Thursday, October 09, 2008

light and fluffy

Hey, Amber. I know I promised you some mega post on something or another and subsequent substantive discussion, but this is just not the week for it for various reasons.

So let's keep it light and fluffy. Like pancakes.

So, our epistolary blog model is Rhubarb Pie, except that you and I are more "acerbic and tart" than "sweet and tart." We could also be like Abelard and Heloise, but that would be extremely weird (I love you, but not in that way). But mainly, I thought this would be a fun exercise, and possibly more efficient than emailing you ten times a day (not that that's not fun).

Anyway, Megan and Sherry have a great dynamic in which they write independent stand-alone posts, or do a write-and-respond with each other. Two exchanges I really liked: 1) Goals (+ Megan's response), and 2) dressing like a girl (+ Sherry's scolding, + Megan's re-response).

Too much going on in those exchanges to respond to them adequately, and that's not my project here anyway. I'm interested in the first exchange because I have such limited goals for myself, except for the big one of getting this dissertation off the road. But let us not talk about that here, or you know, at all. But let us talk about these small goals.


1) Cook/bake new things.

2) Try to knit more complex patterns.

3) Run more.

4) Read more fiction.

Relatively simple, easy goals, and they rarely change year after year--but I find that I am unable to separate them from some moral imperative, which confounds me since I am currently auto-ethnographying everything because of the stuff I have learned in my sociology of culture and micro-foundations of behavior classes. That's what interesting about Sherry's goal to read Shakespeare--there's the pure pleasure aspect of it (great, interesting drama), but also Sherry's own admission that she "felt that familiar pang of shame and wistfulness that happens when people reference classics that I haven't read. " We have these individual goals for ourselves, and they are probably "good" in and of themselves, but they cannot be divorced from our social context and culturally-derived motivations. Reading Shakespeare is not only "good," but is also "good for you," (Megan suggests reading out loud to kids, in what Lareau would call "concerted cultivation") and would signal something valuable to yourself and to others that you are a cultured, knowledgeable person. Simple goals always seem to have moral and social imperatives. But you know, Sherry seems intent on actually doing this, whereas EK might just buy the book.

So, my simple goals? Not so simple. To be certain, I enjoy cooking and baking, and like trying new things and techniques to improve my skills and tastebud horizons and blah blah. But it's also the only way I really can contribute to my relationship, being an absolutely broke grad student and all. TD is incredibly kind and generous, and never makes me feel one iota bad about not really being able to contribute much financially to our dinners out or dates out. Good thing I'm a pretty unfussy girl, and while fancy dinners seem nice, I'm perfectly happy with burritos and nose-bleed seats at ball games and hanging out at home or taking free hikes. Not that he doesn't try to indulge me anyway (we're off to a romantic dinner and weekend away tomorrow for our anniversary!).

So, even though the disparate economics thing isn't really an issue because I'm no princess and he's no sugar daddy, I really insist on "contributing" the only way I can by making dinner at least 2-3 times a week (we don't live together, so it's more of a scheduling thing) to even out the score of going out on weekends. I also bake and send him off to work with boxes of cookies or cake, which I am sure delights his office and wins him points as "that nice guy with the cookies." And you get sick of eating the same things, so I'm always looking at new recipes. Is this a misplaced desire to "contribute" in such an arguably pre-feminist way (and you know I'ma feminist)?

I'm pretty good at economizing and shopping on sale, and I have the grad student's schedule where I can pop a roast in the oven, keep on working from home, and dinner's ready when he comes home. Of course, it's not like I don't have a job--being a grad student is a full time job with classes, meetings galore, independent research, and giving feedback on others' work. But because I am more flexible on my time and can work from home, and because I have no economic capital, this is how I'm "contributing," and while it's not quid pro quo, we don't want that. Because we don't live together, we can't really absorb the same expenses as a shared economy, so this is sort of like an easy going gift economy, but one I insist on maintaining because I hate even feeling like deadweight. Not that I am, blah blah, and not that I'm an under-stimulated Betty Draper type, but still, it's important to me, and I can't shake it. I know exactly where the cultural schemas driving my behavior are coming from (both the domestic, vaguely pre-feminist cooking/baking woman at home schema and the but-I'm-a-feminist-damn-it "must contribute" schema), but understanding the reasons for your behavior doesn't mean that you can, should, or even want to change it. But do I sound all crazy and schizo-feminist?

Moving on. I am behind on blogging, and now even behind on reading, my own 50 book challenge. Sigh. There is just so much reading I have to do for school, but I don't know if I can count all this towards my challenge because it's technically for school, and while my rules state that I can count non-fiction, in my head I only count fiction as extra-curricular. Because I'm a lapsed emo English literature undergraduate trying to cling to those last vestiges of creativity. Because I'm not just a grad grind! (heh, play on Gradgrind). This one I don't know what to do about. I don't know where I got the idea that "fun reading" is only fiction, except by habit and because ever since I decided not to go to English grad school I've been punishing myself by considering all of my other mental endeavors in law and organizational theory to be "work" except for the reading of fiction. Although, realistically, had I become an English lit academic, my "fun" would have been a hard slog of work, and so there's no reason to hold fiction to that higher standard of "fun." Except that old habits die hard, and it's hard to give up on such ideas, especially if you sort of rue certain life decisions (even if they worked out). I consider myself a more creative, interesting person because I read fiction and poetry, when in fact the serious study of those is a lot of work and just as boring, and when in fact I'd be no less of a dull grind.

Indeed, that's the underlying reason for my two other goals: no more nerd hobbies as goals! I want to do something physical in my modicum of spare time, and I am totally getting now why you knit. It's like baking--something to do with your hands. And running gets me outdoors. And all of those things makes me a more interesting person, at least in my head, although I'm probably wrong about it.

Oh well. Back to the Rhubarby exchanges. Megan and Sherry's points about the trappings and delights of dressing like a girl were interesting to analyze from a sociological perspective. So much boundary work is done when we decide to dress like a girl, and then judge others for not being girly enough! So many gendered constructions!

But, I am tired of being intellectual about that stuff. It is a bad economy and I am not shopping anymore, but what do you think of this dress?
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