Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Beauty Breathes: My Empty Soulless Childless Existence, The Insufferable Smugness of Earth Mothers, Feminist Class Divides, and Cheese from a Can

Beauty Breathes: My Empty Soulless Childless Existence, The Insufferable Smugness of Earth Mothers, Feminist Class Divides, and
Cheese from a Can

Recently, I heard “kitchen guru” Jules Blaine Davis on the Parent Experiment podcast. (Yes, I listen to a parenting podcast, although my own cold, childless, selfish little soul is too far too busy fussing over my white-carpeted ice palace and expensive designer knick-knacks to even fathom having child.)

I found myself developing a very complicated relationship with dear Jules. On the one hand, I instantly and thoroughly detested her. She was judgmental, smug, bossy, and the worst kind of know-it-all, one of those “has it all together” types who seem genetically engineered to afflict even the most ardently Whole Foods-shopping mother with a crippling inferiority complex. On the other hand, her message went into straight into the core of my being and has resonated there ever since, a small, vibrating, longing thing that aches for me to listen to it. And, however eye-rolling and aggravating the presentation of her beliefs, she is obviously deeply committed to them, and living her own life in complete integrity with them. At times, she was stunningly poetic and intuitive. Other times, she was completely insufferable. I won’t go into detail about everything she discusses, (you can listen to the podcast here if you, too, wish to be thrown headlong into a crisis of earth-based, goddess-power femininity), but what struck me so deeply about her message was the part about nurturing.

Some of the things that she talks so eloquently about are how nourishing food resonates in our entire body, about how nurturing and nourishing others is a gift that we give to ourselves as well, and about how we have become completely detached from this source within ourselves as women. About how we have become disconnected from our kitchens, (I barely even know I have a kitchen), and how reclaiming our kitchens as sacred space is essential to the nourishment of ourselves and our families. She speaks poetically of how hungry the women in her life seem to be, and, in spite of their intelligence and competence in other areas, how they are unable to manage the simplest cooking task, such as roasting a squash. And how a nourished child, a nourished woman, a nourished husband, takes that feeling into the world and does good with that energy. Jules’s business model, Renaissance Mammas, helps (mostly women of means) to reclaim, recalibrate, and design their kitchens for maximum nurturing, and for supporting the production of the best, most nourishing meals possible.

Even as a notoriously hopeless cook, I am passionate about her basic message. Unfortunately the majority of her service, in the end, revolves around the purchase and consumption of high end, expensive products. Inevitably, almost all of it ended up referring back to consumerism. To be fair, Jules does talk about preserving quality items that have some sort of ancestral heritage or "story", but in the end, it’s more about a trip to high-end kitchen stores for upgrades than “making do.” I’m not all opposed to refusing to make do, and I don’t blame the consumerist aspect on Jules; I just don’t think that she has anywhere else to go with the energies that are burning within her. She is working with the fact what women do now, in this culture, when we are feeling a deprivation too deep to fathom, is shop. We go to “spa days”. We purchase things. If we can afford it, we buy a high-end substitute for “it”, but “it” is no longer truly accessible. I disagree with Jules, I don’t believe that finding “it” is a mere matter of prioritizing. It’s about a deeper, more fundamental breakage and separation from our own divine feminine power, our power to nurture and nourish—ourselves and others. We are not able to fix the systems that overwhelm us, the systems that deny us and punish us for that ability and that longing --unless we have a certain fundamental level of wealth, and possibly not even then.

We are functioning in a completely mechanized world where the divine feminine is more needed and deeply longed for than ever, and the same time, it’s expression is subverted, ridiculed, and subjected to contempt. Women who are trying to survive or thrive in this economic and social system and maintain financial independence cannot always, or even mostly, balance that with being uncompromising earth mothers and nurturers in the home. If we do, we’re labeled lazy bitches who are only looking for “a man” to take care of us, and if we don’t, we’re selfish, materialistic, or unbecomingly ambitious. And there are many, many women stuck in the middle, who are just trying to work, survive economically, and raise children in an environment where everything in the culture is actively working against the production of a healthy, truly nourished, spiritually whole human being.

So, I say good on Jules for trying. Wealthy white women need to learn how to cook and nurture their families and themselves as much as the rest of us do. Jules has the resources to create a platform for her message, which is important and much worth hearing. And she has posted two wonderful poems by Sharon Olds and Mary Oliver on her blog, and how can I truly dislike her after knowing that she loves these poems? I wish her the best in her life’s work, and I thank her for the blessing she has given me—the permission to think about my own issues with self-nurturing in a much different light.

Mother of god, I need a laugh after all this heaviness; how about you? Check out this Garfunkel and Oates performance to cheer up, (no offense to any preggos I have ever known—you’ve all been lovely) and have yourself a nice, artificial shot of good old cheese from a can. It’s great for you. (And for a local gal who’s onto the same thing Jules is, just funnier and less judgey, please check out my friend Frankie’s blog, Artisan Lifestyle. That girl can crochet you a scarf, wolf down a Little Debbie snack cake, scandalize you with a sex story, teach you about organic gardening, and baste a pot roast all in one breath. And she never minds if you’re a cranky bitch because you just ate an entire can of cheese.)

--Kristen McHenry


Dale said...

I think not being able to cook (also true of me) is part of a larger social breakdown, of not being able, in our personal lives, to plan ahead. The stumbling block to cooking for me has nothing to do with complexities or costs or talents. It's the mind-numbing thought that 12 hours before cooking them, which is an hour before eating them, I will need to put the black beans to soak. That means knowing, not to mention committing to, having the beans for dinner the day before I actually do. And that mode of thinking, which my grandparents were in all the time, is to me terribly foreign and frightening. How do I know that I'll want beans tomorrow? What if I don't? How can I hold all that planning in my head without it exploding?

I have been struggling to recover the planning-and-executing mode, even though it regularly panics me, because I'm convinced that my financial and emotional freedom actually lives there. If I can get to it.

Kristen McHenry said...

I really relate, Dale! The whole concept of meal planning is unfathomable to me. I get home around 6:30 most nights, and have usually just shoved a salad into my mouth around noon while working at my desk, so I am hungry, and tired, and I need to get some writing in and some clean-up done, and the last thing I want to commit to is an hour and half to two hours of cooking, prep, and clean up when Mr. Typist and I can just as easily grab something from the deli down the street or pop out for some quick Teriyaki. It's just not worth it for me for to make the effort or have to think ahead. Now, when I was unemployed for five months a few years ago...I had all kinds of time to think about meals, and actually cooked sometimes. Now...not so much.