As I sit here on a rainy Sunday afternoon in Sydney, with a cup of herbal tea in one hand and my yarn weaving kit in the other, a younger Trudi may well have laughed and called me old before my time. She may have giggled at my oversized grandad sweater, woolly socks and comfy granny pants, or questioned why I had chosen to listen to chilled Morcheeba over progressive metal band Tool (though they are still my favourite band).
A younger Trudi would certainly have been in shock to hear that I spent my birthday celebrations last night having a low key, albeit delicious, South Indian dinner out with just the one cocktail; before heading back home by 10pm to enjoy a bottle of Pinot Noir and an early night.
I mean, I’m 31 years old; arguably still in my prime. Should I not prefer boozy parties, dancing and late night antics to blankets, tea and crafts? Have I really become old before my time, or am I simply mature and wise enough to recognise when my tastes (and energy levels) have evolved?
This is a topic I discussed earlier this week with one of my best friends in the UK, as I woke up ready for a day at work, and she was enjoying her rare few hours at night when both her children were asleep in bed. “I just want to have a nice relaxing night in knitting, mediating and drinking a nice herbal tea…god, I’m old aren’t I?!” she exclaimed. But we both giggled as we exchanged stories and habits we’d acquired since waving goodbye to our 20’s; reminiscing on the days when life was one big party.
But the thing is, choosing to slow things down – having more sleep, drinking less alcohol (or at least in less condensed timeframes) and reducing stress through meditation or relaxing hobbies – isn’t a sign of ageing. I am beginning to see that our elders, who we often associate with things like knitting, baking, coastal walks and early nights by the fire, have actually just gained the wisdom needed to see that happiness and health is often found when you slow down and enjoy the simple pleasures of life.
Why should I deny the fact that my new hobby of sustainable weaving brings me a happiness and tranquility that a night in a metal club never did. Sure, it’s fun to go out with friends, get tipsy and head bang until your neck is a stiff as cardboard. But with a subtly ageing body and increasing life obligations, more and more “me time” is just as much intertwined with self-love, looking after my health and finding time to be creative or learn new skills.
Interestingly, earlier last week I read an article asking: Are today’s clean-eating women really so different from 1950s housewives? According to journalist Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett the rise in popularity of crafting, baking and DIY green living amongst modern 20 and 30 something women is revealing a trend away from the feminist push of the last couple of decades toward professional equality to be women that “has it all”, to an increasing desire to re-embrace domesticity. As pay equality remains a myth in some professions, and the depressing capitalist world is relentlessly unfair, unfulfilling and generally a toxic environment to be in; is it any wonder we are looking back to traditional feminine roles from our grandparents generation which are wholesome and (dare I say it…) closer aligned to the skills and interests of women?
Now, I appreciate this is a grand assumption of gender stereotypes, and may well rile some feminist feathers of those who feel that reverting back to wearing aprons and knitting blankets over pencil skirts and corporate dinner meetings, is spitting in the face of female equality. However I would disagree that one has to override the other. Surely the purpose of feminism is to give women freedom and empowerment to choose; even if she chooses to be a stay at home mum and make fabulous cupcakes for her WI friends? In fact, you could even argue we are re-adopting archaic female stereotypes and making them empowering and trendy in their own right.
As Cosslett points out: “You don’t need to look at so many Instagram posts of smiling, svelte young women brandishing wholesome trays of homemade baked goods to suspect that the Victorian ideal of “the angel in the house”, as manifested in the archetype of the later 1950s housewife, might be back with a bit of a vengeance. The only difference is that the brownies are now gluten-free.”
However, whilst Cosslett seems weary, even critical, of this new wave of women tweeting gluten free recipes and sharing photos of their latest up-cycled project arguing “…both genders should be disturbed by modern nostalgia for the 1950s housewife. Whether carbs were present or not, it was no picnic.” I’m not so sure. In fact, I think I’m with The Women’s Institute historian Maggie Andrews who suggests “Both feminism and the Women’s Institute have come together a little bit, in that domesticity isn’t such a bad thing as people thought, or possibly that the workplace is not as much fun as we all thought…”
As I reflect on the last 6 months of travelling, away from the daily grind of work and societal pressures, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that as I creep deeper into my 30’s it’s not a successful career, a thriving party lifestyle or more wealth that is my present life goal. Instead, I see the 9-5 as a restrictive and soul crushing way to spend the life past feminist activists fought hard to give me to freedom to choice how to live. Now, I simply want to master baking good bread, weaving baskets bigger than a thimble, and enjoying a full 8 hours sleep every night of the week.
Is that really old or anti feminist?