If You Could Live in a Different Decade, Would You?

I’ve always been the first one to say that I would LOVE to go back and be a 1950s housewife with the white picket fence, golden retriever, and perfect cooking skills in the suburbs. But I never really gave any thought about the reasons why. I should learn to love the era in which I live. So many of us complain and wish we could live in the 1920s, 1950s, etc., but I don’t think that any of us have actually thought about what that entailed. 

It wasn’t until I heard someone say, “If I could go back in time, I would just go back to yesterday. We have it so good in the world we live in today.” This got me thinking. So many of the things that we would list as “necessities” in our lives, we wouldn’t even have access to in the 20s, 50s, etc. 

For example, admit it: you can’t live without your phone. But it isn’t just the phone we can’t live without. It’s the social media platforms, texting, Internet, and email that we wouldn’t be able to part with. Wi-Fi is king nowadays, but in prior eras, phones were landlines and Internet was only in its earliest stages of development, if that! It’s not just our technological advances that make the world we live in today so much more convenient than that of the earlier eras, it is our social advancement too. 

So, why would I want to live in the 50s? Or even the 20s? Especially when we are so lucky and blessed to be living in the era we live in today.

Part of the reason we are all so intrigued by these eras is because of popular decade depictions such as The Great Gatsby and Grease. Books and films such as these make those eras look only desirable and glamorous. Who wouldn’t want to be Daisy in The Great Gatsby? She is loved by the hopelessly romantic, (and did I mention rich), Jay Gatsby, (played by Leo Dicaprio, of course)? And to live a life full of luxury and frivolous spending? Sign me up for that! The 1920s seem simply fabulous through the eyes of Daisy Buchanan. 

Now, Grease is quite a different era: the 1950s. Danny and Sandy have that love that everyone pines for. The poodle skirts, diner dates, drive-in movies, and teenage boys with impeccable manners are just a few things that young women fan-girl over. Danny Zuko’s slick, greased up ’do and iconic leather T-Bird jacket are the stuff dreams are made of. Unfortunately, these films only show the desirable stories that would be popular for film and media. 

What these films fail to do is show all of the shortcomings of those eras in which the beautiful Jay Gatsby and Danny Zuko live. 

For example, the 1920s were a time of racial segregation; the KKK was at its prime. The Johnson-Reed Act, which was in effect during the 20s, limited the amount of immigrants into America. 

Not only was America still legally segregated under the Jim Crow Laws at this time, immigrants were shunned too! And, let’s not forget, this was the era of prohibition. 

Sure, the parties seem wild, and the fashion was impeccable, but would you really want to live when America was so racially and ethnically unequal?

The 1950s are another time of massive inequality. Still, the country was segregated, even more so it seemed. Because of the Brown V. Board of Education decision, African Americans were attacked by white people for being able to use the same facilities. The safety of African Americans was completely compromised. 

I know that many women, such as myself, would love to go back and be that stay at home mom in the suburbs, but what we don’t realize are the difficulties that women had to endure. Women started to enter the workforce but because of their inferiority to men at the time, many women were sexually abused, objectified, and absurdly underpaid in the workplace. 

This did not mean that the picture at home was any different. In this era, birth control was still considered illegal and marital rape was legal. There was no such thing as rape between husband and wife; therefore, making it impossible for women not to bear children if it was the will of her husband. 

So, if you had the chance to go back and live in a different era, would you? My answer now: no. Even though we still have a gender/race wage gap and racism is still so prevalent in today’s society, we really have come a long way. Even besides the social advancement, technology has come a very long way. 

Tara Egenton, a sophomore English and elementary education student, said, “I am happy to be living in this era. I am fortunate to be living in a time period with such advanced technology, innovative thinking, political and social advancements, and ultimately a brighter future for my children. However, as an English major, I love escaping to different time periods through literature, yet, I could not give up the era I currently live in.” 

We should heed Tara’s advice and stick to escaping to the stories we read and movies we watch that are based in these eras. Because, honestly, we are much better off today then we were 90+ years ago. 

Nick Carraway from The Great Gatsby said it best, “You can’t repeat the past.” And, to be honest, I don’t think we want to, “old sport.”