[I took a stab at combining the “First Person Who Is Not Us” point of view, speaking to “you,” with a found form, but I plan to scrap it. Maybe I’ll come up with something decent later because there were so many great suggestions!]

So Long, Suzy Homemaker

First of all, I’m sorry. I got carried away, especially when the doll came out.

“The doll and toys typified the American suburban housewife, representing a domestic ideal to girls in an era when most women were still homemakers after marriage.”

They were so complimentary about how I could be a “role model,” and I let the whole thing got out of hand. But it was the 60s, after all, and who knew I’d be the final carryover from Cleaver and Reed? If I’d known you were going to rise up and fashion yourselves after Steinem and Huxtable, I wouldn’t have invested so much of myself in that spectacular line of appliances.

“The collection included miniature working versions of household equipment that helped girls practice homemaking skills. If a girl was lucky enough to collect them all she might have owned a Budget Blender, Deluxe Grill, Dishwasher-Sink, Hair Dryer, High Speed Mixer, Ice Cream Maker, Ice Delight Maker, Jet Spray Iron, Juicer, Popcorn Popper, Refrigerator, Super Oven, Soda Fountain, Taffy Puller, and Washing Machine. The line also included a girl-sized vanity.”

Okay, I see how the Taffy Puller might have been overkill, but I thought I was doing your future selves a favor.

“With Suzy Homemaker accessories, every little girl could learn to entertain, wash dishes, clean house, launder, iron, bake… and always look lovely.”

Kinda makes me gag now.

“’Suzy Homemaker’ eventually became an insult directed at women judged as excessively domestic. It was used in this context by feminists to refer to any woman who embodied conventional social expectations without questioning them.”

That seemed a little harsh at first, but I get it. Now I know who should model herself after whom.

16 Comments

  1. Sarah Freligh

    Traci, wow! You’ve got all kinds of great stuff percolating here, a lot of different directions that you can take this! THAT, to me, is exactly what a draft should do (and never does, at least not my drafts, not lately, alas, but enough about me), present us with all kinds of options rather than put a lid on the inspiration before it can grow wings and become imagination.

    I’m sensing SO much promise in the voice itself, Suzy and her admission how “I let the whole thing get out of hand,” and her defense of that. With a persona piece –whether poem or prose — it helps to have what I’ll call the “occasion,” the reason for the speaker to be speaking out and now. With the King Kong poem, we find him on the Empire State Building in that iconic last scene, but we soon grok that the occasion for him speaking is his regret over his failure at football. So Suzy’s “defense” might arise from some occasion where she’s being asked to or compelled to defend herself and/or apologize for her line of mini-appliances (and her part in relegating girls to the kitchen for a generation). Along those lines, I’m thinking, too, that you can turn some of what’s now expository into narrative (i.e. hers) in which she acknowledges or refutes, or both, those facts.

    I’m really excited about all the places this could go!

  2. Mikki Aronoff

    Hi, Traci! Well, Sarah’s a hard act to follow, but who goes. I think you’ve got a great idea going here, and it feels unsettlingly contemporary, that we could be going back to those times (fingers crossed against, which is making this difficult to type 😂). Part of me would like to see you get REALLY carried away when you reference getting carried away — run on sentences, something surreal, as it is all pretty surreal when you think about it. Looking forward to seeing the final version somewhere! mikki

  3. Nancy Stohlman

    Traci!
    I like using Suzi Homemaker vs something more obvious like Barbie–Suzi was such a specific toy in a specific era. I love the way you have blending in the found text.
    I like the thought of getting crazy! Here’s another thought: what if you did something like speak from the first person POV OF Suzi Homemaker? Maybe it’s even another thread that blends with these threads (sometimes I find having 3 threads makes a nice braid)…but I LOVE where you are going! xoxo

    • Traci Mullins

      Three threads is a great idea, Nancy! I have a lot to think about if this is to turn into anything worth keeping.

  4. Kathryn Silver-Hajo

    Hi Traci! It’s so fun to be in workshop with you again.

    OK, so my confession is that (my tomboy, feminist nature notwithstanding) I found that list delicious and irresistible. I can picture the little doll-house sized items which bring up such a picture of a bygone era and reminded me of stuff I had — and loved—as a little girl. I think I had a Betty Crocker baking set or something and have always loved miniature things.

    So, now that that’s off my chest, I agree that this story has lots of potential and that having more of the story told in the narrator’s words and letting us in on why she’s compelled to make her apology/confession now would really strengthen it.

    Perhaps it could even be something about the gutting of Roe v Wade (as Mikki alludes to) that is her “moment,” of realization that she has inadvertently contributed to the pigeonholing of girls and the myriad ways women are controlled by the patriarchy and societal expectations

    This is a tiny suggestion, but maybe put the references in italics instead of quotation marks?

    Have fun with this!!!

    • Traci Mullins

      This is such helpful feedback, Kathryn! I see now how I’ll need to get the “why” of the apology into the story, and I love the idea of connecting current events to an earlier era when women were constricted. And yes on the italics; I’d written it that way but couldn’t figure out how to show the formatting in my posting.

  5. Kathryn Kulpa

    Hi Traci,

    I loved the interplay of toy descriptions and first-person narrative in this piece. I thought the first-person sections were Suzi Homemaker speaking in her own voice–“How I could be a role model.” This actually makes me think of some vintage ad I saw where the proper little girl playing with the Suzi Homemaker toys was praised for not being a “hippie,” so it’s wild how these two ideals overlapped and co-existed for a time.

    Sarah’s comment about the “occasion” of the poem got me thinking about the current fondness for “mid-century” style (which I confess I’m susceptible to), and how we can like the aesthetics of that era but still acknowledge the social oppression behind all those avocado green stoves and harvest gold refrigerators. Given the direction so many red states are heading, it wouldn’t surprise me to have some toy company executive decide it’s a good time to bring back ‘traditional values’ and market a new, revived Suzi.

    There are so many ways you could go with this!

  6. MaxieJane Frazier

    Traci, the only place I could add something to all these great comments is to say that you seem to be representing how much a kid could “enjoy” a doll like Suzy Homemaker only to have this positive memory turned on its head by feminists. And, being a feminist, the experience is complicated.

    • Traci Mullins

      Kathryn, that’s a scary thought, and certainly not unlikely in this political climate! Maybe a Trump doll could be co-marketed with the new Suzy. : )

    • Traci Mullins

      Maxie, I have a lot of work to do if this seed of a story can ever sprout. Ultimately, I want to convey how much Suzy regrets representing such a constricted, repressed femininity. Sure, it might have seemed all in good fun at the time, but clearly she didn’t do girls any favors. What’s really scary about the latest headlines is how little progress has been made!

  7. Suzanne van de Velde

    Traci — Thinking about Sarah’s suggestion about giving Suzy a reason to speak up just now, I’m struck at how well this character could handle the mighty fawning faux-apology currently so popular with various cultural and political weasels. Perhaps some specific calamity that can be traced directly back to her actions? As everyone has noted, the set-up is rife with possibility!

  8. Catherine Parnell

    Traci! There are so many striking moments here, and Suzy Homemaker — wow! I haven’t heard that term in years but you are giving it a new life along with its much-needed burial. Thank you!

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