Of course, she says she can't do anything--even type. Isn't that what women did in the fifties? Type, teach school or become a nurse? Subordinate occupations, those that were inferior to men, were the most many women could hope for back then. After all, a large number of women went to college to "have something to fall back on," in case things didn't go well in the romance/marriage department...and to find a husband. How many times did I hear those exact same words? Shocking, but true. That fall back position was imprinted on my young mind like it was written in stone coming from a society who didn't seem to value women excelling in non-traditional roles.
Lucy, meanwhile, realizing her skill set is lacking, falls back to her familiar show business role and goes for one that places her as a second banana on a Good Morning America-style show with a then-famous celebrity, Paul Douglas. Her appearance is so funny that the show is a hit. The rest is history and Lucy is signed to a three-year contract. Predictably, the show's theme centered around another subordinate role--a Gal Friday. Not even that success was predicated on equality; rather, it revolved around the stupidity and twittiness of a woman sitting next to a powerful man.
In the meantime, everyone is thrilled about her success, even Ricky; however, the people in her old world are rolling along quite smoothly without her. Unfortunately, after time, she realizes she's only seeing her family for a few minutes every day, and Ethel has become a substitute mother for Little Ricky. She is so overwhelmed with homesickness and sadness that she decides she has to quit her lucrative, successful job and become a stay-at-home wife and mother again.
By the time Lucy finally gives up on her career, you realize that the big prize she earned by herself--for the first time in her life--she'll probably never see again. Of all the silly situations Lucy's ever found herself in, she's never actually been a true success in the meaning of the word. Suddenly, she was valuable to someone other than her family and brought in a paycheck to prove it.
By the time she's convinced that she's needed at home, after her ego needs are met outside the home, we all can breathe a major sigh of relief that Little Ricky's not calling Ethel "Mommy," and Big Ricky's happy to have his wife next to him at night, even if was in a twin bed deemed decent by the censors of the time. All's right with the world.
Except for a large number of the rest of female human race.
That episode belies the truth of a coming tsunami of baby boomer women who decided they didn't want to go back home. Unlike Lucy, they were the vanguard of feminists who were more interested in freedom than some sniveling kid and anxious husband. A huge number of them divorced over their choice of roles as wife.
So, somewhere in the middle I landed. I always wanted to be a wife and mother. Which I was. Afterwards, you've got to have something to "fall back on." That, for me, was my writing. Of course, the skill set for such a career was--you guessed it--typing! That one particular skill has given me more employment than one can imagine, from legal assistant to technical writer.
Maybe in the end, the message of the My Girl Friday episode was this: you can have it all, just not at the same time. These days, in our economic uncertainty, such a quaint theme must sound preposterous to working women. I, for one, do not know how they do it all. Having been a single mother of three, thinking back, I honestly don't know how I did it. And there is a difference between a career and a job.
Thanks for the read.