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August 7, 2022

How Spending One Day like a 1950s Housewife helped me Take Back Control in a Post-Roe v. Wade World.

Waking on a Monday morning felt like a needle being dragged across a record, nails on a chalkboard, a hangover without heavy drinking the night before.

I pulled the blankets over my head and pressed snooze a few times, begging my REM sleep to ensure better dreams, but my mind had its way with me.

The adrenaline rush of sadness and grief pulled my body to its side as I recalled the recent ruling from the Supreme Court removing Roe v. Wade from federal protection. My feet plopped on the floor, like an injured zombie; I marched for the caffeine, ground the beans, and poured water into the pot.

Normally, I would sit and meditate, putting my oxygen mask on first before facing the day.

But what did I do instead? I planned my grocery list. I nested like a mother hen. Like a woman from the 1950s with her dutiful chores.

Being a GenXer, remnants of the 1950s traditional household still lingered as I was parented from that era. Growing up in the 70s and 80s, the latchkey kids were afforded the speed of processed foods, shows like “Happy Days,” reminiscing about the “happy” times of the 50s, and the message of Enjoli—”I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in the pan…because I’m a woman.” Women could work outside the home, earn their own money, and have their own credit cards and autonomy in good ol’ America.

Not so fast, says the current American, anti-Democratic virus seeping further into the collective. This virus of hate is bulldozing its way into the collective trauma; stripping women of their autonomy over their own bodies. This is a clear strike to push women back in time, simply because of men’s fear and deep need for control. And fear is the virus exerting its control as if we were back in the Dark Ages.

We have been here before. Our ancestors have lived through times like these when “witch” burning was prevalent. We learned that while everyone was concerned about the witches, it was really the people doing the burning that we should have been concerned about.

Now is the time when all witches need to stand up to those burning them.

But how? What could I do from my home, far away from the ones making all the decisions? The ones I did not vote for?

It felt strange, but all I wanted to do was to assert my control over my kitchen. In the moment, it seemed much more important than sitting down to meditate.

I cleaned my kitchen, step by step, on autopilot. Emptying the dishwasher, cleaning the dishes in the sink, taking out the trash, spraying the counters with my favorite scented non-toxic disinfectant, feeding the dog, and then guzzling my coffee like it was a cold beer on a hot day.

With concentrated determination, I nested, arranging my refrigerator so I could see everything to make sure my grocery list was on point. I organized the pantry by putting snacks into clear, vacuum-tight containers for easy viewing. Gathering the laundry, separating the darks from lights, filling the washer that ignores the water level to the max load because it’s ancient.

It seemed that I, too, was becoming filled to the max with emotions of fear and despair, my chest becoming more constricted by the minute. I harnessed my feelings by controlling what was in front of me. I cleaned, organized, and baked a cake for a friend’s birthday. Transforming fear into giving is a powerful thing.

Why shouldn’t my friend feel cared for on their birthday despite the horrific things going on all over the world?

The specifics of the grocery list came in handy as I shopped for the ingredients that I didn’t have readily available: buttermilk, yogurt, eggs, sugar, Meyer lemons, confectioner’s sugar, almond flour, unbleached flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Mixing the dry ingredients, filling each cup to specific measurement, using the knife to even the contents—the sugar, flours, and sodas together first in one bowl.

I put my hands into the soft, fluffy, soothing mixture to mix it instead of using the whisk and made a small funnel in the center for the wet ingredients to go in later. Cracking the egg lightly enough on the counter to split it into the other bowl to be added to the other wet ingredients, combining and whisking olive oil, melted butter, and buttermilk until smooth.

Pouring the wet ingredients into the well of dry ingredients and gently folding them together, the lemony smell filled my kitchen. Unlike cooking, where you can add spontaneous spices to add more flavor, baking requires precision. Baking that cake on that day, my mind kept comparing that precision to the rigidity of our government, no matter how much I willed it to stop. Only with the exact measurements, correct temperature, and proper timing will the cake come out perfectly.

My emotions layered and combined like the cake; only I felt like an overcooked, piping-hot crumble cake, falling apart at the edges.

When I took it out of the oven, it looked crumpled on one side but still held together in the center, sturdy and firm, bouncy and hot for the serving. Like this cake, I twice baked my children in the oven of my womb and now my emotions were raw and inflamed—the collective autonomy of all women stripped away, no matter one’s age or economic status. My heart burned and stomach churned knowing this would affect women of color and lower economic status much more.

My anger turned to grief and had nowhere to go but to drive me to cook and clean. That grief is love that has nowhere to go.

I vote, I go to the streets and protest, I sign petitions, and I donate money. I believe in helping those who cannot help themselves so that eventually they can help themselves. I believe in doing hard things, and yet here I am, performing “womanly duties.” Am I in the 1950s? Isn’t this what the far-right conservatives want? Should I just burn my kitchen down?!

I am responding to my feelings of loss and channeling them in the only inherent way I know how: with love. Taking care of people I care about allows me to take control of myself.

The continuously archaic rulings of the SCOTUS pain me so viscerally that I needed to go back to activities so basic in order to root me in love. The inherent actions of women are to help others, to be in community, to give, to love—and that is powerful.

Life can hold us together in many ways, with grocery lists, new recipes that nourish our souls, and feeding our loved ones, all helping to ground us in love instead of fear. And then we fight with bellies full, igniting our anger and hoping with every fiber of our being that better choices will be made tomorrow for all of us.

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