Feature Article

A Challenge to Style From The Stylistically Challenged, Part Three: A Not-So-Desperate Non-Housewife

by Justine Manzano


  Welcome to the third and final part of my Definition of Style--dedicated to anyone who has ever been asked if they do dishes. 

A Not-So-Desperate Non-Housewife

     My father wanted me to be a doctor when I grew up.  I never wanted a job that serious.  He used to tell me that my science grades were perfect to be a doctor—it didn’t matter that the sight of blood makes me faint or that medical dramas like “ER” make me cringe.  Those were all things I would get over.  For now, I was meant to pursue science.  Many years later, I can’t help but wonder if it counts that my closest friend is studying to be a nurse.

     I never even pretended to try for a career in any kind of science.  As a matter of fact, my career choices have been a nightmare to fans of stability.  According to a majority of the people I speak to on the topic of me, I am a disaster.

     I’ve already gone through three pseudo-careers in my life and they have all been in the creative realm.  I had been searching for myself and found myself in my writing.  It worked wonders on me—it changed me completely.  My nay-sayers are still not entirely convinced.  “You work in a law firm.  Have you ever thought of becoming a paralegal?”  I have been asked.  It takes all of my power not to answer a question like that with, “Yes, I have, and then I vomited all over all of the boxes of paper I would be pushing around for all eternity.  Now they won’t let me.”  Creativity is the thing for me and I go with my heart, even when the rest of the world thinks they are going with their brains.  What they are really going with is their sense of self-doubt. 

     So, as two writers with steady jobs on the side, my husband and I prosper and enjoy our pseudo-Bohemian life.  We live like bachelors in our very pretty Bronx apartment with our two cats.  When the apartment is spotless, it looks like a happy homemaker’s dream.  Or, at least I think so.  It has been so long, I can’t seem to remember.

     I have been married since I was eighteen (another choice others have deemed foolish, but this one I won’t even dignify with a response as five years later, I couldn’t be happier).  Because I am married, I sometimes confront the strange anomaly of somebody asking me how much garlic they should put in their meatballs.  I always shrug.  I explain that I have no idea.  I don’t cook.  My personal food critic gasps.  “Does your husband cook?”  She asks in that way that shows you that she is already disgusted with you.  I explain that he does cook a couple of things, but we aren’t home much so, mostly, we just eat take out.  This tends to illicit a reaction that never ceases to amaze me.  “What an improper match!  Someone has to cook!”  Her eyes tell me she means I have to cook.  I can’t help my angry response. 

     I am the anti-housewife.  I love my home life exactly the way it is—messy and disorganized and completely telling of who I am.  A career-driven, community involved woman who has no time for niceties because she is too busy being nice.  My husband and I are not an “improper match” for the simple fact that he has always understood that he did not marry Betty Crocker or June Cleaver, but Justine Manzano, for better or for worse.

     Plus, marriages are based on love, last I checked, and not on the ability to swap recipes. 

The Challenge

     What is style?  Most people believe it is to be within fashion’s box, to always look good and ready for any battle, to conform.  But my style is my own.  Fun loving, artistic and comfortable, I am considered stylistically challenged because I don’t care for designers or rules.  So my challenge to style is to become something else—to become what I’ve always considered to be true style.  Being yourself and looking cute and comfortable doing it is something that most people wouldn’t define as style, but to me, it is the one and only true definition of what it means to be stylish.   

     Finally, I'd like to dedicate this commentary to the memory of Ruth Jackson, a friend, and a mother of a friend who always had a sense of humor, and never asked me why I didn't cook.  We will miss you. 

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