Once upon a time, when I was a teenager and young adult, I became the accidental poster child for feminism. My refusal to shave my body hair has gotten more than a few glances and invasive questions. I don’t know how many times I’ve been asked by curious friends and family members, “Is that a feminist thing or something?”
I used to wear this distinction like a badge of honor, but lately I’ve been re-assessing some things about myself and I don’t know if it’s such a fitting title anymore. Over the last few years I’ve picked up some un-feminist opinions and thoughts on what it means to be a woman.
So I’m coming out of the closet about my disdain for women who can’t cook. Every time I see a woman pick up a box of prepared food at the grocery store, I can’t help but to snicker to myself and revel in the self awareness(and probably arrogance) that I could probably make the same dish from scratch with no problem.
I wasn’t always this way. My mother is an excellent cook. Too bad she never taught me any of her secrets. My mother was emotionally unavailable for most of my adolescence which made bonding over things like cooking hard.
I was raised by my father and his wife Janie. Janie was the type of cook that could burn water and under her tutelage I learned all of the things NOT to do regarding cooking. Half-done fried chicken and canned vegetables were a mainstay in our home and the local pizza place knew our address by heart.
It wasn’t until I went away to college and was forced to feed myself that I begun to figure out my way around a kitchen. It was the gay guys in my queer collective, and not the women in my life, who took me under their wing, and taught me the fundamentals of sauteing and pureeing.
I know this is where the problems and the judgement begin. When I meet a woman who doesn’t know how to cook, I can’t help but think that somewhere along the line, someone, probably her mother, fucked up. As women and mothers we carry babies in our bodies, we feed our babies with our bodies, and later we feed our families. What type of mother would send their daughters into the world not knowing the basic skills needed to feed themselves?
I can still recall the shame I felt in the supermarket as a kid while picking out frozen dinner entrees for myself, while mothers doing their grocery shopping with their kids in tow looked at me in horror. No doubt they were thinking, “Where is her mother and why isn’t she going to cook her a real meal?”
In college, I began cooking purely out of necessity. But with more experience I’ve learned that I really love the process of trying to make new dishes and the accomplished feeling I get after making a meal for myself. I also feel more feminine and like a “real woman” since learning how to prepare a decent meal.
It’s kind of the same way I felt after buying my first little black dress, or signing the lease on my first apartment.
And so today I judge other women for their cooking skills or lack thereof. Peering into the grocery carts of the women that surround me I wonder, how lazy or busy does one have to be to not be able to cook your own oatmeal without the help of a microwave?
One of the hardest things about getting older is coming to terms with the fact that I do agree with some gender roles. I think that women should know how to cook, clean, and keep a halfway decent home. I also think that men should keep a job, pay the bills, and do other manly things -- like fixing stuff or changing light bulbs for instance.
There are certain milestones in each person’s life that signal that a new chapter has begun. For woman, I think learning how to cook should be one of them.