Sunday, November 08, 2009

Disabled By Domesticity

The events (or nonevents) of my Saturday night prompt me to address something that has been bouncing around in my brain for a while, inspired by something Cookbook tweeted a while back: "You think I'm boring, don't you?"

Which I identify with because I think that of myself too. But it's a little deeper than that--I'm not actually boring, as I am interested in many, many things and I do like to talk to people. And I think a lot. And I seem to have these little quirks that I admit to that are at least odd. But a lot of the things that I do fall into one of three categories---solitary (reading, cranking around on the internet), female (cat rescue) or domestic (cooking).

It's the domestic side of things that causes tension. While I understand the comforts of a clean home, I feel trapped by two aspects of it. One, the drudgery angle. Good god, it's just washing, and straightening and keeping up with it all over and over again until I could start screaming. Second, that as a woman I am supposed to care about having matching furniture and whatnot and think constantly about the doing and redoing of things, the continual polishing of the jewel of the home.

And frankly, I just don't give a shit.

This past year, when I lived in 600 feet of empty (How empty? Wende would stretch out on the floor. I had 2 place settings of Corelle Christmas plates my sister gave me that I ate off.) apartment, I relished the simplicity of it. Okay, I also felt a bit embarrassed, but I wasn't too uncomfortable in my home. Having a desk makes life easier in that I have a place to use the computer and eat dinner, but overall there's not that much of a change. I feel freer than I have in a long time, free from having a house, from having obligations. I never wanted to travel or do anything adventuresome as I felt so overwhelmed. But now I have a restlessness that stems from being surrounded by the trappings of a home.

Some of this is ironic, as one of the things I wrestle with in my depression is I'm not happy with my lack of ties to the world, and how it is a scary place for me.

But back to the domestic, it seems like a continuum--young, single women demonstrating their marriageability by the depth of their domestic skills, catching a guy, and then getting trapped as the helpmeet in a weird reinforcing pattern as all your female friends are also domestic. That sounds harsher than I want it to--if you like to sew or cook or whatever, you should do it. My own lack of interest doesn't make me feel less female, but it does make me wonder a) if that's really What Men Want and b) yeah, is it part of a plot to keep women in place.

I mean, if I were a guy, I'd want some one with some excitement going on, passionate interests, interesting hobbies, work he/she loves, mastery.

I personally feel that being 34 and single, even if I'm not fully happy about how things are turning out, I dodged a bullet in some ways . And that bullet has "Overwork" engraved on it. One of the reasons I broke up with the ex is that I knew that if we had had a child, I'd get stuck doing it all. And I didn't care to relive my childhood with me in my mom's role. It seems that a lot of women with jobs and children just get stuck doing it all and setting impossible standards for themselves of a happy hablis domesticus without examining what's really going on, which is that it's actually killing them to perpetuate an unsustainable lifestyle.

Yes, I recognize my own ambivalence. I don't know what to say about it. All I can say is that even when I was young, all I wanted to be was happy. I chased after a dream of a husband and family that culture told me would make me happy, a dream that was completely at odds of my own experience growing up. So truly, I don't know and I don't have an answer.

So let's have a song!


Lisa S. said...

Have you ever read Florence King's "With Charity Toward None"? The last chapter is about her and she writes about many of the same things you've touched on: the feeling of being disengaged from the world coupled with the contradictory urge to streamline, pare down, not be tied to one's domicile.

(I always get this way after coming back from a trip. The day after I got back from the UK, I reduced my clothing and shoes by 25%. Must! Reduce! Ties!)

Anne (in Reno) said...

Interesting. I always feel guilty about my domesticity, that I'm too attached to my environment and should be able to throw all my belongings into a suitcase and move to Paris at a moment's notice. I guess the grass really is greener on the other side. And it sounds like you've really made the right choices for you.

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