Have you read Pride and Prejudice? If not, I demand that you do so immediately. Twice. If you haven't read it, I'm going to assume you've at least seen the movie. Or maybe Sense and Sensibility or Jane Eyre or Emma.
In these books, the characters maintain a very distinct lifestyle. The womenfolk are completely dependent on their men for their livelihood. The opening line of Pride and Prejudice states:
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.
This may have been said with a hint of sarcasm on the part of Jane Austen, but it is at the center of the plot of P&P. The everyday life of the women in this book baffles me. How unfulfilling and dull it must be to have nothing to do all day but sit around with good posture, doing needlework! The only occasions that broke the monotony of sitting were when an acquaintance came to "call," or when someone in the neighborhood hosted a ball. Although many of these women were educated and talented, they were unable to put their skills to use because, why would a woman need to work? Her only profession was to find the wealthiest man who would have her and "form an attachment."
As I watched segments of Sense and Sensibility about 7 times in 3 days last week, I couldn't help but compare my life to those of Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. Whereas I used to scoff at their lack of profession and their complete financial dependence upon men, I now find myself in a similar situation. My most pleasurable days are those on which I get to lunch with friends. I currently bring little money to my relationship. I drink tea [Diet Coke] in the afternoon. I take a daily stroll around an expansive garden to refresh my mind and body [I go for a run on Wasatch Blvd. with the jogging stroller]. The biggest differences are that I cook, clean, and take care of my child instead of relying on servants to do those things for me, and I get to wear jeans and slouch.
Really, how is my life different from that of the 18th Century women I pitied?