Domesticity is independence. Freedom. Self-reliance. Just like any other child when I was younger I used to kick and scream and weasel my way out of of every chore. The mundanity and the banality of it all was an assault on my young self. There were Power Rangers to be watched for crying out loud why am I collecting garbage or folding laundry.
Somewhere between Power Rangers commercials and today, my mindset and attitude towards domesticity changed dramatically, and it hadn’t been until this blog and helping my cousin with her quest to become a domestic goddess that I realized how much enjoyment and pleasure I now derive from things I once hated.
I think the first major shift was when I started this new of position. Living out of hotels every night and eating at restaurants or take-out places has made me realize how much I miss having my own space. I want my bed, made the way I like it, surrounded by the decor of my choosing. Hotel rooms, no matter how luxurious or well-appointed, are always so…sterile. Safe. Impersonal. But I love to decorate. I love to collect and then to display. A shot glass from every major city or show or event of my life. Memorabilia from my travels in Asia, the Caribbean, North America. My books. Movies. Posters. I appreciate a warm, home-cooked meal now that I am out every night, sampling some of the best regional restaurants, feasting on crab or steak or seafood. Home-cooking tells a story. There is a heritage and identity in a family meal that I miss. There is a self-directed sense of purpose when you decide your own meals.
Domesticity for me is the ultimate expression of self-reliance. I hated making my bed when I was younger because I couldn’t see any benefit or gain on a personal level. I felt like I was doing this more for my mother than for myself and for that I felt there was no value to be had. Now I take a moment when I change my bed-sheets to appreciated how the fabric billows up as I fan and spread it across the mattress. There is that cool, clean, crisp smell of freshly laundered sheets to look forward to that first night. I take pride in my possessions and the myriad stories and experiences they allude to. I can’t display them any sort of confidence if the area around it is dirty or unkempt. So I choose to clean my room. I choose to maintain my space to a level that I am comfortable with and confident in. Independence and choice. They are not what you usually first associate domesticity with but the association is there nonetheless. Without the constant supervision of a parent or partner, how do YOU decide to keep yourself and your space. Domesticity is the ultimate expression of ‘I choose to be responsible and maintain my surroundings’. No one says you have to. You can leave everything a mess. You can leave it as it lies. And for many the initial temptation and joy is there in the reckless abandon of responsibility. But hopefully for most, there is that ultimate moment where enough is enough, and you realize that a little maintenance is very much a necessity. And then hopefully for most of those people, there is then much later the moment where you realize there is pleasure to be had. Maybe not in the act, maybe not in the labor, but in the expression and the result.
I grew up in a house where there were chores and expectations and routines and I hated it until I got to a point where I had the choice to abandon it all and I realized how much I needed it to focus and align my life. Conversations with my cousin illuminated a completely different side. One that didn’t hate domesticity and then come around to it, but one that never had to worry about it and is now suddenly thrust into the thick of it. See most families in the Philippines live with a form of live-in help. Domestic helpers who would take care of food, laundry, cleaning, and any other domestic tasks in exchange for room and board and a small salary. Many are students while others are lifers who choose to help take care of their host family rather than pursue their own. So my cousin grew up in this environment where there was no opinion about laundry or cooking or cleaning because the assumption was that it would always be done. She’s flying completely blind with her own apartment and now her own piles of laundry and the responsibility to feed herself. I am here to help her and guide her in learning how to do basic tasks but it is interesting to see a different attitude towards domesticity: one of fear. Of never having had to face it before in any form, not even the small chores our parents would make us do to prepare us, and now suddenly to be responsible in the fullest, final form. She will have to go through the phases of learning and hating and appreciating at a much faster rate. I am trying to impart to her that there is an enjoyment and zen to be had in domestic tasks. For someone who’s had so much of her life decided for her, to have been so minimally involved in her own growth, and now to be so brave and so independent and resolved as to move to an entirely different country to pursue her own passions, she should see that in the smallest role of being responsible for taking out her own disgusting trash, she is further cementing her right to claim her own space in the world.
Domesticity has also been a huge benefit in my relationships in the past. I have to admit that a lot of what I know (how to cook, clean, repair, etc) has stemmed from addressing a desire to be as desirable as possible. How many times do we see or hear women talking about their partners not contributing in the household, not having any skills to contribute to the daily tasks, or even just wanting for once to enjoy a meal not of their own doing and not from someone else. I wanted to be different. I wanted to stand out. I learned to cook, really, because I wanted to cook for a girl. By luck or perhaps fate, I loved learning and it became a legitimate personal passion of mine. I still derive so much pleasure and pride in cooking for those that I am with but even without, I know I can cook for myself, survive for myself, and feed my own soul when I need. In truth yes all of my skills and abilities were learned for others, but now during my grand experiment to live for myself, I am so very grateful I learned it all to help take care of me. I can enjoy and reap the benefits of my knowledge for now and when I am ready and when I am fortunate enough to find someone again, I know they can too. These abilities will not go to waste just because I can’t do it for a beautiful woman standing next to me. I am free to live the life I want because I gave myself the abilities to chase after that life.
The next time you are trudging a way too full garbage bag to the curb, or are on your hands and knees scrubbing a bathroom, or sweating in your own hot kitchen, realize that there were so many other alternatives. You could have given up a long time ago. You could have just lived with it. But you didn’t. There was a choice made. To be domestic. To be responsible. You aren’t free because you take out the garbage. You take out the garbage because you choose to be free to.
This is what I miss most on the road. Being responsible. Having my own tasks. Not living as a guest or a patron but as a self-sustained main. Domesticity is bliss.
Man: 21 Loneliness: 6