About Those Lifestyle Books…

You remember, the ones largely targeted towards women which are mostly just common sense wrapped in psychobabble and dragged out over 200 pages? And those are the the “good” ones.

Well, as it turns out I ran across another one recently in my daughter’s library stash. I never would’ve ever bothered to look at it except she kept showing me all these great ideas for household shortcuts and how to make some things new out of some things old. Anyway, here’s the book:

homemakersHomemakers, A Domestic Handbook for the Digital Generation, by Brit Morin, published in 2015.

This book is written for the express purpose of helping millennial women who enter adulthood without the skill set of their mothers, according to Mrs. Morin, herself a millennial. I think it would be more accurate to say that this generation of young women are growing up without the skill set of their grandmothers. If my life is any indication (and I think it is), most of the women of my generation entered adulthood with few domestic skills.

Alas, rather than simply enjoy the pretty pictures and note the very creative way Mrs. Morin made a scarf rack out of shower hooks (I’m totally going to do that!), I did what my daughter did not, flipped to the beginning of the book, and read the background and introduction which outlines the author’s thoughts on the limited lives of yesterday’s homemakers. In fact, the point of the book is that the traditional idea of a homemaker is obsolete, but that creativity and resourcefulness in the home can walk hand in hand along side a burgeoning career life.

After offering up the latest statistics on the numbers of women who work now vs. the 1960’s, the increasing numbers of families with bread winning wives and stay at home dads (presented as inherently good), the reader is treated to an excerpt from Good Housekeeping’s best selling book, Guide for Young Homemakers (1966):

Personal grooming for health as well as good looks concerns the modern housewife as a practical matter. She must budget her time for it, shop wisely for cosmetics and beauty aids, and learn to use them for best results. She may find herself in the role of counselor to a growing daughter. Above all, a sensible regard for her everyday appearance contributes to a happy home. A lovely wife pleases husband and children, favorably impresses guests, and faces the outside world with confidence.

No matter how many experts you consult, you will still have to brush your hair, cream your skin, coddle your hands. You have to exercise and diet, stand and move like a beauty. No one else can do these things for you. In daily housekeeping, care of the figure is perhaps the beautifying measure most overlooked.

To which Mrs. Morin replies:

Excuse me while I go throw up.

Now, while even I may take exceptions with some of the specifics from the excerpt, it isn’t particularly offensive and even a cursory glance at the author’s cover photo strongly suggests that she spends a fair amount of time and expense to look good. In fact, there are a fair amount of beauty and fashion tips in the book as well as practical and creative homemaking tips. Yet somehow the idea that this should be a priority or duty to a homemaker was met with derision. Perhaps because it is sexist for a woman to be “just a homemaker”.

In any event, I have once again been reinforced in my conclusion that self-improvement books targeted at women, even when full of very useful and valuable information, almost always descend into ideological foolishness.

It’s too bad because she has some great ideas in her book, with the exception of her alternative to ironing which looks like it takes longer than just learning to properly iron.  Not everything was useful to me, but with the exception the first 30 pages or so, I’d have hard time discounting it, especially for young women starting from zero. So I won’t discount it completely.

Grade: B- ( Combining the A for creative content with a D for that drivel at the beginning).

‘Tis the season for cooking, sewing, cleaning and decorating. This means less time to read at leisure and less time to review.

Y’all have a wonderful Thanksgiving and enjoy the time with your families.

 

 

 

 

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26 thoughts on “About Those Lifestyle Books…

  1. I thought the except was actually very good advice. There is nothing wrong and everything right with maintaining a good standard of dress and hygiene – in fact, it’s psychologically helpful. The single biggest danger of telecommuting is that you can get super-lazy with this whole “getting dressed” part.

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  2. I thought it was fine. Not sure what” coddling” hands is and I was out and about today sans makeup (but in a really cute skirt), so YMMV for individual women. It seemed however that her problem was with the idea of a housewife doing it to present a pleasing image to others.

    Which is silly, because why does any woman consistently fix themselves up? Oh yeah, I know. She does it to please herself, LOL.

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  3. Maybe it means to manicure them? Coddling is sort of like pampering or babying or something like that?

    I find this whole idea that we simply cannot do anything for the purpose of benefitting someone else to be very strange. It’s as thought the attitude is “all must be to me, for me, of me, and if anyone else likes it, well, nice for them but has nothing to do with me”. Very narcissistic. Unless volunteering – but then it’s usually for show, so again, more worshiping the unholy trinity of “Me, Myself and I”

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  4. Oh and Maeve. The first kitchen lesson in the book is how to make scrambled eggs! Scrambled eggs! My 7-year old can do that which means some of the mother’s of our generation should hang our heads in shame.

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  5. Le Sigh.

    (OK – I should have saved this for next Tuesday’s confession, but it’s more fitting here). I discovered this past year that my daughters did not know how to do laundry. I’m not kidding you. I had never once showed them the actual fundamentals of doing laundry – reading the tags, sorting the laundry – water/dryer temp; when to hand wash; when to line dry. I kid you not. And they had no real opportunity to learn because I was constantly gathering up the laundry and doing it. Mind you – they were (are) champs at the folding (not so much the putting away). But -THEY DIDN’T KNOW HOW TO WASH CLOTHES. And you know their ages.

    Once I realized my oversight and how it was not to their benefit, I conducted laundry lessons and now I don’t do their laundry anymore (and it kills me to not just gather it all up and proceed – but it’s not good for them).

    Talk about hanging one’s head in shame.

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  6. I have all my scarves in one drawer, and then I have to iron and iron and iron them to get them decent looking. Since I have a set of brand new shower hook/rings that I never used when we redid the hall bath, I figured it won’t cost me anything to give it a go.

    The other issue is that it rarely gets cold enough here to even bother with scarves, and the rack will help me remember what colors I have on hand instead of buried.

    Although… it was 55 when I ran this morning, which I loved!.

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  7. Well what I actually have is a lot of pashminas. Are those scarves of a sort? And they wrinkle something awful. Of course infinity scarves don’t need to be ironed and neither do knitted or crocheted scarves. Speaking of scarves and doing double duty with stuff we have, My girls ahve pretty well mastered the skill of taking their scarves/pashminas and making them into a vest/sweater like fashion accessory. I like it a lot:
    http://www.diyhomethings.com/ways-to-turn-a-scarf-into-a-vest/

    Pretty cool, huh?

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  8. Oh I like that, I’ll show that to 11yo (who could rock it). My pashminas don’t get wrinkly – and I say that as someone who has the ironing board up permanently. So?

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  9. Well, I can sort of see her point — the throw up thing. Here’s why. At least what I took from it is the reality of the fact that we take care of everybody, yet when push comes to shove and we get sick or whatever, nobody takes care of us, we have to take care of ourselves. I think the author was probably reacting (and I can certainly understand why) to the helplessness that everyone succumbs to if Mom isn’t there. Truth is that if we’re not there, the whole place falls apart, which is why our friend Practical Conservative advocates household help, and I would venture to say a tutor or two.

    We do have to take care of ourselves, because nobody is going to take care of us. Period. But I would have to agree with her about fixing yourself up for yourself. I don’t know how many of you have finally thrown in the towel with working your tail off and either getting no comment or being reprimanded when you couldn’t do anymore, but the fact is that you have better self-esteem and are more productive when you look good. After doing it for other people, I pretty soon quit “wanting to” because of this. When I started doing it for myself, then I finally felt more motivated because I felt good. We can overdo the “let’s all serve everybody” especially if we are in the conservative homeschooling circles, and it ends up being detrimental to our health and sanity.

    Maeve: I do all the laundry too, but we all sort and we all wash and dry. I don’t own a dryer, so we hang up everything. I have four sorters and everything goes into one of those, there are directions posted for everything, so all they have to do is follow the directions. It’s pretty simple.

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  10. WRT the laundry – it’s what happens when you’re super Type-A about certain things and you can’t stand the idea of someone not doing it your way, or rather my way. Le Sigh. I would die without a dryer. One of my girlfriends likes to hang her stuff up on a clothesline, but I’m just too wedded to appliances which do work for me (my daughters like to inform me that I’m not going to survive the zombie apocalypse particularly well).

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  11. Having read the intro in its entirety, I feel comfortable with offering the opinion that the author was just against the idea of being “just a homemaker” for the express purpose of serving your husband and family if there is not a clear and tangible benefit for the housewife. I disagree that there was no clear and tangible benefit for the housewife, it just didn’t come in the form of a paycheck. And for the first time well, ever, the industrial revolution rendered the average homemaker little more than a consumer with no tangible productive value.

    Now one can argue about the toxic and family destroying feminist prescription for the disease, but of the reality of the disease, there is no doubt in my mind.

    As for household help, the truth is that in this house, we couldn’t afford it and have anything left over. We are, for all intents and purposes and regardless of outward appearances, working class.

    The solution we have found to the problem of overwork is to not sweat the small stuff. I’ve said over at TPC (as you know) that my husbands list of essentials is a short one: good food, well educated kids, and a wife who looks like she belongs on his arm. The house is clean in all the common areas- kitchen, bathrooms, living, family and two dining rooms.

    The rest of it is tolerable about 3/4 of the time and my husband has made it perfectly clear that I am to take some time during the day (usually between schooling and finishing up dinner) to unwind, nap, read, or do whatever it is I need to do so that he comes home to a wife who is un-frazzled and available to him.

    Of course, we also have 3 adult daughters at home who although nowhere near as available as they used to be as teenagers, are still able to offer a fair amount of help, and we’re training the two younger to do manageable chores also.

    WRT laundry: We grew up with a clothesline in the back yard. As a kid I hated it, but now (in an HOA) I can’t have one and I miss it. It’s kind of startling to me how many things I dismissed or derided as a young person which I appreciate or even long for now.

    Live and learn.

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  12. I had a dryer for twelve years (it was a wedding present), then one day it just quit on me. When the garbage man hauled it away, I realized how much more space I had in my laundry room, which is small to begin with, and now I finally had room to store the laundry hampers without somebody tripping over or maneuvering around them. I also had room to store my vacuum cleaner, plus I could put down my ironing board in there — no more having to traipse it out to the living room or some such thing. I was hooked on the clothesline from then on out; but then again I live in the Southwest and we don’t get much rain. For you it may not be as practical. Although we’ve had rainy spells here recently (El Nino) and that’s been a problem because my laundry is wet — if we hit a major crisis (which is rare) I just hop into the car with the wet laundry and run it through the dryers at the Laundromat. Our electric bill went WAY down, too, plus it gives the kids more work to do. 🙂 HAHAHAHA…..

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  13. Rains all the time in S, Florida, and it’s humid when it’s not raining. I’m wondering now why my stepmom even bothered with the clothes line. We used to have to run out there all the time and yank the laundry down before it goo too wet, LOL.

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  14. “As for household help, the truth is that in this house, we couldn’t afford it and have anything left over.”

    We can’t either. One of my kids’ godfathers is a Latin/Greek/math tutor and my ears perked up when I heard he opened his own business — and then closed right up again when I heard his fee. Forget that. This Momma’s on her own.

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  15. We do have to take care of ourselves, because nobody is going to take care of us. Period. But I would have to agree with her about fixing yourself up for yourself. I don’t know how many of you have finally thrown in the towel with working your tail off and either getting no comment or being reprimanded when you couldn’t do anymore,

    This isn’t my reality. When I am sick, my husband takes care of me as much as he can. It’s a high priority to him that his wife is well. Things don’t fall apart because he doesn’t let them fall apart. What help he “refuses” me he “refuses” because he works so hard himself. On the occasion when I am reprimanded me, 9 times out of 10 it’s because I didn’t do what I could have done or at the very least, what I was told to prioritize over something else that it would have been fine if I’d left it undone.

    Although it is often true that the juggle of homeschooling and homemaking is overwhelming for me, this is for me more about the way my life is structured ( suburban life in particular), no one to blame, and just one of those things where you do the best you can. I am not regularly reprimanded and I do receive the occasional word of appreciation for my efforts although my husband is more of a physical affection type more than words of affirmation. Either way, I do feel the appreciation sometimes.

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  16. LOL, that’s ironic, bringing in the laundry before it’s wetter than it was to begin with. I do wonder how people managed when they dealt with torrential rains day after day after day — I guess that’s where hangers came in. Of course they ironed everything back then, too. If any of you get a hankering for watching it, there’s a great section from 1900 House on YouTube where it shows how laundry was done at that time….very enlightening. I watched it one day when my washing machine had broken down and I had had to do the bathtub/washboard routine because the laundry just couldn’t wait and I was not a happy camper — after I hung it all out I watched that episode, and it changed my perception of laundry evermore.

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  17. I think the objection (expressed as revulsion) is to doing things for someone other than one’s self. It’s cool to delude yourself into thinking you dress pretty “for me!” While it has some truth, as most things do*, the lengths women will go to to justify the desire to look nice to others tends to descend into self-parody.

    (*I know I generally feel better and am more productive if I get dressed properly rather than hanging about in slob clothes all day, even if I’m not going anywhere).

    Nevertheless, the passage that inspired the puke reaction is a bit over the top in the other direction, hence the reaction I would wager.

    I dunno about the scarf rack out of shower hooks though, but maybe that’s because I’m picturing ugly plastic rings on the wall that no one will end up using because it’s too much bother to thread a scarf through, lol.

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  18. While it has some truth, as most things do*, the lengths women will go to to justify the desire to look nice to others tends to descend into self-parody.

    LOL, Amen.

    I am on the fence about the scarf rack, but the idea is staying with me primarily because it’s not going to cost me anything to make it.

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  19. I have a clothesline, which I use for sheets always and sometimes other things. I live in SoCal, so it’s usually dry enough – but I was getting burnt out on needing to make sure *every* day was laundry day so that all our laundry could get clean and dry – DH stepped in and told me to use the dryer most of the time, which is what I do.

    Kids know how to separate the laundry, and how to wash it (I am NOT type A about this) but not how to fold (which I kind of am). I do the laundry, it’s just easier. I mosey around and it just sort of happens.

    DH was much less understanding about my frailties before I broke my foot, then he did my job as well as his own for a while, and now he’s very protective. Curse of a rosy complexion, if I’m not feeling 100% you can tell with a glance.

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  20. Happy Thanksgiving, Hearth!

    My hubs has mellowed a lot about a lot of things over the past 5 years as we are figuring out the correlation between my BP and stretching myself too thin. He too is much more protective.

    I do all the laundry on Wednesday then empty the hamper again on Saturday. It’s a good system for me.

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  21. I have to laugh – we’re talkin’ laundry on Els’ book site!!!
    (that’s not a dig – I’m actually quite obsessed with laundry and will talk about it with anyone, anywhere, anytime 🙂 )

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  22. Well it is a lifestyle book about homemaking we’re discussing. I have a thing about laundry too.

    Yesterday I had to pay respects to the family of a dearly departed and longtime friend of my family of origin.

    From there it was straight to a very large and very fun family gathering with my extended family of marriage which went until late into the evening.

    No laundry got done, and I am in a fair amount of laundry-induced distress. The system broke down! By Wednesday there’ll be twice as much laundry! What am I to do???

    LOL.

    Liked by 1 person

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