Keep the apron, pitch the bra

So homemaking, eh? You might think that your college-level post-modernism and feminist theory courses exempt you from ever belonging to an age where “homemaking” is considered an acceptable unit in your lexicon. Well, think again.  

Today’s human need not shy away from the concept of creating spaces that are well-suited for making family, friends and guests feel comfortable and welcome.  Don’t worry, I’m not asking you to host tupperware parties or iron your underwear. This is housewifery 101 for the 20- or 30-something working girls, stay-at-home dads, single mothers, LGBT couples and families, and every other type of whatever-you-say-goes household. These posts are intended as Martha Stewart-like suggestions that don’t make broad assumptions about who’s doing this stuff and why. 

Though we’re all liberated and stuff, societal mores run like ribbons of fat on a fine cut ribeye. June Cleaver seemed fine with the girdle, heels, apron and lipstick at 7 a.m. and so does my 84-year-old grandma, who still hot rolls her hair to take out the trash.

I often find myself doing matronly, homemaking-esque tasks on the sly, for fear my 21st century liberators and peers might deem me regressing to an inappropriate era.  I don’t take women’s lib lightly, though. I feel like it’s just an opportunity to take what works best for you (and your family, if applicable) and pitch the stuff that feels like even Mrs. Cleaver would’ve grumbled at under her breath.

I’m about as far from Mayfield as I am now from the Arizona desert where I grew up. I live in Brooklyn, NY with a wonderful woman, my biggest fan and now fiancee.

Personally, I like the apron, red lipstick, laundry (yes, that’s my dirty little secret) and occasionally the strappy heel.  I vote the bra, floor mopping, ironing, and dishes-immediately-after-dinner off the island. We share the chores and manage delgation by what we don’t each hate, which works out rather nicely.

My point in all this is, lest we confuse “traditional” with “bad” or “inefficient”, let’s think of other words to describe a return to sincere, earnest, and economical values.  To put homemaking on a pastoral pedestal is not my intent, but I hope to show you simple, everyday things that can make your home feel a lot homier and even facilitate relaxation, which in turn can put you in a better position to deal with all the other obligations life throws at you.  Afterall, home is not the enemy, so why do we continue to treat all things-home with aversion and disdain?

Barbara Kingsolver describes in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (Harper Collins, 2007) how the pursuit of higher education and professional advancement turned “cooking” into a dirty word amongst modern women, how convenience trumped common sense and real nutritional value.  Her book addresses a lot more than the concept of homemaking, but pertinent points ring true when she visits an artisan cheese maker in Montreal:

“You make cheese yourself,” [the cheese maker] repeated reverantly.  “You are a real housewife.” 

It has taken me decades to get here, but I took that as a compliment.

I googled “homemaking” and “home economics” in an attempt to determine when semantics waged war on the practice of housekeeping.  In the true wheat from chaff pursuit of internet searching, I discovered the International Federation for Home Economics and how they are committed to re-branding and repositioning, not renaming the profession. I’ve also discovered, thanks to a good friend, the book Perfection Salad by Laura Shapiro, a great resource for cultural and economic background and insight into the advent of Home Ec.

Overcoming semantics and negative connotations is essential in keeping a happy home while also balancing a career, sexuality, kids, pets and maybe even a garden.  

There is theory, and then there is practice.  I am formally trained as an anthropologist (with a noted aversion to theory), and not as a feminist or social theorist.  I practice the art of balance every day, and believe me, it takes practice and constant effort on my behalf with my drag-me-kicking-and-screaming, procrastination-ridden, and routine-phobic daily life.

So I’ll let you get back to churning your own butter, tanning leather, making cheese, canning food for the barren seasons, cooking supper from scratch, darning those socks, putting your house in order, and getting gussied up for that special someone’s return home later today [wink, wink].

Take what you will from these posts.  The impetus for this blog began with my manic (and true Cancerian) need for an established and comfortable home upon my arrival to NYC in September 2008.  I work from home.  A half-assed attempt at “home” just would not do.  We entertain as often as possible, and guests never fail to marvel at the homey feel of our brownstone garden apartment.  

Everyone needs a place to relax and refresh yourself, why not make that place your own home. (And, no, I’m not suggesting you move in to my house or your favourite cafe.)