In honor of my 31st birthday on Sunday, I thought I’d find a Persephone book with a title that made me laugh: It’s Hard to be Hip Over Thirty and Other Tragedies of Married Life by Judith Viorst. Being in the USA, however, I only found the non-Persephone edition, the original 1968 publication of Viorst’s slim volume of poetry. Apparently, the Persephone reissue also includes another 50 pages or so of additional poems.
At any rate, I was not blown away by Viorst’s poetry; they left me feeling rather meh. With such a clever title, I had hoped I could relate to the poems of finding a place in a new relationship and so forth. As a married stay-at-home mom in 2012, though, I found the poetry dated. Viorst’s poems dealt with a newly married woman’s struggle to feel like herself in a new role as wife (as in the poem “The Honeymoon is Over”) and other poems focus on the suburbanite mother’s frustrations at being a domestic worker in the home. For example, in “The Other Woman,” the narrator observes that ” The other woman/ never smells like Ajax or Spaghetti-O.”
I just could not relate. This may be because my marriage relationship is balanced and I find personal satisfaction in my role as a mother in a suburban community. I don’t feel threatened by the “working women” my husband may associate with. And although my marital role is to take care of my child and clean the house, I don’t smell like “Ajax or Spaghetti-O” nor do I discuss brand names of detergents with my friends as a poem indicates. Seriously, does anyone do that?
Maybe that is the point. By reading Viorst’s 1960s perspective of her stifled marriage, I can see how far we’ve come? Okay, I admit it, I feel I’m reaching here, trying to figure out why this is classic. I know that Persephone Books reissues neglected feminist works (usually by women) from the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. Maybe recognizing that some women don’t find satisfaction in their domestic duties, especially in the changing 1960s, is an important feminist observation.
Personally, I like being a stay-at-home mom. I find satisfaction from it. My husband and I don’t bicker (and I don’t recall ever doing so) as the characters in “The Honeymoon is Over” do. And I certainly don’t find myself constantly mopping the house as many poems mention. I guess I’ve never been “hip” and I don’t care. Add to my frustrations with Viorst’s volume the fact that each poem seems wordy (I’m a fan of careful worded poetry, spare and succinct), and I must say that this poetry collection simply was not for me.
Maybe you’ll enjoy it more. Also, please note that the Persephone edition has another 50 pages of poetry over this one; maybe I would have enjoyed those additional poems more. As it was, this was one Persephone I’m certainly glad I didn’t spend money on.