The Secret Lives of Homemakers

6 Jun
I knew homemaking was a skill when I realized that I didn’t have it. Is there a better place to examine homemaking than in New York city? It’s a city so averse to homemaking that we don’t even call it that, we call it interior design, and so it affords us some distance to examine it.

None of my friends are homemakers, most are slobs actually, myself included, and if they are homemakers then they’ve kept it a secret.

I don’t blame them, or New York, or me for that matter, homemaking as a pursuit is frowned on because an entire gender was forced into it. I couldn’t imagine it. It was like the time when school attempted to get me to play sports but with the caveat that I couldn’t find love unless I played sports, but now that I think about it they might have sort of alluded to that.

But there really is an art to homemaking once you divorce it from the ugliness of its past, from the stigma of the housewife locked into years of ungrateful servitude under an abusive husband. Women fled the home and became breadwinners, and the so called feminist housewife is laughed at, not because of her skill, but because of her antiquated views.

And yet, here I was, seated among a sea of New York women of all shapes and sizes, some dressed like cosmopolitan sipping lawyers and others in burly sweaters, and we were all listening to Jen Lancaster speak about her book that takes on Martha Stewart. In her reading of her book I was struck with the realization that I wasn’t listening to a glib take on Martha’s bizarre obsession with dollies and perfectionism, but that I was among a crowd of people who sorta kinda liked Martha Stewart.

Jen spent time on the failures of her making an “easy toffee” recipe, but also sparkled at her victorious fourth try, and then wallowed in pride at the thought of her sharing the recipe with frenemies and picturing their failures.

It was homemaking with a slice of irony. It was homemaking humanized. Here, it wasn’t hallowed ground or woman’s work, something sacred offered to God. Here, homemaking was merely something we did over and over and over again until it comes out right.

I’m not a homemaker, but my boyfriend is, he took me to see Jen. He hasn’t said it, but I’ve noticed this skill of his. We’ve performed Julia Child routines in the kitchen, but he can do what she did beyond just the voice. I’ve sat at our apartment during Christmas and marveled at an ornament he made, it was a beautiful red candle situated on a crystal plate, on top of a red cloth, surrounded by microscopic gift boxes.  I picked one of the gift boxes up and inspected the fine details of the wrapping and the bow.

Where do you even go buy this? I wouldn’t even know where to start to find microscopic gift boxes.

Homemakers are all around us, living secret lives, looking nothing like the big apron mothers in sitcoms. They’re making us slobs look good. I’ve invited friends over to our apartment, and the big slobs gawk and say “this actually looks like a home” and I gawk with them.

Homemakers are still here and they’re masters of the sanctum. They do to places what writers do with words. They’ve adopted pinterest boards and virtual recipe books. They’re funny and have evolved to welcome kitsch and irony into the home. As a slob I’ve grown to grow grateful for them.

I hope they all know that what they have is a talent.


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