One of my guilty pleasures is domestic blogs. The pictures are pretty, the subject matter inspiring and even the bad days are delivered with a literary flair. Living the life of a domestic blogger is probably akin to living in the world of home and garden television, where everyday is a day off and when disaster strikes, a “team” shows up to help you pick up the pieces.
I’m fully aware that I’m probably getting a sanitized account of someone else’s lifestyle. I know that the corner of the “newly organized craft room” that is not appearing on camera is crammed with thick, ugly puce yarn, pilling half-finished crocheted toilet paper covers and a thick skiff of dust. I know what domestic life is like first hand, so you can’t fool me.
But we all edit our life in the relating. People probably think we Jacksons just walk around making clever jokes and pointing out ironies, but really the conversation around here is rather pedantic. I just edit out the parts where Dirtman explains precisely, down to the depth and angle of the trenches, how he designed someone’s sewage system. Over dinner – if you’ve been invited to dinner at our house, consider yourself warned.
But I enjoy these amended versions of life where all projects are completed, all meals are fabulous and all road trips are fascinating.
The name for this used to be “eye candy,” but that was apparently not sensational enough and certainly not condescending enough to be used as ammunition in the continuing “Mommy Wars.” So now it’s called “domestic porn.”
The dismissive term of “porn” is important here as several of these bloggers now have books that have the audacity to point out that a domestic life is as artful and creative as any career.
All this was highlighted recently when I listened to one of these newly published authors being interviewed on the BBC and read a review of her book online at the Telegraph. I’ve been reading Jane Brocket’s yarnstorm blog for quite awhile and it is truly lovely. I wasn’t surprised when she began relating about being approached to do a book (available in the UK, so I haven’t read it), since her writing is smart and sophisticated and she has an artist’s eye.
The one thing that is so irritating about this whole “Mommy Wars” thing (aside from the term “Mommy,” since I’m no longer the mother of a six-year-old and it sounds nauseatingly precious) is the question why you would become so militant about someone else’s lifestyle choice.
Journalists Liz Hunt and Kate Saunders fling around the term “porn” (Hunt called it “domestic porn;” Saunders “pinney porn”) freely because, as Saunders admits, women are “terribly impressionable as a sex” and might interpret the pretty pictures in Brocket’s The Gentle Art of Domesticity as being a mandate for domestic perfection. Has the Martha Stewart Empire not infiltrated the UK?
An inexplicably bitter Hunt argues that there are more important things to do with your time and that, if you want homemade jam and socks, go to a farmers’ market and buy it. Though, were everyone to follow her advice, I don’t suppose there would be anything at the farmers’ market to buy. Who, exactly, did she think was knitting those socks and canning that jam she plans on purchasing?
And, while we’re at it, who is cleaning your house and who are the caregivers at your child’s daycare? Why is it considered a career for someone else when they clean your home and care for your children, but not considered a career when you do it? And why is one more valid on a resume than the other?
Saunders, though, makes the assumption that domestic artistry is only possible with “money and leisure,” a sour grapes argument I hear a lot. From a personal standpoint, I could “afford” to stay home with my kids while Dirtman made barely over $30,000 a year. It costs quite a bit to go to work and, with a little creativity, it made no difference financially whether I went out to work or stayed home.
I do have leisure time because I’ve never watched an episode of American Idol, haven’t seen Oprah since she was fat, I don’t go recreational shopping and around here being male or a minor or both does not excuse you from pulling your weight.
So Liz, dear, if you don’t want to can fruit, don’t. Kate, if the idea of knitting makes you nervous, don’t. But I’d really like to see you both get a handle on those anger issues.