Feminine Failure

I usually kill herbs, despite my most fervent efforts at watering and pruning. I rarely cook my boyfriend dinner, and am consistently the token girl to bring the 6-pack to the potluck instead of a side dish. But still, I live to eat and am passionate about food. I take great joy from meals together, fresh ingredients, and an intelligent cheese and wine pairing. And thus it follows, that like many citizens of this modern world, I subscribe to blogs that teach me about this subject of interest. Actually, food blogs are but one of the many categories of blogs that I have faithfully tracked over the years. Personal blogs, photo blogs, design blogs, fashion blogs, culture blogs; all have taken residency in my Google Reader for significant amounts of time.

Photo by Maggie Stein.

The rise of art, décor and design blogs has brought unprecedented accessibility to art. Be they visual artists, photographers, master DIY crafters, or writers, we are no longer distant observers to their artistic contributions. We walk alongside them- feeling intimately acquainted with their inspiration and processes, and even their pets or favorite mojito recipe. Blogs inspire art in the daily and mundane, and fellowship for the journey.

Like most women, I aim to be well rounded. And like all women, I have talent, strength beyond the size of my muscles, and some odd idiosyncrasies. But recently, creeping remorse follows my expended energies, whispering for all that I can do, there is much more that I cannot.

With the proliferation of web forums, a new competition has been born, particularly amongst women. We have begun believing that we can maintain a comprehensive aesthetic over every sphere of our life, and do it economically and organically. Blogs today show us that we can, and should, become masters of accomplishment in our crafts, gardens, kitchens, homes and wardrobes, and do so with thriftiness and an effortless and innate artistic touch.

So can we bake, assemble, and frost our three-tiered cakes and eat them too? Can we pursue careers, and still be artists with our homes, activities, dining palates, and musical tastes? The emerging idea that is caught amongst many young women is that modern American womanhood– a life lauded for our opportunity for independence– is yet contrarily bound by expectations to be completely nested at a very young age.

Recently, I’ve found myself justifying my action, or more my inaction, on the domestic front. Then the inevitable happens– I collapse. I read about how any given blogger threw together a dinner of fresh vegetables from the garden, local grass-fed beef, herbs picked that morning, and topped with a simple but elegant multi-berry tart for dessert.  All served on her vintage thrift-store-find china, the food was framed with a display of lush, fresh wildflowers, no doubt in a mason jar. Apparently this exhibition only took her a short 30 minutes to complete, not counting the time it took to snap and upload these casual photographs to share with us.

I watch this show from my living room, knowing too well that I do not do this, and could not do this with such ease and flippancy. My palms begin to perspire, the screen shrinks rapidly from my eyes, and I slam my laptop closed, all as if the Gestapo of femininity has uncovered my façade and now knows I’m failing. I read decent books, shop at the farmers’ market, and frequent great concerts, and yet the strange invisible hand that governs the expectations of my gender possesses me to feel that I am not enough.

Inherently, the blogs I follow are not at fault. It is only my interpretation which predicates their perversion. When I overwhelm my mind with calculated photographs and quippy captions of posed stories, I fall almost subconsciously into the assumption that these lives are real and attainable, and that these paraders seem much happier and more beautiful than I am.

In this age of internet remoteness and social media connectivity, blogs are but shadowy alternatives to conversations and physical interactions. As comparisons arise, between my life and the woman within the monitor, I lose– because I am competing against a manipulated image of an idealized persona. I am Sisyphus, and Femininity the mountain I climb to no avail.

The real detriment here is that creativity, the original intention behind most blogs, will soon be lost to human degradation. As blogs become the means to achieve our ends, whatever those ends may be, fame, wealth, happiness, we create from selfish aim, and we observe from a deficit. Blogging is, or can be, after all, an art form. And like all art, there is a certain subjective level of commercialization that brings the corruption of the creation. At these points, when art quietly panders more to sales, we must ask ourselves: to what end are we creating? For it is in the striving of insecurity towards a nebulous standard that every artist will fall, lost in the adulterated purpose of his act. There is always difficulty in creating, and a willful determination required to be an artist and to live an art filled existence. But this is not born from a sinking inadequacy; no, it springs from an acknowledgment of your call to create.

Because in the end, the height of my Womanhood is not measured by what I do, but who I am. The quality of my character is not measured with a yardstick, nor by the height of my tomato plants. The real fruit of life is not found in traffic numbers or tutorials, but in the qualitative depth of living in love.

For men and women alike, the day we believe our very identity to be defined by our abilities and duties, we become an idea, a drape of fabric hung loosely without grounding or foundation. We are a mirage of realness, running towards a fantasy built on impossible expectations. We lose ourselves and thus lose everything.

So please take me with my 6-pack and my inability to sew. I am fully woman, capable of bearing the emotions of the world within my heart, though my herbs still wither. And take every other woman as the same.