It’s easy to wax nostalgic about the “good old days,” that halcyon golden age when kids didn’t do drugs or drink underage, and life was simpler, without cell phones and social media complicating things. (Yes, I’m guilty of this!) There are a few things wrong with this kind of thinking, though: first, the “good old days” never truly existed. Kids have always gotten into trouble and American life has always been complicated, just in different ways (think about the extreme social demands of the Gilded Age, or the sweeping poverty of the Great Depression). Second, this kind of rose-colored thinking always glosses over the hard parts of living in the past, like chores done without modern conveniences, attitudes towards marginalized groups, and a lack of equality.
In particular, I have trouble remembering the second reason. Who knows why; I’m a proud liberal feminist and there’s no way I’d give up my right to vote. And each summer, living rustically on vacation reminds me how much I love modern conveniences. But there’s something about that image of a simpler life, uncomplicated by technology and consumerism, that gets me every time.
So this week, let’s take a closer look at one of the reasons why yearning for the simpler days is actually counterproductive. We’re going to examine life without two modern domestic conveniences: the dishwasher and the washing machine, both of which my family does without when we’re on vacation in Canada. While we do enjoy “getting back to the land,” each summer I sort of wish we’d installed both machines when we wired the cabin for electricity thirty years ago. Why? Check in on Thursday to find out.