I spent the past year planning a wedding.
It wasn’t a huge wedding. In fact, many people would consider my wedding small. We had 75 guests in a small estate in upstate NY. Nonetheless, wedding planning was something that consumed my life for a year. Surrounded by a career where I felt like I wasn’t allowed to be excited about my wedding I found myself geeking out on domestic details and spending hours – yes, hours and hours – perusing blogs about weddings, design, food, and the like. Wedding planning was like the forbidden fruit, or the world’s most terrifying procrastination tool for a graduate student artist who has to manage her own time. What was once a passion for wedding blogs – the colors, the textures, the designs, the photography, the social aspects, and also the narcissistic, unabashed, and socially/politically less engaged excitement over my own event – has now turned into a passion for life as a domesticated newlywed. I follow food blogs and blogs about kitchen gadgets. How did these domestic and materialist interests come about in someone who has considered herself a politically active and critical artist interested in things called “radical dance” and social practice? My avant-garde artistic tendencies clashed miserably with my newfound desire to “nest” and my all too normative comfort in making a home, buying pots and pans, and learning to cook new recipes. How could I justify or rectify the two increasingly distinct sides of myself: the professional side and the personal side?
Wedding planning led me to the blogosphere. I was particularly interested in Meg’s thoughts at apracticalwedding.com where she and other comrades explored many of the same feminist and social questions that I find myself asking on a daily basis. I have read several posts on or related to the topic of contradictory feminist tendencies and an interest in domesticity at A Practical Wedding. Most recently, I identified with Sharon’s post on Reclaiming Wife: Day Zero in which she discusses how while we don’t need to feel like we can have it all (a good marriage and a good career), when we want both of those things we don’t have to have them all at the same time. We can go through phases of feeling passionate about pursuing a career and then moments where feeling settled and satisfied with our home life is propelling our professional appetites. And I should confess that this wedding and newly married state is not the only moments that I’ve found comfort in cooking good foods and making a nice house. This is definitely something to which I am naturally predisposed, so when society told me that I better start thinking about cooking food in new pots and pans once the wedding was over… Well, twist my toes why don’t you.
I am interested in this work/life dilemma, but my main interest is making the two simultaneously compatible. Because my career happens to be about the ways people exist in the world [how does technology affect everyday movement, how does movement facilitate social understanding, how does art making facilitate human relationships…] I think that I can make this topic central to my artistic quest. The thing that has gotten me a little bit off track has been my intellectual pursuit of my artistic interests. In this realm I must be ever vigilant to cross all T’s and dot all I’s in terms of research and writing. There isn’t always space to explore, pontificate, and dream. From here out I am giving myself the space to do just that. I hope that in this new space I will find the way to work/life balance and I hope that I can translate this into my movement practice and vice versa.
So, why start this post off with the confessions of a 26-year-old bride? Well, my wedding ended up being a place for me to combine artistic interest with personal romance and domestic desires. I could think about the staging of an event, the pace of it, how people would move through spaces, what the costume and staging would look like. But this event, this performance, it was the most honest and true production I’ve ever staged or performed. It was in this event that I realized how unrealistic my artworks can be. So, exactly four weeks after my wedding, it is with my experience as a bride that I re-enter a creative space in pursuit of something that is real.
I do run the risk of this reality being contrived, materialist, and privileged. I hope that I can maintain criticality while allowing myself to be honest. I guess this is the real divide that interests me. Forget work/life because I truly believe that these are compatible. Ultimately, I think I am interested in the relationship between criticality and privilege. I hope that this pursuit is less problematic than honest. I see people in my field every day who pretend to be critical and politically active when at home I can see that they relax in the comforts of a normative and/or privileged house. Rather than ignore this tension, I want to explore it and exploit it for the sake of figuring out what is wrong here and also what is right.
**Photo credit goes to the fabulous Megan Dailor.