It was going to have mounted ferns hanging from the wall just above the cafe table. The table would be acquired, presumably, from an antique shop or perhaps a consignment boutique. There would always be fresh flowers–a centerpiece at the very least– just to prove that this was the home of a lady. And a newspaper rack. And a condiments for tea and coffee. And candles would be a must. And the velvety lilt of a Patsy Cline song would breathe life into the space from a turntable nearby. The flowers would be a metaphor for my wild, intoxicating, yet natural femininity captured as though it were a still-life with delicate sophistication that only Mother Nature herself–and, of course, me, the capital ‘m’ Mistress of the house– could ever possibly birth amidst the brutish, roughly hewn pit called urban existence. This would all be executed with such smart grace, I should add. And on this table I would make shit. Oh, the pretty shit I would make…because I was gonna be a homemaker…
All I wanted was a breakfast nook, but what did I get? A beer fridge. Despite my best intended fantasies, I live with three dudes, so, beer fridge it was, and it is a good thing too.
A friend of mine recently attended a marketing conference where an executive from a well-known domestic brewing conglomerate defined the new wave of consumer– my generation to be specific. We drink beer that was probably brewed in someone’s bathtub–and proudly so. This practice is done, of course, to get high off bath salts while operating under the innocent guise of binge drinking. I assume the point he thought he was making is, for all the “Generation Whatever” types out there, image, not the product itself, is the more important chip in play for the captains of industry. This being said, I really believe that the foremost domestic good produced in the United States these days is identity, or rather, a manufactured craving for identity. That is, Western consumerism (is there any other kind?) requires a sort of synthetic emptiness that is as meticulously crafted as its counterpart: marketable, branded packages of personality.
I do not pretend that this idea is anything new. It is about as revolutionary as, well, the idea of…revolution. People generally know when they are being pandered to. This knowledge can even garner a false sense of power for some. However, my concern is with the extent to which people notice the sense of lack also being sold. Complacency is dangerous.
Clearly deodorant selections at major department stores are displayed to fit a female/male gender dichotomy,but, for me, the problem is not so much that I’m being told, as a woman, what I’m supposed to want/need/use/be. No. It’s that the suggestion is being made that there are two choices and two choices only for who to be–and, surely, we must choose to be someone. From there, the consumer gets to pick what “type” of person they are from the selection at hand. While this is all a bit abstract, I’m bothered that our economy operates by means of coercive identity fabrication. That is, the question is not “how should a girl smell?”, but rather “in a society where there are very few new products, only new ways to pitch the same archetypes over and over and over again, how will you make your self matter?” While it may seem that I suggest buying an antiperspirant is a way to refute our anonymity, the more accurate conclusion is that the accumulation of all purchases a person makes and all the masks she consequently puts on is how the Western individual insists upon building an existence. Because that is the most accessible choice the consumer is handed–beaten over the head with, really. You are nothing and no one unless you show that you are someone. And here you just wanted to prevent those sweat stains while brewing bathtub beer.
This is precisely why the DIY movement matters more than ever. Sure, it is fun to make cute crafts and to pretend I have endless hours for projects that neatly fit into the bathtub brewer identity or complement the ironic, kitsch-cult aesthetic. More often than I’d like to admit, I have tried on these personas. Nevertheless, DIY has always been a part of who I am and how I was raised. This is the case for lots of Third Coast, rural-raised twenty somethings. We cook and sew and knit and garden and preserve and create because it is how our parents made lives for themselves and how their parents–often the children of immigrants or farmers– did before them. It is understandable how this lifestyle can become watered down as an ironic reappropriation when transposed to an urban environment. Still, I, and many others like me, do-it-ourselves because our critical consciousness calls for a different means of living: one that persists a step outside the realm of cute, and peers into the stratosphere of post-whaterveness. It isn’t always pretty, as other bloggers, magazines, and Pinterest boards would lead on. In fact, sometimes your breakfast nook turns into a beer fridge at the stroke of midnight. This is because my roommates brew beer with recipes they craft themselves, thus sidestepping the market-made identity crisis all together. No anti-labor business practices supported. No catpiss beer consumed. Surprisingly, no bathtub required. And, as it would have it, a beer fridge makes a great writing desk.
The concept of “home” has been in the making throughout the history of cultural empire-building, but that’s not to say it has anything to do with that which is homemade. Most days, I’m not a homemaker at all. I’m just someone trying to deconstruct the very idea of “home” and where I might fit into it. That is why I DIY. That is why I am homewrecker.