I grew up with a whip-smart mom who stayed at home with us, and so I always approach discussions like these with a bit of a chip on my shoulder, alert to any slights whatsoever against the choices and life mission of someone I so love and admire — even if I don’t plan to make precisely the same ones. But more of it is probably generational. For recession-scarred twentysomethings, staying at home or taking menial jobs is involuntary, but not because social mores dictate that women can’t achieve: It’s because so few of us, regardless of gender, have gotten hired at jobs Friedan might consider fulfilling...What's so wrong about paying close attention to the details of the beauty of your environment? Fussy... there's a word. When is intense, attentive work deemed fussy? This is a word that has long been used against women and against gay men. Is a person supposed to be interested in something other than what he or she finds interesting? Why? Who says what the proper foci of interest are in this world? Some people are more sensitive to the visual specifics of their environment. It's not as if the people who aren't spend their lives plumbing the meaning of the universe. Perhaps the interior decorator is closer to the core of what truly matters than the corporate lawyer.
I’m sure Betty wouldn’t be happy to see all the expensively educated young women of Brooklyn, where I live, spending their free time taking floral-arranging classes and knitting and fussily setting up their living rooms just so....
Now, I've derailed onto the subject of the word "fussy." I just had a long conversation with Meade about his associations with the word. Knowing nothing of the context in which I'd encountered the word, he associated it with objects — specifically drawings and handmade pottery — that are inferior because they have been overworked. I prompted him to think of calling a person fussy, and he said "a baby." Time to check the Oxford English Dictionary (which I can't link to). The first meaning applies to "persons, their habits and actions": "Fond of fuss, moving and acting with fuss; habitually busy about trifles." Examples:
1831 T. Moore Mem. (1854) VI. 201 Lucky for him that he is so little of an irritable or fussy nature.The third meaning relates to things: "Of dress, etc.: Full of petty details. Also, in dressmaking language, without depreciatory implication; With many flounces, puffs, pleats, etc."
1850 Fraser's Mag. 41 163 She is fussy and fidgetty (if there be such words).
1858 J. G. Holland Titcomb's Lett. i. 92 Let every garment be well fitted.. fussy in no point....Flounces, puffs... Hear the homophobic echoes. Anyway, the etymology of fussy is obvious. It's just a -y added to fuss. What's the etymology of fuss?
1896 Westm. Gaz. 7 May 3/1 The fussy sunshade is much beflounced with lace-edged chiffon.
Perhaps echoic of the sound of something sputtering or bubbling, or expressive of the action of ‘puffing and blowing’.The 2 oldest examples for fuss:
1701 G. Farquhar Sir Harry Wildair iii. i. 21 Ah! I hate these Congregation-women. There's such a fuss and such a clutter about their Devotion.And now, I am fully off track, looking for the full text of Lord Landsdowne's very cool poem "The Wild Boar's Defense," which I'm going to type out in full, because I'm only seeing images of book pages and I want to make it more available. The wild boar wants to be free:
c1730 Ld. Lansdowne Wild Boar's Def. in Wks. (1732) I. 140 With your Humanity you keep a Fuss; But are in truth worse brutes than all of us.
A boar, who had enjoy'd a happy reignMy Wi-Fi took me there, in my unfussy riffing this morning. I suppose I could tie it all up somehow. Husbands, wives... destroy each other.
For many a year, and fed on many a man,
Call'd to account, softening his savage eyes,
Thus suppliant pleads his cause before he dies:
"For what am I condemned? My crime's no more
To eat a man than yours to eat a boar.
We seek not you, but take what chance provides,
Nature and mere necessity our guides:
You murder us in sport, then dish us up
For drunken feasts, a relish for the cup.
We lengthen not our meals: but you much feast;
Gorge till your bellies burst — pray who's the beast?
With your humanity you keep a fuss,
But are in truth worse brutes than all of us.
We prey not on our kind; but you, dear brother,
Most beastly of all beasts, devour each other:
Kings worry kings, neighbour with neighbour strives,
Fathers and sons, friends, brothers, husbands, wives,
By fraud or force, by poison, sword, or gun,
Destroy each other, every mother's son!"
Who's the beast?