Update to Jennifer’s Nest: Jennifer decided she’d rather nest with someone else, so there won’t be anymore posts in this series. But her articles are still worth reading. — Ken
After a lifetime of sacrificing domestic life on the altar of Labor, I am finally reveling in baking pies from scratch, arranging weekly bouquets of flowers, and treating delicate fabrics with something other than my usual impatient brutality.
This reversed order is strange, but not, I think, unusual: it’s just one answer to the demographic, economic and social upheaval of the 21st century. My decisions and mistakes may be different from those of other middle-aged, middle-class women, but I’ve faced the same void of too many choices (many of them false) and too few social constraints.
For me, work has always been the first, last and only consideration. When I was five years old, I decided I wanted to be a foreign correspondent posted in Latin America. I spent high school and much of college learning how to write ledes, count headlines, and paste up a newspaper using hot wax and a light box.
In the late 1980s, USA Today sounded the death knell of print journalism, so I decided to become a professor instead. I took my bachelor’s degree and moved to California to establish residency in the University of California system, and to get married — in precisely that order.
My first marriage began in a two-bedroom, one-bath San Francisco flat that housed three couples. Home was where I slept between shifts at an investment bank specializing in biotech initial public offerings. I treated my home like a cheap motel: I didn’t store food or cook there, and I left wet towels on the bathroom floor. Like a houseplant locked in a windowless office, that marriage went brown and icky pretty quick.
Since graduate school entails a vow of poverty and, often, annual moves to pursue work, I rented through my doctorate and two postdocs. It wasn’t until I stood a chance of being tenured that I began to think of committing to one city, and to a particular dwelling. When I realized that tenure at a technical university in Daytona Beach, FL was more of a threat than a promise, I gave serious thought to where I actually wanted to live. Instinctively, I returned to the desert.
In a stroke of good fortune, I landed a job at a large manufacturing company in a relatively recession-proof industry that allowed me to buy my first home. Continuing my backwards progress through life’s stages, I met my special someone. At the age of 43, I’m suddenly devoting serious attention to the gratifying and humbling process of creating and maintaining a home. Women tend to worry, blame and feel guilty about their homes, no matter how they’ve decided to live.
I’d like my posts on The Joy of Moldings to celebrate my return to what is, after all, a fundamental human urge — the desire to nest.
[Read all of Jennifer’s great posts here in Jennifer’s Nest category.]