Screw It, I’m Going Full Tradwife
I have talked about the same influencer for three therapy sessions in a row. We’re both graduates of the same small liberal arts school, and looking at her Instagram feels like I’m seeing something I’m not supposed to. While I knew her (admittedly from afar) as a philosophy student roughly the same shape and make as all the other undergrads, she ended up shedding any pretense of that in favor of life as a homesteading, apron-wearing, Bible-verse-quoting mother who I’d assume didn’t even have working electricity, were it not for the fact that she posts all this from her phone to 30,000 followers.
I mean the term “shedding” quite literally. One of her Instagram captions (I’ve read nearly all of them) references her years at our shared alma mater and explains that she spent the period after purposefully unlearning everything from there—which makes me wince when I remember that at that time tuition was roughly $56,000 a year. She traded a mind filled with theories and arguments for a quiet one that thinks of nothing but “fall and its sweet and spicy breezes.”
But God, doesn’t that sound incredible? The over four thousand people who liked the photo must think so, too.
I have had a hard time adjusting to the pandemic. I don’t know how to say it any other way, but I do not feel good reading news about politics. It gives me stomach aches, chest rashes, paralyzing anxiety, unexpected tears in the middle of conversations. And then I berate myself for feeling upset—you may remember I went to a school that was $56,000 a year. I am white. I’m employed. I’m not the demographic of almost any of the atrocities (eviction, inability to pay medical bills or buy food, violent and nonviolent race-based discrimination) I’m protesting. So on top of the paralyzing anxiety I hate myself for having the audacity to have paralyzing anxiety and I just don’t know how to do enough for myself or for other people and it feels like saying any of this is wrong and there’s a Twitter troll ready to pounce on me and then suddenly I think fuck it—I’m going tradwife.
The women themselves refer to this as a slower, quieter way of life. To me it feels like the last remaining card I have to play.
The term tradwife—meaning traditional wife—was dissected in The Guardian this January. It’s the name for a housewife who broadcasts her domesticity and adherence to traditional gender roles on social media. I now follow tons of women like this. Her content is wholesome and slow. She bakes bread and picks vegetables from the garden that she carries back to the house in a woven basket. Her children wear bonnets and were homeschooled before the pandemic made it a safety precaution. They love Laura Ingalls Wilder and Anne of Green Gables and, for some reason, beeswax candles.
The women themselves refer to this as a slower, quieter way of life. To me it feels like the last remaining card I have to play. I’ve gone through all the normal coping mechanisms. I volunteered. I donated. I changed jobs. Changed apartments. Started exercising regularly. This morning I drank hot water with lemon in it. I’ve even started doing tradwife things: growing herbs in my windowsill, knitting a pair of socks, making sourdough bread. And yet? Donald Trump is still president, we’re still in a pandemic. What if I just opt out? What if just disappear and one day someone finds me upstate, married to a man named Ezekiel, and I have no idea who’s president and don’t care that I can’t go to a movie theater or meet my friends at a restaurant or literally go anywhere because I have a chicken pot pie in the oven and three babies to bathe?
The conversation with my therapist turns, as it almost always does, to capitalism. She rightfully points out that this is not an escape from capitalism—that giving up my own bodily autonomy in exchange for peace is not actually freedom. I will be frustrated that the house me and Ezekiel lovingly restored does not have fast WiFi. While I may have a picket fence and gourds from the garden, the house next to me will have a Honda Civic and plastic Halloween decorations that cover their entire lawn and a “Biden/Harris” sign in their front yard (optimistically). 2020 will still be all around me. There’s no such thing as opting out.
And it would be selfish to. I know this. We all have a responsibility to do our part and I know no one is asking me to fix everything, just the things I can. So I’ll try. During these last weeks of October, though, with the election looming, I’m indulging in one last tradwife tendency. I have a satchel of seed garlic to plant on my roof. You put each clove a few inches apart in compost. You cover it with mulch or hay to keep it warm through winter. In the spring, you start caring for it. In July, it emerges. If we're lucky, it might just enter a whole new world.