Know Your Place

From the kitchen to the White House, I don’t know where I belong.

It doesn’t matter whose house I walk into, my mother’s or father’s, and I’m always embraced by the smells of comfort. Spaghetti sauce is simmering on the stove and there’s an open bottle of wine on the counter. The kitchen is always full: of people, of conversations, of food. But at some point in the night genders drift apart and women pool in one section and, wine glasses in hand, we bare our souls.

I’ve sat on the hearth in front of my father’s fireplace, talking to his partner about everything from favorite make-up to how we handle inappropriate advances. I’ve leaned up against the counter in my mom’s kitchen and listened to how my great-grandmother always kept her house in perfect condition and how important it is to have financial independence. As women we know we need the war paint that protects us from the world, we need to know how to take care of our houses, and we need to be able to bolt at any moment. We need to balance on the tip of a sword that, if we fall one way, we lose our autonomy. If we fall the other way, we’re shunned from society.

Yeah, that’s right. Shunned.

Americans like to look down on religions that believe in male power, and on countries that don’t give women “basic human rights.” We are Americans, and therefore we obviously treat women the best in the world. We are the sun and the rest of the countries orbit around us. Or, at least that’s what so many politicians want voters to believe this year. That’s why we’re #1 in the world for women’s rights… right?

(Oh wait. That’s Iceland.)

So in this country where we finally have women in positions of power, I’m still wondering how I fit in here. The kitchen is where I’m expected: the domesticated wife, even if she has her own career, automatically shoulders the burden of house-care and childcare. I’m expected to pull together dinner parties, to grocery shop, to handle the mundane tasks that are necessary for survival.

But as I walk through the crowded aisles of my local grocery store, the conversations I’ve had with the women in my life play over in my head: the must-haves for every pantry, what meals to have on hand just in case, that it’s fine to wear lip stain at 1 p.m. on a Tuesday, and not to make eye contact with the guy who seems like he’s following you around the grocery store. If he’s still following you as you head towards the car, call someone and lace the keys on your keyring between your fingers. Go back inside the store and buy yourself flowers because you deserve them — added bonus if creepy dude stops following you.

I know what I need to do to survive in this world. I know I wear too many hats to handle. But I also know that even if society is pushing me to be the perfect housewife, to support my partner’s dreams and ignore my own, I don’t have to. I don’t have to have any of it figured out yet.

In less than a month, there’s a very good chance we’ll be electing the first female president. In less than a month, the possibilities of where I fit in here become limitless.

Maybe then I’ll start to thrive. Maybe I’ll stop feeling like I have to do everything, and be everything for everyone. The dust will settle — has to settle — and I’ll have the a clear view of where I want to belong. Because kitchen or White House, my options are limitless.


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