(Quick note: This is another font I downloaded, not one from the system defaults. It might not show up for everyone.)
Chapter: “Young Wives of Wildwood”
Book: And the Lark Arose from Sullen Earth
Written: Summer 2012
Computer created on: 2008 15-inch MacBook Pro
File format: Word 2004
This is the 13th chapter of my second volume about Jakob DeJonghe and Rachel Roggenfelder. I’m so glad I decided to use the remainder of the material for a separate volume with its own storyline, since it gave me the opportunity to write a lot of new material. This book was written a lot more organically than I usually do, but working without a concrete outline was a fun challenge.
Feisty, progressive, brash Rachel has been roped into attending the inaugural meeting of a new social club in her new hometown, Wildwood, New Jersey. (I decided to move them away from Atlantic City because Wildwood actually has an established Jewish community, as compared to the Jewish community I made up for my fictional Atlantic City neighborhood.) She doesn’t really want to go, but her quasi-friend and fellow Dutch immigrant Henriette (Jet) Vos was insistent.
Rachel is the exact opposite of these parodies of postwar housewives, women who hate sex, are constantly smoking (even while pregnant), wax on and on about how much they’re in love with their doctors, and live for baking brownies, PTA meetings, ironing, and knitting. They’re horrified at how she kept her last name, is trying to find a midwife for a homebirth, is seeing a very radical female doctor in the meantime, plans to go to university when her child is in school, reads a lot, loves sex, never smokes, and has a hearty appetite.
These women are intended as parodies. I know not all housewives in the postwar era were like this, but it was so fun to spoof that mindset. (And it is a known fact that many doctors in this era enforced some outright dangerous, non-evidence-based prenatal care, like letting women smoke and insisting they only gain 10-15 pounds.) It made for some great culture clashes.
“It’s just getting started.” Jet took a seat next to her and looked longingly at a plate of cupcakes with thick double chocolate frosting and crushed peppermints. “My doctor will have my head on a platter if I gain one more pound before the end of the year. Can you please put that away?”
Rachel burst out laughing. “Do you realize I’ve been masturbating since I was eleven or twelve years old? I also greatly enjoy Jaap touching me there. I also broke my own hymen years before we became lovers.”
“Okay, I can leave my bicycle in your entryway. No harm done. Best to keep bicycle safe, where it may not be stolen.” Rachel pulled her bicycle into the house with one hand and held Ben’s leash in the other.
Rachel shrugged and took off her shoes only after she’d gone into the living room with Ben. She tossed them across the room, ignoring the stunned looks of the other guests. These women were just more of the same, matronly-looking young housewives who didn’t seem to know how to have a good time.
The woman rolled her eyes and put her cigarette out. “You’ll probably start smoking soon enough, after you’ve been in America for a little longer. I smoked through all three of my pregnancies, right into the delivery room, and my children turned out fine.”
Rachel sat stunned as every single woman, without fail, introduced herself as Mrs. Husband’s Full Name, and no one asked for the real name. Not only did she not remember half of these women’s names, but she had no idea what to call them. It seemed so bizarre and overly formal to call a peer by a title instead of her first name.
“That is my own name. Dutch women keep their surnames. I have my own mother’s last name, and my baby will get our name too. So, what am I supposed to call all of you? Do your husbands and friends really call you all Mrs. John or Mrs. William?”
“Unfortunately for you, my parents were murdered in Sobibór in the summer of ’43,” Rachel said loudly. “You won’t be able to meet anyone in my family, because I am only survivor. Jetje also is only survivor in her family, and in my husband’s family, there are only him and his mother. Perhaps next time you shall think better before you talk about another person in the room as though she can’t hear you.”
“She’s seeing Dr. Dagny Landvik of Atlantic City,” Jet said in disgust. “And Dr. Landvik’s backup doctor is Simon Ives. Both radicals I’m shocked are allowed to practice medicine at respectable hospitals.” [Dr. Ives is also Sparky’s doctor.]
“This doctor seems to think he’s God’s gift to expectant mothers,” Rachel scoffed as she bit into a boiled potato. “I am afraid for Jet’s and her baby’s health because she follows his dangerous advice about not gaining any weight and not getting any physical activity. And he’s making her come in once a week for pelvic exams just for the hell of it. What a pervert.”
Mrs. Gilbert laughed. “What woman wants to read on anything like that? God gave us smaller brains than men. We shouldn’t try to overexert ourselves by doing too much reading or research. A woman’s brain can only handle things like women’s magazines and tasteful love stories.”