As pretty much of a round peg in a square hole, I’ve been very fortunate to draw attention in the travel trade press over the years. Partly because of our unique focus on learning excursions, I’ve been interviewed countless times and had numerous opportunities to speak at travel and history conferences. While not exactly a publicity-hound, I am grateful that many journalists apparently consider our unique niche in the travel industry to be newsworthy.
But it turns out that this special treatment started much earlier than even I was aware: When I was two and a half months old I made the front page of the Boston Post because a staff photographer happened to notice my father changing my diaper in the Boston University library! The ⅝” bold headline (what font number is that?) stated, “INFANT GOES TO SCHOOL WITH DAD” above a photo of me lying flat on my back apparently playing “coochee-coo” with my grinning father. (No nudity here. After all, it was Boston.) There was a sub-head as well: “B.U. Student Takes his Two and a Half Months Old Baby to Class”, followed by twelve paragraphs of more or less drivel.
It must have been a remarkably slow news day in Beantown. But the very fact that a GI was changing a diaper just months after the end of WWII (and in public, yet) must have been so singular that somebody on the city desk decided to run with it.
I was blissfully unaware of this early publicity until just a few years ago, when I was sorting through some of my mother’s things prior to selling her home, and found the yellowed clipping in a box of random memorabilia. Of course I was thrilled. And of course, I had it framed! But it wasn’t until just recently that it occurred to me that this represented far more than just a personal keepsake. This seemingly innocuous news filler could be viewed as a bellwether for a very different post-war world.
In America, the greatest generation had returned triumphantly to shape a new way of life, one in which women – who had tasted personal and economic freedom in the united effort to win the war – weren’t so easily stuffed back into the stereotype of motherhood and housework. Equality was breaking out all over the place – for women, for minorities, for different lifestyles and different family roles. It was slow, and it was painful. And it’s still going on.
But today nobody would think twice about a father changing his kid’s diaper. In fact, we’ve come so far that we now have all kinds of new terms to identify these roles. Words like househusband and stay-at-home-dad. Today something like this would end up on Facebook and then disappear in a nano-second!
I guess it’s kind of cool to represent some of these changes, no matter how inadvertently. I do wish it had been the Boston Globe, though!