The Uncomfortable Lure of Housewifery

My former Borders co-workers will tell you this story: once, while I was working at the registers, I had to call back-up to the front because I had no idea how to gift-wrap a customer’s item.  Everyone thought I was joking, but I insisted on having someone come up.  After the customer was taken care of, the few other employees who had gathered up there asked me why I didn’t know how to gift-wrap.  I replied that I had never learned; it was too domestic.

I’ve always resisted things that seemed too “domestic” or “feminine”.  Part of it stems from being labeled a tomboy as a kid; part of it from a persistent rebellion against my Mormon upbringing.  Over the years I’ve refused to learn to cook, to mend or even the intricacies of make-up.  I prefer cleaning & organizing; give me a call if you’re stuck putting together the Ikea furniture.  You’ll be lucky if you ever catch me in more than foundation & mascara.

Lately though, as I struggle to reorient my time & goals in the wake of post-grad life, I find myself tempted to take on some of those domestic duties that my husband usually does; namely, cooking.  I realize I am incredibly spoiled in having a partner who’ll do the bulk of the cooking & grocery shopping.  I’ve taken advantage of it over the seven years we’ve been together.  If I say, “I’ll take care of dinner”, it always means take-out or covering the bill at a nice restaurant.

A page from the Virginia Hospitality cookbook.
A page from the Virginia Hospitality cookbook.

Since I’ve put college behind me, that desire to learn still insists on being satisfied.  We have an entire bookcase of cookbooks & the sight of them waiting to be used always presents a challenge to me.  My approach is “If you can read it, you can learn it.”  When I had a subscription to BUST, I would always get so excited because there would be some new project to try.  Kurt once had to talk me down from my excitement over canning.  I kept repeating, “You don’t understand, I could do this!  There are instructions & everything!”

The other part of my interest, though, is grounded in common sense.  There is a lot of practical knowledge to running a household that I just don’t possess.  I don’t know how much milk or eggs should cost.  I don’t know the quality of one cut of meat over another.  I’ve never had to plan a menu much less figure out what to do with leftovers.  I don’t know the reason why you keep bacon grease in a jar instead of throwing it down the drain.

In short, if it isn’t in a book, I don’t know what to do with it.  There’s an element of wastefulness to my reasoning that makes me cringe.  When I read something like Kristin Lavransdatter or The Treasure of the City of Ladies, I’m in awe of these women who seem to know “naturally” what they can get out of a loaf of bread or a yard of cloth.  Granted, I understand that these books show different times, where women were confined to the home, & its matters were all that were allowed in their focus.  I understand that their knowledge grew out of their way of life, but I’m still impressed.  I hope I can learn something of their resourcefulness without being afraid of becoming a caricature.


2 thoughts on “The Uncomfortable Lure of Housewifery”

  1. You don’t put bacon grease down the drain because it doesn’t flow out with the water. Too much can congeal in the pipes and cause a clog. Also… you store it in a jar instead of throwing it away or into the yard, because the grease actually makes a great flavoring agent and pan lubricant (cheaper and better tasting than PAM or even butter!). Pour some into the pot you cook your green beans in. Yum.

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