This first thing you should know is that this piece is not going to go well. The second thing you should know is that it is sort of about kitchenware:
Le Creuset's Signature Enameled Cast Iron 5.5 Qt. Round French Oven: it's actually a Dutch Oven, but so gorgeous I believe the French appropriated it for themselves. It's heavy and beautiful and built to last. The price: $299 and it doesn't ever go on sale, if you know what I mean. (That it doesn't ever go on sale). I would like it in orange.
I could buy it if I wanted to. It's expensive, but I could do it, so long as I was careful that month. I would have to ship it, because it's really heavy and I live in New York City. But there's no doorman so I run the risk no one will be home and I'll get one of those UPS notes that looks like they wrote it while fleeing rabid zombies. I could send it to a friend's office but that's the same as buying it at the store -- it means a taxi and then a serious lift-from-the-knees maneuver up my stairs, since there's no elevator. And even if my neighbor is home, it definitely comes in one of those big square boxes, where "sharing" the load means the person in the back carries 31lbs and the person in front gets the remaining 7 oz.
Before you start nodding off or gossiping about my cast-iron fetish (#metalforever), I have to come clean: this not actually about a pot, even though it kind of is. This is really about being single, childless, and therefore not ever receiving a Le Creuset or a salad spinner or a dream catcher or anything ever as congratulations for having hit one of the marks of adult society.
Fun, right? I can hear the sound of people clicking off to play Trivia Crack. I get it. This is not pretty stuff (especially the dream catcher), and again, stuff itself is both central and a total red herring in this game.
But here goes: At a certain point, you wake up and you have been to many, many weddings and bridal showers and baby showers and life events. If you're lucky like me, you have been able to celebrate a lot of people you love and have not felt you 'had' to marry or have kids. Not that you don't want to, but you don't have to unless and until its right for you (at least the marriage part, we know the baby part comes with all kinds of expiration dates).
Last year the greatest thing in the world happened, which is that I became an aunt. My niece is a complete heavenly genius. My bias and my basic powers of observation tell me this. She is the light of my life.
All of a sudden for the very first time, though, maybe because I was so close to it, I started to feel a crappy sensation, a kind of aggregated awareness of the global penalty of being me -- without husband, without child, without traditional country. I saw signs of my non-ness everywhere, but particularly in the absence of traditions built to support -- literally and figuratively -- these expected steps. There were all these social, religious, community constructs in place to validate people (and their kitchen needs), but not me. No marriage, no vase. If you don't get married, people still love you, but society is not set up to help you.
I started to ask around a bit and the good and bad news is that I am definitely not alone. People shared seemingly limitless petty frustrations and significant worries with me. The themes were common: Not surprisingly, feeling overlooked and even at moments, irrelevant, in their familial and social circles. More unexpectedly, practical worries about fighting over heirlooms if their siblings had partners and families. It makes me wonder if we unconsciously think, what does s/he need heirlooms for? S/he has no progeny, no future.
There's probably no solution to these subterranean indignities and it's also not the end of the world, I get that. I buy into the significance of marriage and children, so why should I expect a broader view from anyone else? I don't actually need any stuff, so why should expect people to start throwing pots and pans at me? (Please don't.) And I know as well as anyone that a ritual does not a good life make. But I can't help but think about the kind of support that these traditions can offer. A baby shower may be terrible 99 percent of the time (AND YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN, PEOPLE) but it can be something powerful, too -- being encircled, being encouraged.
By now, you can probably see why I didn't want to go there in the first place. It's really uncomfortable, people feel attacked, and I have no solution. I have not invented some new ritual for single people (I think that's called doing whatever you want and it is mostly great). But I think we can probably all do better at lifting people up -- I know I can -- even when there's no Paperless Post telling us to. And as for the Le Creuset, I would only say this: Everyone should have the opportunity to make something wonderful: memories, families, stews. So go out and get your literal or figurative French Oven! It ships for free.
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