I graduated from the college of home economics, majored in Clothing Technology, but this morning I had to google “how to sew a zipper” from the e-how-tos because admittedly, I still don’t know how to properly attach a zipper. I tell people where I graduated from and more often than not I’m asked for favors regarding catering weddings or sewing gowns for debutantes which just goes to show how our notions of the home are still steeped in archaic and obsolete stereotypes of the multi-tasking housewife slaving away over stove, sewing machine, and baby while her hubby goes off to earn big bucks, only on a larger scale because some of us actually had the faith (or were naive enough) to earn a diploma for it. I’m a home economist, a licensed one at that, but I can’t sew a zipper and I fuck up when cooking white rice.
Upon entering the college we were lectured on how the home is the foundation of society and how “good” families build strong nations. This was spouted without respect to the fact that the whole concept of family and home are changing (in fact there was nothing homogenous about the concept in the first place), especially in these times wherein the diaspora is the new status quo. Forget about the hour-long commute, try being away from home for years on end and see how this reshapes your whole notion of family.
But besides this phenomenon there are other notions of family that need to be considered, and this is why I’ve always been so vehemently opposed to the ideas and ideologies stressed by my college, ideals built on so-called normalcy and loyalty to relationships built on vows you made in front of some dude/tte in a robe. We’re taught to unquestioningly honor contracts under the guise of love and devotion and that to want for oneself is selfish, after all devotion is only true and heartfelt when it is promised to the home, the family, and the nation.
Approximately 28 years ago my parents were married, and it was a match made in heaven, at least on paper. My mom was the daughter of two supreme court justices, severely right wing, whereas my father was the son of a human rights lawyer turned judge and the brother to a notorious activist. The two would balance each other out, both of them smart, well-built, morally upright individuals, they were a genetic goldmine. My home could have been a people farm, but less than a decade later this turned out horribly wrong. Now I live with my mom, my sister, two younger adoptive brothers and two friends who are getting married in a month. The two friends are both girls, the boys are adopted, one is blind.
If you apply the basic tenets of the College of Home Economics, so lovingly imparted to us in our HE 100/101 foundation classes, we are a societal anomaly, a disaster waiting to implode on itself in a mess of sexually-transmitted diseases and criminal activity. But to be honest, the air has never been calmer, which goes to show that it takes more to build a home than a mother, a father, full-time jobs, several kids, and middle-class sensibilities. Even in the company of strangers we can construct some notion of family–or at least community, an idea which isn’t fully accepted because the idea of protecting “our own” is so deeply embedded in all of us. What does it even mean to call people “your own” when your loyalties are so fragile and easily bought, whether by money, material things, or the promise of redemption?
(I’m gonna sew on some zippers now!)