ASH AMBIRGE

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Women Don’t Learn How to Be Strong & Confident & Brave in Home-Fucking-Ec.

In: Finding Your Voice

 

Once upon a time, I took Home Ec in high school, which is hilarious, because based on tweets like these, I must have failed:


I tweeted that out a couple of days after Googling “How to trick your mother-in-law into thinking canned tomato sauce is homemade,” which inevitably led me into chopping, like, four fucking onions with a butter knife and spooning an entire cup of sugar into the pot, because if a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, than an entire cupful might actually qualify as a safety measure.

DIABETES WHO?! We’re cooking here, alright?

I’ve long since accepted that cooking is not my forte, and I don’t even feel bad about it anymore. Who needs a spatula when you have a blog? It’s called strengths and weaknesses, and I’m not trying to be strong in every single area of my life. Can you imagine how exhausting that would be?

Another thing I don’t worry about anymore: What anyone thinks about my hair. That sounds really superficial, but let me tell you what: When you’ve got short hair, there’s always going to be some asshole asking you when you’re going to grow it out again. Like, WHY IS LONG HAIR THE DEFAULT FEMALE HAIR? It’s like, do you even realize how stupid I look with long hair? It might work for The Princess Bride, but I am neither a princess, nor a bride, and even if I were, I’d be thrashing around with swords and giant beers, Game of Thrones style.

Yesterday I was talking about having the strength to be your own person with my long-time friend Kyle Hepp (remember forever ago in 2012 when we went to the South of Chile and she published this GIF of me falling, before GIFs were even a thing?!)

So, Kyle’s 7 months pregnant and just finished a solo trip to Hungary, Denmark, Sweden and Poland, which she totally tried to harass me into going on with her, except I was already showing up to Michigan after her trip to surprise her for her baby shower. Which isn’t really a surprise anymore, because I COULDN’T CONTAIN MYSELF SO APPARENTLY THAT’S ANOTHER THING I’M NOT GOOD AT.

But as we were exchanging voice memos, as one does with best friends across countries, she brought up a Facebook post she had recently published, where she talked about how grateful she was to her body to carry her and her baby, and that she hoped to inspire other women that they don’t have to give up their lives, and who they are, the minute they get pregnant. That our bodies were made for this. That there’s a culture around treating pregnant women like they’re incapable. Delicate. Flowers. That there’s this silent expectation that bringing life into the world means that you’re expected to give up yours.

And then the criticisms began.
And kept comin’.
And kept comin’.

And, you know, I’m not pregnant, and never have been (thats another thing I don’t feel guilty about anymore, either), so I can’t truly speak from experience. But I was proud of my friend, because like all new experiences, it’s tempting to turn and look at what everybody else is doing, and do that. Because that’s “what everybody does” and that must be “the way it’s done.”

For example, I’m “suppose” to know how to cook by my mid thirties. I’m “supposed” to have long hair to be considered attractive. I’m “supposed” to have already had a baby. And Kyle is “suppose” to act, somehow, like a victim—even if no one labels it that way.

This isn’t a new conversation, of course. But I can’t help but wonder:

Maybe instead of teaching young women how to come home to a husband, we should be teaching them how to come home to themselves.

Because you know what I actually learned in Home Ec? That a cup of dry flour is not the same as a cup of water. That you can cross stitch a miniature pillow that says “GO EAGLES” in approximately one week. And that the fork goes on the left, and the knife on the right, and you can remember it because “fork” has four letters and so does “left,” and “knife” has five letters, and so does “right.” (For the record, WTF has three letters.)

But you know what would have been a lot more useful?

  • Learning how to say no to the guy I gave my virginity to at age fourteen—and feel strong and confident doing it. Not stupid.
  • Learning how to stand up for myself when a peer started a hate campaign against me—and feel confident in my approach. Not like a loser.
  • Learning how to find creative solutions to a variety of problems—and feel confident that I would be able to solve them. Not lost.
  • Learning how to experiment with my own ideas in real world scenarios—and feel confident in my instincts. Not unsure of them.
  • Learning how to choose based on my own preferences—not the world’s—and feel confident in those opinions. Not scared shitless.

It’s not about learning how to do things as much as it is learning how to feel okay doing them. To feel okay with our own opinions and convictions and ideas. To feel okay being ourselves. To feel okay believing in our own choices.

What’s that whole phrase: If you teach a man to fish?

I think the only thing that saved me was becoming independent so early on in life. I was forced to decide for myself; to form an opinion and trust it. To trust myself. To throw myself into something and hope for the best. To trial and error LIFE.

But what about the people who don’t need to trial and error anything for themselves, because they’re being told exactly what to do? What about the young people growing up in a modern world that demands originality, but who are still being taught to be replicas?

We don’t need teachers who can grow test scores; we need MENTORS who can grow HUMANS. Knowing information doesn’t do you any good if you don't know how to apply it. If you don’t have an opinion about it within the context of your world. It’s the opinion that makes something meaningful.

Fortunately, there’s always time. It’s never too late to step into the ring. To decide whether or not you’re the kind of person who likes to cook or blog. (Not that the two are always mutually exclusive, ahem.) To cut your hair and decide what YOU think. To form opinions and voice them. To experiment and play and frolic in the world, and let it change you. Pregnant or not. Old or young. Wild or tame.

To trial and error LIFE.

And to become the kind of woman that’s so textured and nuanced and interesting, it’s impossible to put her into a box.

Because Google can tell you how to measure flour, but it can never tell you who you are.

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