Times are surely a-changin’.
In the current day, it’s common knowledge that young Australian women are delaying marriage and motherhood, and simultaneously staying at home longer. Soaring house prices, economic pressures to obtain a tertiary qualification and wider social acceptance of de-facto relationships have all played a part in shaping these news trends.
As the norms surrounding marriage have shifted, so too have some of the traditions associated with them. The amassing of the good old ‘glory box’ (or ‘hope chest’ as it’s known in the U.S.) is one outdated custom.
Up until the mid-20th century, the collection of items for a glory box formed a rite of passage for young, ready-to-be-married women. The terms ‘glory’ or hope’, which are used to describe the box, evoke an image of a Jane Austen character, waiting in great anticipation for her future husband. While in the meantime, until such man arrives, she’ll remain content accumulating various household items for use during married life. In this context, marriage is the pinnacle of the woman’s life, with the glory box a symbol of this aspiration. But while marriage and motherhood remain significant life goals for many modern women, economic and non-family related desires have become increasingly important.
Today, the word ‘glory box’ is so far removed from the vocabularies of young women, that when I uttered the word ironically to my Dad the other day, he responded in shock that his young, self-declared feminist of a daughter would even know what the word meant. To him, and many others, the word is a remnant of a bygone era.
As a young, unmarried woman (and ardent feminist), I’ve found myself rejecting the old definition of the glory box and instead opted for a modern-day definition. In line with these new social trends, the 21st Century glory box should not be seen as a symbol of submission to one’s future husband and married life (as it can be seen) but as a expression of freedom and independence.
While I’ve currently been using the term ‘glory box’ as a scapegoat for my tendency to hoard and stockpile home decor items, it’s intended use is for a time when I hope to have my own house and career. My ‘freedom’ box will be filled with things I hope to fill my own future house with, purchased with my own income from my own career. With this box, one’s hoped-for relationship status is irrelevant. The aspirational nature of the box remains unchanged, but the hopes slightly updated. Not only is the box a female undertaking, but something for both young men and women can use to express their desire to live their own lives on their own means.
But one thing I hope, is that my dreams and aspirations will require something a little bigger than a wooden box to fit in.