Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Middle Class Blues and Sex and the City.

Today, I start my course in Heritage Studies at the online university, Athabasca, in the Department of Integrated Studies. I have read the introductory essays and information and I can already tell this is right for me. Indeed, I read the course outline out loud to my husband and he sleepily replied, "It's just what you like."

Anyway, the one of the questions posed is what is heritage and what makes an artifact 'significant' enough to make it a heritage resource. A real good question. Are family photos heritage? Are family letters heritage? I think so. That's why I posted my website http://www.tighsolas.ca/.

The photo above, of Edith and Flo, likely in 1913, is probably my favorite of all the Tighsolas photos. It almost got thrown out by my husband's aunt, who clearly didn't think that hazy pictures of her ancestors (however much she loved them) were of value.

From arm's length, as the wife of the great nephew of these women, I felt differently.

But what I 'feel' isn't of consequence either. Why should other people, other Canadians of all generations, feel this way?

Let me explain: Firstly, I like the picture because it is well composed and reminds me of certain portrait paintings of an earlier era, (Can't recall exactly which ones, but you know...) Specifically Edith's pose. Flo is positioned almost the same (for symmetry), except for the crossed leg, but she is a modern girl. She is smiling and tossing her foot (or so it seems.) She is ANIMATED. (I also like the dark and light dresses and then the dalmation (black and white) below. Something's happening here, what it is ain't exactly clear....

With respect to 1913, Edith is wearing a fashionable 'big hat' and Flo is wearing the small hat that is about to come into style. Edith appears to be corseted. Poor Edith.

The women are posing in the garden of Tighsolas, a decidedly middle class home, but with hints of hauteur.

Indeed, the Nicholsons, let me put this bluntly, were poseurs. Like many in the middle class, they had pretentions to the upper classes.

This is ironic since they were cash poor. And Margaret, their Mom, sometimes referred to the family as working class.

This photo (once we understand the background) demands that we ask the question: What does it mean to be middle class? And, especially, what did it mean to be middle class in 1910 (or in this case, Pre War) Canada, when the world was on the cusp of a huge paradigm shift?

Indeed, the entire http://www.tighsolas.ca/ website asks and responds to this question.

Now, the short essays I read claimed that Heritage must be relevant. Why is this question relevant to today. Well, because the middle class is in flux, isn't it. The gap between rich and poor, everywhere is growing (maybe not in India and China) and that means the people of the middle class are edgy (as they always are) and wondering whether they will fall to the bottom (a good bet) or work their way to the top (not very likely). But that doesn't stop us from buying or dreaming of buying designer clothes. Maybe this is the reason for the success of Sex and the City, the Movie.

I bet Edith would have loved that tv show and movie (if she had been born later and not in the Victorian Age.)