“So, Allison. How does it feel to be a Lady of Luxury?” my father asks.
I’ve had a job since the age of 17, through high school, college and on. Coffee shops, interior design studios, animal shelters, furniture stores and market research firms have all played a part in helping me pay the bills over the years. Now, I’m a newlywed visiting my family after a year of marital bliss, sitting in the car with my father, freshly unemployed.
“I wouldn’t call it that,” I say. “But I love it.”
“Don’t you get bored?” he wonders aloud. I bite my tongue. He obviously has no idea what I quit and why. Truth is, I’m an artist at heart, and always will be. Sitting in a gray cubicle under florescent lights for 9 hours a day just isn’t conducive to creative thought. I made the decision to take time off for my writing and painting. I’m young and I don’t have kids, so this is the time to be risky. Thus, I became a starving artist. Right? Sounds fantastically romantic.
Why, then, does it irk me so to be called a “Lady of Luxury” even in jest? Perhaps the reason lies in my background, growing up in a fast paced southern California suburb where everyone grew up to be doctors, lawyers, or trophy wives. I’m not a doctor, certainly no lawyer, but trust me when I say that I have nothing in common with a typical Orange County housewife.
Yet, I am technically a housewife. Oh noes. That obviously means I do nothing all day but laundry, dishes, cooking and pleasing my man. Gasp. Am I Betty Draper? Hold on, it’s time to check some misconceptions.
I was a ’90s kid, so Sesame Street, Reading Rainbow, and Power Rangers all told me I was unstoppable. To this day, that notion is still gospel truth to me. My grownup self has new nerd heroes, like Mad Men’s Peggy Olsen, Battlestar Galactica’s President Laura Roslin, and Firefly’s Zoë Washburne (Don’t hate me because I’m nerdiful).
Now, I’m forced to reflect on what “strong woman” actually means. Corporate career girl, a politician, a gun-toting space pirate? All of the above, I’m sure. But the real question is where I fit in, now, in my current situation. Do have to work stereotypically “masculine” jobs just so I can prove to the world that I can play with the big boys?
The answer is no. I do not believe that I need to choose between my own goals and the goals set forth by one or two popular representations of a strong woman. There will be times to challenge stereotypes, but those times will happen naturally. In my personal experience, there are few things as discouraging as a woman so insecure in her strength that she puts herself in constant, embittered competition with the world. There is nothing wrong with being driven, even contrary when the situation calls for it. But strength comes from a firm grasp of who you are, not who everyone else thinks you should be. Setting out to prove someone wrong to the point that you lose yourself, well, that’s just another form of submission.
I like video games, Legos, strategy board games and a good comic book or two. Not particularly girly interests, but they are honest, not forced. Yes, I am a housewife. I’m also a painter, a writer, a dreamer, and a darn good cook. I do all of those things because I have passion and talent in those areas, not because I can’t do anything else. Maybe one day, if the Cylons attack or Don Draper needs a new creative, I’ll rise to the occasion. Until then, I’ll be calling galleries and submitting stories.
So, Dad. If by “Lady of Luxury” you mean a woman chasing her dreams despite long hours and little to no pay, then yes. I’ll gladly take that title.
You can read more from Allison Misak on her blog.
Feature image via.