I laughed to myself as I read fellow blogger Libby’s piece last week on being a Latina who doesn’t cook. Reader’s comments ranged from expert rice cookers who sang the praises of the caldero to readers who seemed more likely to order a pizza and watch the game with the guys. I laughed even more because I could relate to both extremes.
My mom did everything in the house. She cooked multiple meals a day, ironed my dad’s clothes, washed the floors with trapos, and did laundry for a family of six. This is what my mom did, what her mother did, what my aunts in Ecuador did. And if you listen to certain men (and women) talk about it, this is what Latinas should be doing. (Preferably while wearing a smile and 4-inch heels.)Growing up though, I decided this role would not be mine. I would wait on no one and chores would be every person for herself. Even while under the same roof with the Latina version of Julia Childs, I never bothered to learn how to cook. (To my credit, my mom who didn’t cook until she got married at 19 encouraged me to focus en los studios instead.) And I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t do laundry until I got to college. I remember skulking into the dorm’s laundry room at 3am, so no one would witness my confusion as I tried to figure out the machines for the first time. I was basically hopeless when it came to keeping a home. But I wore my ineptitude with a sort of pride – pride in not being domestic, in not being domesticated like a sad, limp animal whose wild ways have been tamed.
The thing is, as I’ve gotten older, this sharp dichotomy that once lived in my head – strong independent woman versus sappy Suzy homemaker – no longer rings true. Maybe it’s my age. Maybe it’s because this is the first time I’ve lived in the same apartment for more than a year. Maybe it’s exposure to more balanced gender roles. Or maybe it’s because we really do become our mothers. But DAMN IT, I’m enjoying being domestic. I enjoy cooking for those I love…watching their faces the moment they take that first bite. I actually enjoy making lunches, keeping a clean kitchen, bathing and grooming the dog, folding the towels so they all point the same way and fit perfectly in the linen closet. (I keep a fine linen closet, if I do say so myself.)
I once would have been embarrassed to admit my bouts of domestic bliss, and a small part of me dressed in overalls and a baseball cap still wants to kick the crap out of my linen closet. But I’ve learned to appreciate that maybe along with her curiosity, passion, and warmth; I inherited some of my mom’s domestic skills too. The difference is that without stringent expectations to be a domestic goddess, I can find the joy in becoming one.