You are currently browsing the monthly archive for March 2007.
Oh dear, rehearsals have started for the show I’m directing, and you can see how easily I begin to neglect my other avenues of creative expression! Three weeks away from the blog…hopefully I’ll be able to keep up a little better from now on.
The apron seems to be making a comeback – to me it’s a symbol of reclaimed femininity, domesticity as a source of yin-empowerment. My mother’s generation had to set their femininity aside in order to be heard, acknowledged, and respected in the world of men. They had to fracture themselves somewhat – all grey flannel and pressed poplin at work, cotton and denim on the weekends to tend hastily to domestic tasks. I do not remember my mother in a dress, ever. She was working 60-hour weeks and traveling almost all the time – there was little time for “fussy” stylings. While I am grateful for the hard-won battles of the women’s-libbers, I also feel it is my generation’s dharma to come back into balance, honoring and integrating the yang-masculine and the yin-feminine energies within us. Oddly enough, I find this integration most visible in current fashion trends – lacy tops, flirty blouses and even dainty short dresses atop rough-and-tumble jeans and sexy heels. But inside as well, something is being reclaimed by us that, I hope, will not so easily be put down again.
I found my first adult apron at Anthropologie (a store that I love for its absolutely feminine take on even the most mundane clothing) a few months ago, and I wear it whenever I can. I plan to make a few aprons this year, to give to the women in my life. I hope they find their aprons imbued with the same soft power I have – the power to get done what needs to get done, without setting aside a little flounce and lace here and there.
What makes you feel your feminine power?
At some point in my youth my mother decided I would collect music boxes. Actually, I don’t remember if she chose that completely on her own or if I indicated at some point that I wanted to and she ran with it. When I was young, it seemed that everyone in my family collected something – it was seen as a part of your personality, and an easy tip for gift-giving. So throughout my childhood and teen years I received music boxes of all sorts, eventually honing in on those that played show tunes to match my love of musical theatre. There’s one that plays “The Impossible Dream” and another that tings out “Hello, Dolly!” By the time I left home to strut my stuff on the Great White Way, I’d outgrown my collection so they drifted into the back of my mind, into a box in my parents’ garage. Recently I came across them and wondered what I should do with them. Even though I don’t want to keep a collection of music boxes, they’ve become somewhat sentimental to me.
I’ve never really understood the collector’s mindset – what compels someone to collect hundreds of tiny Hummel figurines, or porcelain dolls with spookily vacant faces, or antique cookie jars? I don’t have any judgment about it – actually I think it’s kind of neat, but I’ve never felt the pull to have one of my own. I often wondered if there was anything I would someday grow to love enough to start a collection.
Last week a friend of mine taught me how to knit. We met at this yarn shop and spent some time perusing the miles and miles of gorgeous yarns from all corners of the world, spun into dizzyingly beautiful skeins and stacked in racks that rose above our heads. Although there were thousands of choices, I knew as soon as I felt the soft nubby chenille yarn in shades of plum, lavender and charcoal that it was to be my first project. Giddy and proud, I bought my first skein and set of needles, and we went back to her studio for the lesson. She was patient and encouraging – a great foil for my perfectionist and judge; they could barely get a word in edgewise with her positive coaxing! I learned the stitch, very slowly and clumsily at first but then with growing ease and comfort. We chatted about all sorts of things until it was time to go.
That night I sat knitting, and thinking about the “hobbies” that feel most important to me now – gardening, cooking, baking, sewing, knitting, slowing down – and I thought to myself, maybe this is my collection. I’m collecting antique skills, special tasks passed down from woman to woman for centuries. They speak the ancient feminine, the womanly arts that have kept families clothed, fed, and nurtured for so long.
These skills have been dying over the last century, since industry and convenience became more desirable than true craft and patience. I’ve grown up in a generation that largely doesn’t know how clothing gets made, or food or the beautiful decorations that fill Target and Ikea. I forget that once upon a time people crafted their own, and grew up knowing how to do it because they had to. We don’t have to anymore, but perhaps we should. The pendulum is swinging back to center. What were once cast aside as limiting and demeaning women’s work in the feminist era are being reclaimed as links to our long feminine ancestry. As I stitch or knead or mend or tend, I am enlivening ancient knowledge.