Tuesday, January 27, 2009

displaced housewife seeks a kinder, simpler age

Last night I made meatloaf. Granted, this was meatloaf made of ground turkey and a host of other similarly modified healthy ingredients, but it was meatloaf nevertheless. And meatloaf is the provenance of housewives the world over, a Depression era staple, a Midwestern culinary rallying point (voted Good Housekeeping's seventh favorite food in 2007!); it is surely not the meal a twenty-something New Yorker makes for her boyfriend after boxing practice. Right?

I've always been a product of the wrong decade. If I had my druthers (see? I use words like "druthers"), I'd wear nothing but t-straps and pleated skirts, ride around with notebooks and loaves of bread stashed in my bicycle basket. I'd write letters. I'd keep a trousseau. I'd misbehave famously. This anachronistic fantasy of mine harvests the better parts of womanhood—subject to personal taste of course—and splices them together in defiance of their generational relevance. This works for me.

So I go to Whole Foods as if it were a market in the town square. I lovingly select vegetables I cannot afford, take them home, and mutilate them. I rattle about the kitchen listening to WCBSfm because they play songs I recognize from a time when I thought listening to Simon and Garfunkel made me "edgy." And I make things.

Sometimes I think I'd be perfectly happy like this: separating the whites from the darks, folding shirts, making beds, writing grocery lists, planning parties, planting flowers...provided there were some other element to my life to keep me engaged—no one wants to go out with their head in an oven. But I want to learn to properly fold the bottom sheet, how to mold marzipan, how to keep my plants alive. Perhaps it can be so simply explained as the need for control in my home, but what does that word even mean nowadays? Do we still hold by those needs or have we outgrown them?

It has occurred to me that these simple skills should not number among my goals and aspirations. Sure, everyone wants to write mystery novels in a cottage by the sea, labrador retreivers underfoot, whole bean coffee brewed at sunrise, but the pursuit of domestic happiness seems to have been rendered irrelevant to our postmodern lives. We are conditioned to want something else, something faster, especially us girls. Women in the wake of feminism are no longer presented with two equally valid choices: to stay at home or to go out into the workplace and seek our fortunes alongside the menfolk. We are now expected to do the latter and are judged only by our fellow seedbearers when we fail to also accomplish the former.

Many women have suffered and sacrificed for this to be the case. It is on their shoulders that we wear pants and vote and even burn our bras in protest. But sometimes I wonder if we haven't backed ourselves into an even trickier corner by disregarding some of the finer points of our natures. Listen, ladies, I have every respect for those of you who would rather eat mulch than bear children, wear a dress, or bake a pie. It should be your choice. I just wonder if that choice isn't being made for us?

I probably ask too much of the world. Because I want to wear pants. I want to curse and drink grown men under the table. I want to be a high-powered career woman just like everyone else. I just also want to wear lace every once in a while and be appreciated for the antiquated rituals I keep alive on special occasions. And someday, if I have babies and I want to stay home and actually watch them grow up, I want to do that too.

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