3 Reasons I’m Not a Petrie or a Cleaver
April 6, 2013

I love to watch old sitcoms like The Dick VanDyke Show, Leave it to Beaver, and The Andy Griffith Show. They are relaxing to watch, as the characters’ problems, always wrapped up neatly in half an hour, would earn a #FirstWorldProblems hashtag in today’s world. Everyone is well behaved, no one cusses or drinks too much and Ward wouldn’t think of cheating on June. It’s all so … nice.

Though I enjoy my share of nostalgia, I’m not sure those days were really better, in spite of the Facebook posts I see regularly bemoaning the state of today’s society. Do you notice something about Andy, Barney, Ward, June, Rob and Laura? They are white, affluent, well-educated, clean cut, middle- to upper-middle class people, for whom those days were serene. With their socio-economic status and respectable professions came the perception that they were good people. They represented the propriety of the day and fit the mold.

Three reasons I wouldn’t have wanted to live in that era:

  1. What if you were different? What if you broke the mold?  I suspect life wasn’t quite so grand. I believe much of our longing for the way things used to be is a longing for the days when our beliefs and opinions about the way things should be weren’t challenged. Polite people shared the same views and if you didn’t you wouldn’t dare admit it. Ask a non-white person how great those days were. I’ll bet you’ll get a different answer. Racism was accepted and persons of color were second-class citizens. I don’t want to go back to that. Do you?
  2. Marriages were forever. They had to be. Well, most of them. Divorce, whatever the reason, brought shame and social isolation. Women in destructive or abusive marriages had no way out. Assuming anyone would have believed them, they faced the prospect of being social outcasts if they left, not to mention how to provide for children. A 50-year anniversary of misery isn’t a great thing to celebrate. So, yeah, people stayed married, but maybe that wasn’t always a good thing.
  3. I’d be dead. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1998. Had it been 1958, the early diagnosis that saved my life and the treatment that followed wouldn’t have been possible. My two young girls would have grown up without their mother.

People don’t change. The Bible says, ” … There is nothing new under the sun. “(Ecclesiastes 1:9) There has always been rape, murder, incest and every form of awful, creepy behavior. If you don’t believe me, read the Old Testament. You don’t have to read too far into Genesis to see one brother kill another. Child abuse, violence, adultery, lying and deception aren’t new ideas.

The difference today is that we know about it. Media outlets compete for our eyeballs by serving up stories more frightening and sensational than the competition. We long to be Andy and Barney  on the front porch strumming the guitar and singing hymns or Laura Petrie making dinner in utopian suburbia. I’m not sure whether we are truly worse, or just better informed.

I’m glad I live in this generation. As pretty as the Cleaver life may look on the outside, I’m grateful that, thanks to God and modern medicine, I’ve lived long enough to enjoy my children as adults. I’m happy my girls are free to follow their dreams and aspirations, wherever they may lead. I love that my friends of every ethnicity enjoy the same rights that I do,  and that prejudice against them has fallen far out of fashion. And most of all, I am thankful that I was empowered to leave an abusive first marriage, rather than being trapped by society’s expectations. That freedom gave me the chance to enjoy the blessed life I live today.

The good days are now, y’all. Enjoy.


  1. beth g sanders

    Thanks, Denise. Funny, I just read that Lewis quote not too long ago. Very true!

  2. Denise

    To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, “Don’t look back. You’re not going that way.” I agree, Beth. Nostalgia is nice once in a while but I’m all about looking for the best in my life and other people today and going forward with that!


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