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  • Kathie Scalf

Time Traveling for my Sanity


I don’t think I’m alone in being at a breaking point with the state of the world today.

Aside from finally hitting the “these kids today” age, I concurrently have the misfortune of living in one of the most bizarrely chaotic and exhausting times in history, and thanks to technology, there’s hardly an escape from the nonstop coverage of globally divisive negativity, short of barricading yourself in a bunker with no electricity. Quite frankly, that scenario is sounding most appealing to me versus the alternative at the moment.

Since I still have parents, pets and taxes I can’t abandon for a life of peace and seclusion, I’ve decided to construct an alternative reality for myself that brings me a great deal of joy without going completely off the grid and out of my mind. The one good thing about living in this day and age is that you can literally decide to be anything you want to be, and that is why I have decided to live my life like it is 1950 as much as humanly possible.

Please hear me out and don’t have me committed.

This idea came about innocently enough. I think we all have periods in history that we feel drawn to; for my friend Robbie it’s the antebellum south, for my mother it’s her hayday in the 70s and for me it’s the idyllic Baby Boomer years between WWII and Vietnam. Maybe it’s from growing up in less than perfect settings with parents who both worked a lot, but even as a kid I adored classic TV shows and movies that depicted the perfectly groomed nuclear family in friendly neighborhoods with well-appointed lawns. As I grew into womanhood, I idolized the smoky eyes and tiny waists of the “Hitchcock Blondes,” and searched in vain for the brawn of classically dark and handsome leading men like Paul Newman, Marlon Brando and Cary Grant in my fellow slack-jawed Y2K collegemates. Even my house in Elizabethton was a 1948 cottage, which I took a great deal of pleasure in decorating by scouring local antique stores for period-appropriate furnishings.

Lately I’ve been having some health issues, which is particularly troubling for me because I’m a lucky individual who’s never had to give a second thought to illness beyond an annual sinus infection. As I was lying around one day, scrolling through Instagram, I stumbled upon an account dedicated to vintage historical photos, and many of them were of the era I adore so much. As I thumbed my way through the photos of people living their lives in 1950s America, I began to notice how few overweight people there were. In fact, there were none. If you snapped a candid photo on any beach right now, the average weight would easily run 40lbs heavier than the vacationers 70 years ago. What were they doing that we’re not now?

This led to making my way down a Google rabbithole, researching the day-to-day lives of the 50s housewife. Surprisingly they devoted little time to exercise in spite of their figures, and it’s of course due to the fact that women were naturally more active then. They started their day 30 minutes before the rest of the family, prepared 3 nutritious meals, maintained spotless households and ran daily errands by foot. Most families only had one car, which meant women walked to the grocery store, bank or clothier during the day while their husband was gone to work. In their little free time, they read books, took up hobbies like tennis or golf or took classes to learn new skills-all geared toward making themselves more well-rounded individuals. I then dove into old recipes and diet plans to see how and what they were eating differed from myself, and it’s of no surprise they ate very little processed foods and portion sizes were far smaller. They baked their own breads, emphasized milk and fruits at each meal and always left room for a pinch of dessert. This is all stuff I can get behind!

So back to my decision to time travel for my own health and sanity. I do not enjoy the direction the world is heading, and that is not geared toward any one political or religious opinion; in general and in short, I think we’re going to hell in a handbasket. And even though I’m a modern woman and can recognize there were numerous faults with 1950s/1960s America, I think we’re losing a lot by doing away with many of these values. Lying on our backs, eating fast food and scrolling through useless memes, while working sedentary jobs is turning us into monsters. I feel empty from wasting my life away in this manner day after day, comparing myself to filtered, vapid people who care only about what designer label on their silicone filled butt will receive the most likes from strangers for validation. I crave intellectually stimulating people who are active and motivated and strong in their own beliefs, regardless of whether they differ from mine.

In an attempt to be the change I want to see, I’m adopting as many of these lifestyle habits of yesteryear as I can make feasible. I’ve begun following a diet that more closely resembles what was eaten then, and while I’m not baking my own bread, I did go buy some from the farmers market that was made in the simplest and most organic way. I’ve started reading books again and in the car, switched from my normal true crime podcasts to informative and educational ones like Civil War history and alcohol-industry news for my career. I’ve started caring more about my appearance before leaving the house, and just for fun I’m avoiding news and current events in favor of classic films of the era I’ve not seen.

The wildest thing about living in 2022 versus 1955, is that you now have a choice in your own successes and failures and you can blame it on no one else. We all hold the literal key to the universe in our hands with internet powered smart phones. Any and everything you’ve ever want to know is a click away, it’s just up to you whether you use this key for good or evil. Which means if you’re ignorant, fat and poor, it’s by your own choice, just as much as if you’re educated, healthy and successful. I might seem like I’m sticking my head in the sand to the current turbulent times by mentally going backward, but I’m thinking the key to me moving forward might be taking a few steps backward. Who’s coming with me?



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