Throughout The Free Agent’s career, she has fascinated youthful admirers with her stories about the olden days, i.e., the 1970s. (Extremely precocious, she was able to absorb and analyze current events even as she changed her own diapers.) She is reminded of that unfortunate era by recent events like increased money supply beyond economic growth (which we “spent” this time on high-risk mortgages, in the ‘70s, we just whisked it all around in the form in inflation), double-digit unemployment, and ecological disaster. Only back then it was the impending New Ice Age.
Other tales from Not That Long Ago sound like science fiction. Help Wanted ads in the newspaper were sorted into Men, Women, and Either. (The next phase required ads to say “BOQ” and to defend gender as a bone fide occupational qualification. Following legal challenges, it became a cliché that “rest room attendant is the only acceptable BOQ”, and segregation vanished.) In 1971, Richard Nixon attempted to order the world to stop turning by imposing a 90-day wage and price freeze. Surely the POTUS has no say in what private businesses charge for their products or pay their employees!
There were optimistic trends as well. The 70s saw the second wave of feminism which The Free Agent saw from the catbird seat of a women’s college. “Laws that protect us infantilize us,” she cries despairingly to those who would attempt to craft “women’s issues” laws. We decried the common practice of defining women in terms of their relatives, wife of…, sparkly grandmother, etc, in the media. The Free Agent still cringes when she hears women today preface whatever they’re about to talk about by defining their family status, “As a single mom . . .” She doesn’t object to motherhood per se, she simply fails to see its relevance to, well, subjects other than motherhood.
In 1972, a Nixon Commission recommended to Congress recommended decriminalizing marijuana possession, and such was the trend in the states. Nixon. Marijuana. Decriminalization. Yes, children, The Free Agent was there.
To conclude this little chat around the cyber-pickle barrel, here is the story that consistently shocks young people today beyond every other: at The Free Agent’s high school, there was a designated smoking area. That’s right, a vanishing art called accommodation was practiced, the logic of which was something like this: Unless we want to police every rest room, every stairwell, every art department hallway, all day every day, the best way to clear the air for the majority of students was to accommodate the minority. Even when the minority was children! No one approved of them smoking, but they accepted the reality that they did, and strove to attain the most peaceful coexistence possible.
There are a lot of rest rooms, stairwells, and hallways in this country, young’uns.