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She stands alone, cut out against a white background.  Behind her is an invasion fleet of fourteen Prussian blue flying saucers bringing all kinds of unappetizingly bready foods from somewhere in this great white universe.  She is clutching her electric yellow “12in1 MIX Bisquick” to her chest, nuzzling her cheek on the corner of the box, staring out at me with an expression of such sheer delight, as if everything that makes up life resides within that one special box.  Above her head it reads: “Pancakes or Cookies, Dumplings or Biscuits: Bisquick’s right for so many things!”  She is the Bisquick lady from LIFE Magazine, 1954 and she is having an orgasm over her Bisquick.

Well, maybe not quite an orgasm, but one does get the sense that she has finally found the one.  It’s as though Bisquick’s powers of creation can transcend food and beget things like the “adoring” husband or the most “charming” of children.  Within the box lie the ingredients for the perfect, happy domestic life.  These possibilities are emphasized by the emptiness of the scarlet pink mixing bowl and the clear plastic measuring cup that lay in front of her. 

Under a picture of a particularly forlorn young woman who is clutching her heart, a 1920s ad begins:

                            Often a bridesmaid but never a bride

                            EDNA’S case was really a pathetic one.  Like every woman, her

                            primary ambition was to marry . . . And as her birthdays crept

                            gradually toward that tragic thirty-mark, marriage seemed

                            farther from her life than ever.

                                                        *         *         *

                            That’s the insidious thing about halitosis (unpleasant breath). 

                            You, yourself, rarely know when you have it.  And even your

                            closest friends won’t tell you.”

This is an ad for Listerine, a company that invented the medical condition of halitosis to market their product.  What is interesting is that only women seem to have this problem, or in cases where the man has halitosis, it is the woman’s problem to deal with, like in an ad titled, “Could I be happy with him in spite of that?”  This problem only stands in the way of a woman’s dream of domestic bliss, where a man’s goals remain unaffected.

My Bisquick woman is almost certainly married, evidenced by the very visible ring on her left hand.  She is made-up, wearing pearl earrings, and showing off her perfectly manicured hands and amazing 23 inch waist held in by her girdle-tight aqua-floral apron.  There is no point in her being this done-up other than to appear put together, in control at all times. 

She stands smiling at the left edge of the page while the ominously looming, disembodied bust of Betty Crocker, circa 1936, floats in the right hand corner, along the innermost spine of Life.  She looks like the matronly Nazi of baking, a stern mother staring you down with a disapproving smirk that seems to say with patronizing approval, “Well, it’s a start.  But you’ve still got a ways to go.”  She is in control of herself and everyone she strictly watches over, making sure that wives remain in their domestic heavens.

A 1945 ad for Swan soap shows “Why Life’s SWANDERFUL when you have a Baby: The baby’s daffy over you.  The house sparkles at you.  The husband kisses you.  And kisses you.”  This ad details perfectly what researcher Juliann Sivulka calls the “dedicated homemaker who sacrificed all personal aspirations to pamper her husband, chauffeur her children, scrub floors, and teach her daughters to do the same.”

But this kind of advertising really pays.  In 1970, an account executive with a Proctor and Gamble cleansing product said, “Look, when I came on to this account I felt embarrassed selling to women this way.  But when you look at it objectively, it makes sense . . . Our target consumer just isn’t that bright.”  Which explains what ad men call “ ‘Two C’s in a K.’  The ‘K’ stands for kitchen; the ‘C’ is a four-letter word.”

As I look back at my Mrs. Bisquick I realize that her eyes are a tangle of tentacular eyelashes.  It is not due to an overabundance of makeup, it is the fault of the black type which is off-set from the color, leaving her with two pairs of eyes and eyebrows.  She is almost frightening when seen up close, for here she is unable to deny that somewhere within she is silently out of control.  Betty disapproves. 

Making Love in the Kitchen

excerpted from:

© 2008 Lenae Day

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