Bodies

AFTER COLLEGE, I applied halfheartedly for a job in publishing, asserting in my interview that I wanted Friday afternoons off so that I could shop and cook for the weekend. I didn’t get the job. Despite having won high honors in English, I didn’t frame my degree (Radcliffe, ’67) and didn’t imagine an office wall on which to hang it. Jeff, my husband, had a trove of inherited money that swelled our monthly bank account. My mother didn’t work; neither did his. Other young wives in my social set volunteered, gardened, played tennis and golf, decorated their homes—and got pregnant. Fridays, they stocked up for the weekend.

Jeff and I spread into a whole house in Cambridge, just the two of us, vacationed in his family’s waterfront home on the Cape, drank quantities of wine at dinner parties I cooked for all day. We built a twenty-foot sailboat in our backyard, aggravating our neighbors with the chemicals but feeling diligent and content in our project. I remember agreeing with a friend over tea that we were the two happiest wives we knew. Beyond the affluent bubble of Jeff’s and my life, sometimes just blocks away, activists tackled civil rights, poverty, and the Vietnam War, but outside news found its way into our home mainly via the Beatles. Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band arrived at the Harvard Co-op the day I turned twenty-three. That night, friends dressed me in a bright orange jumpsuit they’d lettered across the back: “Housewife 23-plus.”

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