Reviews of Homeward Bound

“3.5 out of 4 stars” - People Magazine                                                               “The brilliance of Emily Matchar’s new book is that it exhaustively describes what disillusioned workers are opting into: a slower, more sustainable, and more self-sufficient lifestyle that’s focused on the home. Matchar synthesizes dozens of trend stories … into a single, compelling narrative about the resurgence of domesticity….Refreshing.” -The New Republic                                                       "[P]rovocatively explores what the movement says about the role of women in society today.” – The New Yorker                                                                       "I unreservedly loved it…It’s empathetic and funny and thoughtful and smart, and I encourage all of you to read it."– The Hairpin                                                         “Cogently argues that choosing a more hands-on, DIY lifestyle – family farming, canning, crafting, can, without sacrificing feminism’s hard-won gains, improve on an earlier time when ‘people lived more lightly on the earth and relied less on corporations, and family and community came first.’” - ELLE                                                               “[I]ntelligent and insightful...essential reading.” - Christianity Today                                                       “A lively and perceptive reporter… a valuable and astute assessment.”—Publishers Weekly                                                         “A well-researched look at the resurgence of home life…. Offers intriguing insight into the renaissance of old-fashioned home traditions.”— Kirkus Reviews

What is New Domesticity?

This blog is a look at the social movement I call ‘New Domesticity’ – the fascination with reviving “lost” domestic arts like canning, bread-baking, knitting, chicken-raising, etc. Why are women of my generation, the daughters of post-Betty Friedan feminists, embracing the domestic tasks that our mothers and grandmothers so eagerly shrugged off? Why has the image of the blissfully domestic supermom overtaken the Sex & the City-style single urban careerist as the media’s feminine ideal? Where does this movement come from? What does it mean for women? For families? For society?                                                                                     My book, Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity, which explores New Domesticity in greater depth, will be published by Simon & Schuster in May 2013.

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Do you feel embarrassed about wanting a relationship?

Hannah in "Girls" wants experiences, not relationships

Maybe it’s because I did my 20s in North Carolina rather than New York or something, but this doesn’t sound at all familiar to me: young women being ashamed to want a boyfriend, or feeling like a boyfriend will derail their careers. As Leslie Bell writes in The Atlantic:

[Today's 20-something women] face a new taboo and it’s not about sex or money or power. Instead, it’s a taboo about that traditional province of women: relationships. Ambitious young women in their 20s feel they shouldn’t want relationships with men at this phase in their lives.

Really? Most of the women I hung out with in my 20s – AND most of the men – were pretty relationship oriented, and not ashamed of it either. And when I say “I did my 20s in North Carolina,” please don’t think I’m talking about something out of Deliverance. That’s Georgia. JK. But seriously, I spent most of my 20s in the Raleigh-Durham area, and most of my friends were ambitious PhD candidates and journalists and artists and what have you. Nobody worried that a relationship would hurt their careers. Why would it? It’s not like the men we were dating expected us to be home to cook dinner for them. Sure, we didn’t want to be married with two kids in the suburbs at 27. But we did want committed relationships – with the right person.

But maybe I’m missing something. My sense is that young people of late have been rejecting the 1990s “Sex and the City” thing, and are trying to focus more on “what matters” – including relationships. Or maybe, at 30, I’m a microgeneration too old to understand this phenomenon?

Does this sound familiar to you? Are you and your friends embarrassed about desiring a relationship, or worried that a relationship will bring down your career?

10 comments to Do you feel embarrassed about wanting a relationship?

  • Katy

    I’m 26 and, yes, I spent the last three years in a small town in Virginia as a graduate student but…still emphatically no. My friends and I often lamented the lack of eligible men in the town and the gender divide of the program. We wanted egalitarian relationships, but we definitely wanted them! Now, we weren’t willing to go completely out of our way to get them, is that enough to qualify as not “wanting” one? Or being ashamed of them?

    But I had girlfriends who enthusiastically signed me up for online dating, so there was no stigma to pursuing one or being in one. There was a bit of stigma to sitting around whining about it, but I always thought of that as more of an admonition to be proactive or shut up about it.

  • Katy

    Also, I’ve increasingly come to suspect that all the women I see in sitcoms and romantic comedies who are not interested in “labels” and “girlfriend things” are along the same kind of secret misogyny of shows like My Boys, where the only good and worthwhile woman in the entire series is one who completely eschews all things “girly.” A way of shaming women by asking them to be embarrassed of things just because they are “girly”.

  • Kay

    Yes, mostly because as far as I see it a relationship may not pan out, and it’s hard to invest a lot of emotion in someone when I could be putting that effort towards something much more secure – a job, or more education. I always feel that I’m sabotaging myself if I start placing an importance on dating/finding a relationship and it starts to compete with my job or education. To me, it feels like I am becoming codependent instead of relying on myself, which I do not like.

  • Joy

    I definitely identify with this, even though I, too, grew up in a community where most of my male and female friends were unashamed in their desire for a meaningful relationship. I was single for the first half of my twenties–finishing college, traveling for a couple of years, and then beginning grad school–and had come to relish my independence and my growing into myself. When my now husband came along, I was definitely fearful–I had built up a life and an identity, and he seemed to be a threat to all of that. Further, I viewed getting into a realtionship with him (and, a year later, marrying) as defeat. I was leaving the single, independent woman team and reluctantly joining the ranks of women who talked constantly about their husbands, molded their lives around them, etc. I guess I didn’t have too many models of independent women in meaningful relationships/marriages without it subsuming their identity. Now, after being married for a year, I see that in some ways, marriage has affected my image as independent woman, but it hasn’t really changed me. Of course there is a lot of compromise and sometimes saying “no” to opportunities I may have take had I been single. But also, my husband is my biggest fan and encourages me to step out in ways I would not have been able to motivate myself to. I no longer feel like marriage was a defeat, but I do see it as a challenge, to not become one of those women who gave up their identity for the sake of their marriage/their husband’s.

  • I definitely agree with Joy! I’m in a very loving and supportive long term relationship right now with lots of talk of marriage and I’m definitely feeling the same kind of fear of loss of independence. I do so love my guy, and our relationship is truly a fantastic exercise in equality and communication, an EXCELLENT union to participate in with no signs that it would ever become imbalanced or have some sort of major power shift in the future if we were to be married. But I do feel guilty for wanting to get married. I don’t like the connotation that marriage has (husband as head of the family) and EXACTLY as Joy said, I don’t like the idea of joining those ranks of women with husband-centered (or for that matter child-centered) lives. I think the embarrassment comes from being a HIGHLY independent woman wanting to take on the label of a conventional institution that is so fraught with social constructs. Do I want to be my guys forever partner? Absolutely. Do I want him to be the father of my children and raise them with me to be awesome tiny humans who shape the world they live in? Sure do. Do I want someone calling me a wife? Nooootttt so much. We’ve talked about eschewing the husband/wife language and utilizing ‘partner’ as our label, but it’s still a label and we’re still going to be termed husband/wife by those around us.

    Perhaps what’s going on with younger women these days is just as other commenters have explained, they don’t want to be labeled with the sad single woman trope. They see wanting a relationship as being a negative because “those people” are sappy and distracted, terms that they avoid like the plague. I recall wanting to be in a relationship when I was in college, but as you said in the post, it wasn’t all-consuming, nor was it full of lofty expectations. It was just something that was there and possible. Perhaps this is a reaction to the New Domesticity that is becoming so glamorized? Some women don’t want the baggage of what they see as fluffy family life to clutter their own visions for career success? An interesting question for sure.

    • Joy

      YES, Jamie I totally agree with the part where you said you don’t look forward to being called a “wife.” What is it with that word? I grew up in Christian circles, and I feel “wife” often had the connotation not of partner but of accessory, personal assistant, home helper…the one who takes care of all the unpleasant stuff so the husband could go off and fulfill his dreams. It’s a loaded word, for sure! (For whatever reason, though, I have no qualms referring to my husband as, well, my husband).

  • Lauren Ard

    Interesting thoughts. When I was unmarried I, too, was concerned about what Jamie and Joy were/are concerned with – marriage changing a woman’s independent identity. I felt guilty about “wanting a relationship with men,” thinking that I should put off marriage and family and enjoy the single life for as long as possible. But at the same time my heart yearned for a more permanent relationship. And I got married at 21!!

    Fortunately, none of my fears were recognized! I feel that after marriage I am MORE independent and MORE autonomous than before, because I no longer have to worry about finding a guy (or wonder if I should/shouldn’t be finding one). I have my guy, and after seven years we’re experts at making our marriage work, without spending undue time on it. It has freed me to pursue other interests, knowing that my husband supports me and I don’t have to waste time dishing with my girlfriends about prospects.

    So, I think today’s twentysomethings may feel guilty about wanting a relationship, but perhaps they know in their hearts that finding a permanent relationship may free their minds to worry about other things – like their career, future, kids, etc…whatever else they want!

  • Maybe its because my mom was the major breadwinner growing up, or maybe its because I was in the military (marriage=housing allowance), but…no. I never felt pressured to not be in a relationship.

  • brie

    In my 20 I had a long term relationship which lasted 4 years (18-22) and all I wanted all the time is to break it up because I thought people in my age should not be in a long term relationship and I really wanted to explore around. After I broke it up I was happy and relieved. Then at 24 I entered another long term relationship with a guy I really wanted to be with but all the time I felt that I was still missing a lot from the “feedom” world. I did not break it up because I just want to be with him.

    Conclusions:
    1) yes, I did think that I shouldnt be in a relationship at 20
    2) when I actually thought that – I should have acted like it and not stayed so long in a relationship
    3) I was not brave enough to be single and look around
    4) good that I didnt ditch my second relationship because of the same reasons – we are still together and I am happy
    5) relationship I am in now allows me to be free, so I have no fears from relationships any more!

    Master conclusion: Be brave to be who you are.

  • Mackenzie

    I’m 24 and in a city of 5,000,000 people. This is bullshit.