Sunday, April 29, 2007

On Keeping House

I grew up disdaining housework. Thought it was something smart girls could do without. After all, what gains you acclaim in the world: a tidy house, or a successful career? The ability to cook, or multiple degrees? Nurturing other people, or writing prose to last the ages?

Since my parents felt similarly, I grew up with a lot of books and intellectual discussions but a disorganized environment. I channeled my feelings of domestic inferiority into elitism. Sure, my friends' houses were spotless, and their yards were pristine, but did their parents understand differential equations? I think not.

In my twenties, armed with my liberal arts degree, I felt the joy and freedom of low-paying jobs, unstable relationships, and moving from apartment to apartment every year. But somehow I managed to pull it together and get into grad school, move to idyllic College Town, and meet the man who became Mr. Flossie. We bought an intimidatingly beautiful house.

Still, I was living mostly in my head. Especially when I studied for my comprehensive exams, I neglected my laundry, threw up my hands about insoluble problems like painted-shut windows, allowed giant dust-and-cat-hair bunnies to accumulate, tried not to look at the yard, and felt strange yearnings to throw dinner parties and pick out curtains. And the day after my comprehensive exams, I wondered, "Is this how I want to be, always?"

But it's not OK to want to keep house, right? Doesn't it imply that I'm content with taking a supporting role in the real work of the world? That's what I grew up believing. But now I suspect that a physical place where one can feel calm, unchaotic, and organized could translate into a mental place of those qualities as well.

Now to start figuring out how the hell to do it.

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