Over the weekend, while berry picking, Beth and I were pontificating the Shepard Street House. We reflected fondly that it was the perfect “20-year old house” and quietly considered what happened to our youthful optimism of our 20s as it gave way to increasing cynicism of our 30s.
It’s not that we’re particularly unhopeful about the future, but we certainly don’t have the drive say petitioners have in regards to believing how quickly we could change the world. For example, the single protest in which I participated was a wonderful experience, but a few short years after that protest I realized that I would rather attempt to change things from within, from within the machine, the system, the institution. Not that I believe it to be the best, perhaps, way for change, but because overall we are slow to learn and slow to change so change must come within the institutions.
I find myself looking more cynically towards things that 10 years ago I may have interpreted as “signs” pointing me in one direction or another. I find myself more cautious of those I would like to fraternize, no longer as needy as I was 10 years ago. I figured out that I prefer the Rolling Stones over the Beatles and that spicy food, while tasty, is something I can only handle in slight moderation. I still like red wine, but I’ve moved on (quickly thank God) from white zinfandel.
I’ve always been a cautious, quiet person, but lately I have found that I appreciate more thinking before I speak. I’ll be called out on this I’m sure when my sister reads this. Pondering and digesting rather than spouting off an opinion, as I may have been quicker to do 10 years ago.
It’s interesting what a decade brings. I was searching for love 10 years ago with no thought that I’d ever be a parent and wondering when I’d finish school. 10 years have gone by and now I’m married with one adorable kiddo and a B.A. (finally!) under my belt. It makes me wonder what another 10 years will do. Will I fall into more cynicism, or will I see a rebound of that youthful optimism that drove me so passionately when I was slightly younger?
Generally speaking, I do enjoy doing the ‘domestic thing’ to take care of my family. I like vacuuming, I enjoy a clean bathroom, and I can’t ‘breath’ unless my kitchen is clean. I really enjoy preparing food, and folding laundry often appeases my meticulous side. Comforting children, especially our little bug, comes naturally as does offering comfort to others. Given this perspective, it’s easy to understand why women are often the ‘care givers’ and men the so-called ‘providers’. But, I’m also wired such that I need recognition for the work I do, and sometimes thank you isn’t enough. Re-realizing this about myself makes me wonder about all the women out there, the feminist movement, and why some women elect to keep a not so clean house.
Other thoughts that spiral through my mind when seeing what I need or would like to help motivate me to do these sometimes mundane tasks makes me understand why my mother is always so quick to help another woman in the kitchen at group events, like Thanksgiving. Her understanding or perspective of dislike for dish chores motivates her to relieve others from the task. She may not be the best cook, but she will ensure your dishes come out of the wash spotless.
Is this perspective a reason why women congregate in the kitchen? After keeping house for some period of time, one becomes quite familiar with what needs to be done to get the meal on the table. A generous desire for helping people, fraternization, and community are maybe the ingredients to the recipe. I’m sure many of us have visions of the women in children in the kitchen during these family gatherings while the men are around the boob-tube watching the latest NFL game or outside sipping their beers and smoking their cigarettes and cigars. Is it simply knowing what needs to be done that keeps women in the kitchen while ignorance of what needs to be done keeps men out of it?
There are men I know who are more at the ready to help in the kitchen and offer help than other women I know. If it’s simply familiarity with the task that divides who stays where, then that could serve an answer. Is there a deeper role that we play? This is certainly a question that philosophers have pondered in varying forms (gender roles, occupational roles, etc.) and I certainly don’t hope to find all the answers. Although, I am interested to hear differing perspectives.