This Week In Old-Fashioned Despair

This blog is focused on sifting out the good of the past. You know, stuff like a DIY ethic, midcentury style, and petticoats. But it’s worth saying every once in a while that those things are mixed in with a lot of garbage. And unlike cardigan clips and rotary phones, that garbage endures today.

I don’t generally use this blog to discuss politics outright. Frankly, I’m conflicted about that.

On the one hand, considering the past is not apolitical. It doesn’t take that much to get from midcentury style to midcentury values. I feel dishonest not acknowledging that. It’s never been my desire to look at the past through rose-colored glasses. All the pretty New Look fashion in the world can’t cover up the power structures and oppression of the societies that wore it.

On the other hand, I know that the only way I won’t succumb to complete despair is if I spend at least some of my time not considering the state of the world. Small joys fuel the longevity of my ire.

And then there’s the fact that I have readers with varying political opinions, and that our love for old things is a rare point of common ground.

But here’s another reason, one that seems particularly relevant today: There are big disincentives for a woman to get political on the Internet. Trolls have a way of finding you. This little blog isn’t a huge platform or anything, but it’s at least in the back of mind: “Do I want to sift through death threats, rape threats, and name-calling in the comments because I talked about FDR? Do I want to call any attention to myself? Is it worth it?” And the fact of the matter is, for me the answer is often, “No.”

This is merely an online version of the kind of silencing women (and other marginalized people) are subject to all the time. It’s not even the denial of platforms, or outright being told to shut up, although those are obviously still issues. It’s knowing that if you say something, there will be unfairly negative consequences. The problem isn’t that you’ll say something and someone will disagree with you. It’s that you’ll be met with violence or the threat of it. So you shut up before you’ve even started.

It’s remarkably similar to, say, not going where you want, or wearing what you want, or doing what you want because somebody, somewhere is going to use that as an excuse to assault you. And knowing that, should you be anything less than a perfect victim (perfect victims are always silent), the power structures will not deign to take you seriously.

I suspect I’ll continue to be conflicted about politics on this blog. I imagine this blog will mostly remain a respite from the grinding, crushing world. But I also can’t, in good conscience, promise no politics. I’m not going to do the silencing work for the patriarchy. It can do its own damn work.


Image: Library of Congress. 


Maker Monday

Making things is starting a (minor) revolution.

With a new year, and the cold, clear days, it’s easy to get introspective. And so I have. As I think about all the things that bring me joy, it’s easy to cast myself as scattered. I like so many different things, lots of them at least vaguely domestic. But as I look more deeply, I find my various interests all fall under one big umbrella: I really like to make stuff.

Me and my new best friend, the Food Strainer-Saucemaker.

Writing a play, knitting a sweater, baking a loaf of bread–these are all essentially creative acts. It’s self-expression through concrete forms. It’s sculpture, but instead of clay, I use ideas, and words, and yarn, and flour.  Continue reading “Maker Monday”

In Darkness: An Existentialist December

The darkness is becoming too much, lately.

There’s the physical darkness. Here on the eastern edge of the Central Time Zone, it’s getting dark early, as we approach the Solstice later this month. The days are getting shorter and shorter, and the sun appears less and less frequently.

But the physical darkness can be fought. With candles, with blankets, with UV lamps aimed at our faces and vitamin D supplements. The darkness that threatens me now is a dark night of the soul.

Continue reading “In Darkness: An Existentialist December”

Things That Aren’t History: Racism in America

We progressive types like to think we’d have been heroes in the past.

When I read about history, I automatically assume I would have been awesome in other generations. I’d have been an abolitionist during American slavery, probably with my own underground railroad station in my basement. I’d have fought in the Resistance, and refused to cooperate with the Nazis. I’d have been working at Hull House, or reporting undercover like Nelly Bly, fighting turn-of-the-century urban poverty. Protesting Japanese internment. Refusing to take land from Native Americans. You know, awesome.

With the smug 20/20 vision of hindsight, I wonder how all those bystanders, all those people who were neither fighting injustice or enacting it, could live with themselves. How can you know about terrible things, and then do nothing to fix it?

But I think I owe an apology to the lackluster people of the past, because white supremacists keep killing people, and I haven’t done much.

In so many ways, I have surrendered to the racism in society without ever really fighting it. I shamefully want to know how much I have to stay informed before I can stop learning more horrifying things, because it hurts my heart so much and I feel like I can’t do anything.

I don’t know what it was about this particular set of murders, but since the shootings in Charleston, I see my self-preservation as the cowardice it really is: a broken heart is the price you pay for being aware in this world. I’m not looking away.

There’s a lot of discussion of what being a white ally in a world of racial violence means. Here are some things I’m trying:

  1. I am absolutely going to stop referring to segregation, prejudice, and racial violence as if they were something in the past, or like we somehow solved them as a society.
  2. I’m not going to pretend that this is a Southern problem.
  3. I would have been BFF's with Lucretia Mott.
    In my imagination, I would have been BFF’s with Lucretia Mott.

    I will not shut up about “benign” racism in jokes, or pop culture, or things people say to me because they think I’ll agree with them.

  4. I will not cry “white lady tears” when someone points out my own racism.
  5. I will listen to people of color more than I talk.

What are you going to do?

Lately: A Round-up of Projects

Spring GirlSpring is here, and summer is just around the bend, and I am feeling it!

  • Excitement
  • Freshness
  • Allergic to every single thing
  • Happy about wearing dresses

I’m planning plans, and planting plots, and everything feels possible, except when my eyes are running from all this damnable pollen.

I read a lot in the vintage and domestic blogospheres, and so, I bring you some of the things that have piqued my interest lately.

Things I’ve Been Doing Recently

I am currently fascinated by making things at home. I’m baking whole wheat bread regularly, I’m making almond butter in the food processor, I have had soy yogurt success. There is something deeply satisfying about eating a slice of bread with my own jam or almond butter on it. “Look, from these raw ingredients, I have wrought sustenance!” I explained to B the other day.

I’ve also been sewing a lot more. I’m finishing up two pairs of the Smooth Sailing trousers from Wearing History, and I made a pair of shorts from the same pattern–though I hemmed them much higher than is period appropriate. The pattern was great to work with, and I think they’re cute as pie. Pictures are forthcoming.

We went on a massive decluttering mission in April, sparked by my reading The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. We were able to get rid of all of our plastic storage drawers, some small shelves, and most importantly, our loft bed, which did double-duty as a closet underneath. Our home feels so much more peaceful and airy.

Oh, and I got my ears re-pierced because my old piercings had closed up, and were never that great to start with. This only relates to vintage or domestic matters because wearing a cardigan and capri pants to your neighborhood tattoo shop feels equally square and badass. At least until you get blood on your cardigan.

Things I’m Plotting

Delicious Things:

My plan this year is to make smaller batches of more kinds of jam. We have no need for 12 jars of any one kind, and really, we probably don’t need more than 15 jars total for our household.

This Strawberry Balsamic recipe is definitely happening. It is exactly the kind of thing I will find scrumptious and fancy, and my partner will find a ruination of perfectly good strawberry jam. So I will also make regular strawberry jam. (“With enough sugar?” he asks. “FINE,” I grumble.)

I’ve never met a pickle I didn’t like, and these cauliflower pickles are on my list.

Vintage-y Things

I’m going to make this Bullet Bra. Every time I start talking about making my own underwear, B expresses concern that this has all gone too far. “I’ll buy you some underwear,” he offers. NOT THE POINT, B.

My victory garden experiment continues! Tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers go in the ground this very weekend!

Lately I’m Reading…

Dubliners, by James Joyce.  A series of vignettes of turn of the century Dublin, with some writing that’s real pretty.

Make the Bread, Buy the Butter, by Jennifer Reese. A woman after my own heart, she tries out a lot of DIY cooking to see if it’s worth the hassle. I love the experiments, but the best part is the warm, slightly snarky, very funny voice of Jennifer herself. I want to be friends with her! And she had a goat, named Peppermint. I would like to befriend Peppermint as well.

Artisan Vegan Cheese, by Miyoko Schinner. I.E. why I have soy yogurt now, and just bought cheesecloth.

Do you have any plans or projects in the works?