Today I tweeted two photographs of domestic items. Said items were 1) a potato, and 2) an apron. These are not great photographs, nor were these particularly interesting items. However, they amused me, as each struck me as an especially extreme example of its genre (assuming potatoes and aprons can be said to have genres). They were common items, and yet they were symbolic of something bigger than themselves: the peculiarly obstinate headfuck that is motherhood and domesticity.
1. The Potato of Slummy Mummy Hell
I found this right at the back of a kitchen cupboard, behind some tins of 3rd and Bird pasta shapes. It’s quite impressive, isn’t it? Get a load of the shoots on that! How long do you reckon it’s been there? Me, I haven’t a sodding clue.
I was, of course, appalled to find this, and incredibly grateful not to have either my own or my partner’s mother present at the time of discovery. But I also felt just a teensy bit proud. I know I’m shit at housework but hey, at least I’m good at being shit at it.
I am now, I believe, an official Slummy Mummy. Surely with that potato I have earned my stripes (stripes that are, presumably, smeared down one’s sleeve in a mixture of Crayola and snot). I have long known that if you are rubbish at keeping your house in order, there is yet a place for you on the Mummy Rating Spectrum. But I’ve also known that you have to be extreme. And you have to make a joke about your slumminess, just to hint that you’re like this on purpose.
Alas, I’m not like this on purpose. I hate having a filthy, junk-filled house. It’s just that after work and putting the kids to bed, by the time I’ve done the bare minimum of housework to ensure that no one dies of diseases that I’m too slummy to know the names of, I already feel like I’ve done masses. I have to have a sit down. And do some Twitter.
And so I am involuntarily slummy. But yeah, I am good at it. If the potato’s not enough, this evening I moved an ice-cream tub off a kitchen worktop. It had been there for three days. I had assumed it was one I’d washed out and been storing something else in. It wasn’t. The ice-cream was still there. But I have decided not to include a photo of that. You really don’t want to know.
2.The Pinny of Desperate Housewife Hell
This is not the pinny I usually wear. I have two “usual” pinnies: one is a garish wipe-clean orange-flowers-on-lime-green affair; the other depicts Lesley Anne Ivory cats at Christmas. I have no idea how I acquired either of these. I tend to wear the cats one, all year round. However, I haven’t worn either for a while because I can’t find them. Being a Slummy Mummy, I’ve lost them under the household rubble.
You might think Slummy Mummies don’t wear pinnies but we do, when we can find them (btw, I have now assumed spokeswomanship for the whole Slummy Mummy community. It was the ice-cream that swung it). Hence this afternoon I decided to purchase a new pinny. I bought it quickly, without really looking at the design (I had my children with me, and they were getting a bit Suri Cruise-like i.e. they were behaving completely normally for children who are in a shop and bored out of their minds). It was only when I got the pinny home and unfolded it that I realised I’d purchased a Cath Kidston Yummy Mummy Pinny of Doom. Just look at it! Pastel, florals, frills a-plenty – it’s awful, isn’t it? Just hand me a some heels, a feather duster and perhaps a bonus G&T, and I’ll look like one of those women you get on fridge magnets – the kind that say “I only have a kitchen because it came with the house”, or “Only dull women have tidy homes” (bizarrely, the women on these always look like pristine domestic goddesses and not, as you’d expect, like Waynetta Slob). Still, I needed a pinny, so I put it on. Et voilà! From Slummy Mummy to Desperate Housewife in one easy step. But I don’t want to be a Desperate Housewife! I can think of few things I’d like less.
The Desperate Housewife trope drives me up the wall. It makes me so, um, desperate that I often find myself sitting under the stairs, sobbing my heart out over a secret bottle of Harvey’s Bristol Cream while the soufflé burns and the hostess trolley remains stone cold. Seriously, the whole thing pisses me off no end. I’ve read The Feminine Mystique and The Women’s Room. I know I can be gullible, but I’m pretty sure they’re not meant as fucking jokes! They’re about real people’s lives! What next? Shall we all just “ironically” stop voting? I really resent all the cutesy paraphernalia that comes with modern-day forays into domesticity. I don’t want to dress up like it’s the 1950s every sodding day, and I don’t want to pretend that ongoing domestic inequalities are, in actual fact, really fucking hilarious.
And yet… And yet I’m actually, deep down, quite ambitious. I like being good at stuff. I make good pie. I’m a dab hand at embroidery. I’m shit at knitting, sure, but push domestic goddess-dom too far and it’s just annoying (got that, Kirstie and Nigella?). No, being a Desperate Housewife – as opposed to a Domestic Goddess – hits the right note. It’s just feminine enough. Actually, it’s hyper-feminine; if you were good at everything to do with being female, that wouldn’t be very feminine, because being good at everything isn’t a feminine trait. Wearing a frilly pinny but also fucking up sufficiently to have a low-level feeling of uselessness with you every second of every day – yes, that’s gotta be where it’s at.
So, yeah, I wore the pinny and for a couple of hours I was a full-on Desperate Housewife. We even made muffins! But from a ready-made mix, which is actually very 1950s “all mod cons” when you think about it! Wearing a ridiculously frilly pinny doesn’t make you any better at housework; in fact, the frills are a sodding annoyance. But it’s good for “presenting” your muffins in (which sounds a lot more fun than it actually is).
At teatime I took the pinny off. Then I found the ice-cream tub and was back in Slummy Mummy mode. Is there ever an in-between?