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.
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.