Along with the rest of the world, well actually behind the rest of the world for me since I had to catch up on a whole season after it passed, I have started watching the goings on at a place called "Downton Abbey". For any of us who are old enough this is a better produced, new take on the "Upstairs, Downstairs" Masterpiece classic. That one was good but I was so young that it seemed so ...so ...frumpy!!! I have to either understand that I am at the age when it looks like frumpy is now interesting, that this is possibly a really good show that captured my attention or the most likely scenario a combination of both of these.
Downton appeals to me because of it's beauty. The house is magnificent, much like the Newport mansions, you become a voyeur into a grandeur that you cannot easily imagine was once someone's home. There are massive mansions today, many with space and lacking in taste and others that in future years will still be looked and admired for their elegance. However, the architecture and detail (which is no longer in vogue) of these old homes remains something that leaves me slightly breathless. I want to stay in one of these places overnight or over weekend just so I am not rushed through the cordoned off route of the usual visitor, to admire up close the craftsmanship of the furniture and to enjoy the beauty of the place.
Downton also fascinates me because we always talk of days past with a mixture of longing...a simpler time, not encumbered by electronics, where people spent time talking to one another. A time where reading and music were listened to leisurely rather than to fill some time before wherever many of us are rushing to. I ask what mother reading this has not wished they could lay among the down pillows, pull or push a little connection next to that grand bed which rang somewhere (quietly) in the house and which would leave her getting breakfast in bed and the children and housework being taken care of? We all have even if we do not all admit it. Yet we are not creatures of that era we are informed people of this one. After my brief moment where my long blonde locks, carefully tied with a lovely ribbon by a maid the night before, are seen over my shoulder as I lie on the massive bed and I am about to ring for "service" I am shaken back to the present and know that the conditions for the people who worked were not something I a woman of this era could actually stomach well. I know that the price for my leisure would be very great for me as well as for those who worked in the house.
I watch the show and am grateful for being a woman in this era. I do not have to wait on some man (with a gasp if I am past 20 wringing my monogrammed, lace hand-sewn handkerchief) to either marry me to keep my fortune or to have one by marrying him. I do not have to be idle and often have nothing to do that be the victim of the bitch of the area or be the bitch of the area. I can choose....yes choose!! I can choose who I marry, occupation, birth control, pregnancies and whether to take a lover or not. These may not always be socially acceptable even today for women but at least the choices will not lead to the banishment they did back then. I do not have to be a maid because there are no other options if I come from a family of working people. It is still not easy being a woman but for all the comforts of being a "lady" back then it sure does seem that it is more comfortable being a woman today.
I am also reminded to be glad for the progress we have made since then. Yes it was a less "connected" time but I like my connections and I still marvel like a child at the wonders of the iPhone/Pad that I have. I look around me and I am glad for electricity, refrigeration, advances in medicines or even just having vaccines and medicines, the ability to have my child in a hospital with an epidural (my choice words to my husband when he was coaching me with breathing are not fit to be printed) and for those women who choose not to go this route the access to knowledge to make that choice, birth control options, and a host of other things that no longer require me to do things by hand or have them done by an army of people. I am glad that corsets are are now something for play rather than for day to day.
I am addicted to the show because it is a fantasy...one of affairs of hearts that cannot be together and must longingly look at one another without being able to touch (oh the lack of being able to kiss someone seems so cruel)...one of admiration of beautiful things but mostly I am addicted because I can watch it on my iPad with my earphones in my era so I can admire the setting without having to be imprisoned within it.