Saturday, April 25, 2009

Wide Open Spaces

I'm coming out of stealth mode to do a little warm-up writing. I've a rewrite of a short story to work on, and I need some "narrative calasthenics" (I stole that phrase from some guy in Poets and Writers mag) to get my fiction juices flowing. It's such a irony that the same house-cleaning frenzy that frees up my mind so that I can write also makes me to tired to want to do anything.

So this week in Domesticity class we've been talking about the open floor plan and its many evils. It's so weird how everything we've talked about in that class keeps popping up at random moments in my "real", non-school life. This week we read about how the advent of the open floor plan placed so much more responsibility on already overworked women. With all that visually pleasing open space comes the ability/expectation to multi-task. Mother has to be everywhere at once, and she can be if she can see everywhere. Plus, there is no front room that you can keep clean for company. Now, everything has to be presentable all the time because it's all visible to visitors. At Bible study last night, one of my friends was lamenting that fact that she spends so much of her time chasing her 2-year-old son. When I mentioned what we read in class about Betty Friedan's maligning of the open floor plan in The Feminine Mystique, my friend couldn't help but agree. (Though she seemed almost too tired to so much as nod.)

Are we (and by "we," I mean women) creating more work for ourselves by selecting those oh-so-popular open floor plan houses? Just because HGTV says we need all that open space and "flow," does it really make it true? As I've read so much about domestic advice and its history over this semester of Domesticity class, I've become aware of how transient domestic advice really is....fluid and rarely reflective of the society it is meant to represent/guide. So much of the advice is never followed, but we are left with this guilt that we aren't doing the "right" thing by our homes and families.

Don't get me wrong, I am in no way suggesting that HGTV is evil or that I will never again flip hungrily through a decorating mag. I simply submit to you, dear reader, that when making house/decorating/cooking decisions, we women should start basing it on our own convenience/comfort/taste rather than on something that the "experts" tell us we should like. It is important to remember that so much of the modern domestic advice is driven by consumerism and marketing. Product placement almost overwhelms some of those HGTV decorating shows. 100 years ago, women couldn't even vote. Now we have a female Secretary of State. Women have not come this far to be controlled by a clever jingle or compelling commercial.

Of course, if we're talking about convenience, there are some inventions/innovations that do make our jobs easier. I have a couple of items, like my Kitchen Aid Mixer and my insanely wonderful laundry cart, that make my domestic tasks so much simpler. But even my household tools deserve a second look. So many of the tools that we use to make our jobs easier/faster, really just isolate us more and raise the standards by which we measure our housework.

Okay, enough of my housework rant. I'm still seeking the title of Domestic Goddess. That didn't change. I do, however, have a different understang/perspective when it come to my role as wife/cook/laundress/housekeeper. But I suppose I should use some of my mad multi-tasking skills to get some serious writing done. Thanks to the inventor of the open floor plan for giving me that oh-so-useful skill!

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