed message which hardly anyone reads, heralded with ‘To dear X’, and signed off by ‘Love, from Y’, inflicted upon people whom we see once a year. According to the US Greeting Card Association, Americans alone purchase approximately 6.5 billion greeting cards annually, of which about a quarter are Christmas cards. Add to this the rest of the world’s festive masses, and we have annual sales of greeting cards which go well into double digit billions. Really? Can you not imagine what other things we could do with all that money, things that would perhaps better communicate the Christmas spirit?
Don’t even get me started on Valentine’s Day…