Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Feminism and cooking, part 2

[Alternative title]: I am just like my mother (or not?)

It's been a while since I lasted posted, and I am sorry for that. I was too busy averting crises, or at least trying to (my failure rating is quite amazing these days!), so I didn't really have a moment of peace to thing about things. However, today is the day. And after the previous, painfully long and quite general post about feminism, today it gets personal.

It is commonly accepted that each generation is more progressive and innovating that the last one. If we think about it, we are far more progressive than our mothers. More open-minded, more ready to accept new and different things. Umm... no. In my case, things went kind of backwards.

First of all, my parents had me when they were both 20 years old. As you probably can imagine, no, they didn't get married at 16, so it wasn't a "well thought" and "mature" decision to have a child. I sort of happened - unexpectedly. At an age when they were both unprepared to raise a child, and while they were both studying at university.

Luckily for me, my parents rose up to the challenge. It wasn't easy, of course, but that is another story. Due to the young age of my parents, however, and the fact that they were also highly active in terms of political participation at the university, I was raised up in a quite "unorthodox" way. Instead of taking a nap in my crib, for example, I got to used to sleeping in student amphitheaters, "witnessing" discussions, student elections and quarrels between different political parties. I became sort of the year's "mascot" and, whenever my parents didn't have time to take care of me, I had the rest of the students babysit me in rotation. I learnt how to read at the age of 3, and could sing baby songs and political ones at an equal ratio.

I am sure all of this helped me in the end. It made me more sociable (being around so many people), good in communication, and easily adaptable to different situations. Even today, I can't relate to people having "difficult" children, who are very picky eaters, or very particular about their needs. Having two parents with no income, any food tasted good, and any place could be transformed to a sleeping place. Most of all, I didn't feel neglected - not a tiny bit. I felt right there, in the center of attention, being part of all the fun - even if fun included hundreds of people disagreeing about stuff I couldn't quite comprehend. I didn't care - it just felt good being with my parents.

After being raised in such an uncommon way, my parents expected that I became an extraordinary person, to say the least. Extremely cultured, liberal in my political views, a feminist, an atheist, not a teeny bit religious or conservative. After all, how could I be? I never had a traditional upbringing, or a conservative background.

Unluckily for them, I share a lot of their views, but have some of my own as well. No, by no means I consider myself to be a conservative person. However, though not religious, for example, I am highly spiritual. I do think that there is a greater force out there, that keeps the whole universe in balance. I don't want to label this force, but I believe in it. Also, I strongly believe in feminism, but not to the point that women insult the other sex and try to take over their roles. And, last but not least, (and I am finally getting to the topic of my post) unlike my mother, I enjoy cooking.

In my parents' house, cooking was a chore, a necessity, something that reasonable people are obliged to do and nothing more. Also, being a part of the household routine, it was something a sane woman would try to avoid. The point was to get out of the kitchen, not go inside! As well as this, eating was merely for satisfying a biological need, that had to be met and then be done with it. No, I would be unfair to say that me and my brother and sister grew up on fast food. But we grew up with quick meals that took place in a hurry, in order to attend to more important things later.

Well, I strongly disagree with all the above. Cooking is not just for getting the stomach full. Cooking is a way of relaxing, having some time to oneself, leaving the imagination loose, trying to conquer unknown kingdoms. It is a way of getting the creative juices flowing, and getting rid of the day's tension and troubles. But the miracle doesn't stop there: Hopefully, something good will come out of this enjoyable process, something that will make the people we love happy and amazed. One more token of our love and affection, one more way to show that we care. And even if everything tastes disgusting in the end, it will still be something to laugh about later. Yes, cooking is remarkable indeed.

But, no matter how hard I try, my parents will never ever understand that. To them, it will always be just a waste of time. Or worse. Because to my mother, a devoted feminist, it is a form of submission. As a result, every time they call me in the middle of my "food creating process" and ask me what I have been up to, their standard response to my answer is a sigh of disapproval. Sometimes, I swear it does feel like doing something illegal!

So, sorry mom, I am not like you. But please, do not worry. I know my rights, and cooking is not gonna make me quit them. LOL You didn't raise no fool. But you didn't raise no identical copy of yours, either.

I really wish you could understand me sometimes. Not only in the matter of cooking, but in all those things that bring us apart. All those things that make you shrug your shoulders and wonder how it is possible that this apple came from your tree. But, at some matters, I have just given up hope.

I am nothing like you. But my mirror says otherwise. My mood swings say otherwise. My partner says otherwise. LOL And the way I get passionate about things, and extremely emotional and spontaneous, actually does remind me of somebody I know very well...

Friday, January 23, 2009

Feminists and cooking, part 1

"Feminism" and "cooking". Two words that don't seem to belong in the same sentence, right? I dare say: Wrong! One of my favourite hobbies (and, strangely, the one that seems to irritate my friends the most), is to try and break down stereotypes. Well founded, long established stereotypes. But, if I want to have at least a minimal chance of achieving this extremely ambitious goal, we have to go back to basics: We know what "cooking" is - even the most inexperienced of us, have a faint idea. But what is "feminism"? And why what started as a political movement, ended up being a bitter story that nobody touches?
I don't want to trouble you with all the boring historical facts. But, in a sentence, feminism started as an effort to establish women's right to vote, and generally be equal with men, in terms of political participation, social status and property. No sane person argues with the above, right?

So, every time we are able to cast a vote, whether it is the same as our husband's or not, we have "those bloody feminists" to thank for. Every time we are out there getting a job or a promotion, earning our own money, reporting sexual harassment and being protected by the law, we have to remember the ones that made it all possible for us. Women who had the guts to stand up for themselves and fight for something that, all of us, take for granted in modern times: That all people, women included, are equal.

Unfortunately, some feminist parties, took things a little (or a lot) further. Somehow, being equal didn't seem quite enough. The next goal was both a foolish, and an impossible one: Women wouldn't just be equal to men, but one and the same.

Well, guess what? We are NOT one and the same. We don't think alike, we don't act alike, and we don't look alike. We are different and unique. Each one has different strong points and weaknesses, and different roles to play. And as long as these different roles are not established, women and men end up fighting for the same ones. And it all comes down to this same ol', same ol' story: Who has the upper hand?

This ruthless fight for the upper hand that takes places in modern societies, creates monsters: Supposedly strong, overly ambitious and incredibly close-minded women on the one hand, confused, deceived, intimidated and emasculated men on the other. And, at the end of the day, they are both one and the same - lonely people who are tired of being lonely, wondering where the other sex has gone. Looking for affection and human contact, tired of fighting, but compelled to do so.

In my generation, women were told to be strong, independent, to have a life outside their home, to fight for a carreer and social status. Well, most ended up in their thirties, still trying for this promotion, still working more than their male colleagues, still being paid less. Still going out to bars with their girlfriends after work and wondering "why have all men disappeared". And, despite their strong feminist views, still feeling the urge to have children and watching time pass by, only to wake up one day and discover it is too late. And the few "lucky" ones that realise their need for motherhood early enough and get to have a family, find themselves forced to be cut in pieces: Having to be succesful businesswomen as well as affectionate mothers, dedicated housewives, and caring partners. Juggling work meetings with chidren's school projects, household chores and relationship crises. Running all day, but still having one moment or two in their busy days to realise the awkard truth: That feminism wasn't such a bargain after all. Somehow, instead of being freed, they ended up with more responsibilities and obligations than ever.

But men of my generation are not in a better position either. Their mothers raised them as princes, being at their beck and call, everything ready, all wishes granted. They never had to worry about anything, all was provided. Sadly, they discovered that their wives-to-be looked nothing like their mothers. Suddenly, the princes became despised frogs. For the first time in their lives, they were demanded to do something by themselves. And, of course, they couldn't - didn't know how, never learnt. After this, they, who supposedly "could have the world laid in front of their feet", as their mommies had told them, were declared incapable and useless by their potential princesses, and unworthy of their valuable time. In one word, they were incapacitated.

So, what do we do now? Continue our miserable lonely lives, or go back to the Dark Ages? Neither. Feminism was a start, a great start in fact. But men and women should learn to embrace not only their equality, but also their uniqueness. And try to cope with this transitional phase in modern societies, with more understanding for the other sex. It won't be easy, but it is not half as difficult as the alternative: Living alone, with no one to share life's troubles and joys with, engaged in a fight with no winners. It's not really a dilemma, is it?

[Due to the great size of the post and the late hour, more thoughts about feminism and cooking tomorrow... Good night, everybody!]

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Crazy cat lady may not be crazy after all...

Most of us have pets. Whether it is a sweet lab, a terrifying tarantula or a weird iguana, we have chosen them for a reason, welcomed them in our home and are (hopefully) stuck with them for a lifetime (our own or theirs, depending on their life expectancy). We are obliged to keep them safe and healthy, feed them, give them affection.

Then, for some of us, they become more than pets. They are actual family members. It may sound like quite a stretch, but if we come to think of it, they are not unlike children: Unable to take care of themselves, and dependent on us for doing so. With one big difference: Our children gradually grow up and, day after day, become more independent. Our pets do not. They will always need us. Once they are domesticated and their way of life is changed, they become less capable of making it "out there". So, if you do the math, they are actually more needy than children.

There are those who think that pet lovers are kind of obsessed and lonely people. Our very own picture of sheer loneliness is that of an old lady with 87 cats or more, running around in the house and taking over the furniture. I respectfully disagree with this stereotype. Of course, having no or little contact with human beings shows that one is lonely. But it does not prove that he/she is crazy or obsessed. Maybe he/she is just disappointed and got hurt in the past from certain people, and is now afraid to start new relationships. Maybe he/she simply got unlucky in life, and lost some loved ones along the way. Either way, that person is trying to find in animals, what he/she couldn't find in people: Innocence, sincerity and affection. Personally, whenever I come across such a person in life, I put my stereotypes in a locked closet, where they belong. And I try to reach out, rather than shut out.

But you don't have to live alone with a small zoo to be judged as weird and obsessed. Even people with big families and lots of children are kind of looked down on, when they refer to their pets as their "furry kids". Something HAS to be wrong with them, right? Somehow, they are unable to make the distinction between humans and animals, to recognise the first as important, and the latter as expendable, as "they ought to". I myself have experienced this many times, with Phoebs, our dog.

"Don't worry, mom, let them say whatever they want"

Well, let me tell you something: I personally admire and feel humbled by the miracle of life in all forms possible. When I will have children, I imagine that, as every parent, I will do my absolute best to keep them safe and happy. This is not so much of a choice, as it is a given fact. It is the unmistakable primal instict all animals on this planet share, in order to protect the weaker, younger members of their community. Nonetheless, I will by no means consider my pets "expendable".

So, no matter how many times I will be frowned on, I will continue to regard Phoebs as part of our family. Because, after all, when I think of family, two words come into mind: "Unconditional love". And I see that every day with Phoebs. I see that in the way she jumps on us when we come home, her little tail shaking with joy and enthusiasm. In the way she falls asleep in my lap, having total confidence in me to keep her safe. In the way she HAS to come and greet us every morning, or follows us whenever we leave the room. Every single day, no matter what, she loves us. Unconditionally.

"I love you a lot... But I love my bone, too!"

Friday, January 16, 2009

As unique as everybody else

I keep wondering why I should start a blog. Don't get me wrong, I am not saying I don't want to. I am just not sure what a difference it would make, with so many millions of blogs out there. My life is not so interesting, exciting or revolutionary, nor are my writing skills. I don't have a breathtaking experience to share, one that will amaze people and will have a great impact on their lives.

I am as usual as everybody else. A 24-year old medical graduate from Greece, who lives in Heraklion with her life partner and their small dog, looking for a place to start a residency. This is how I would describe myself, and it would be pretty accurate.

But I keep thinking... I am not the same to everybody else. To my parents, I am their eldest child. To my love, I am a handful! To Phoebs, our dog, I am her favourite sleeping place and the one she is most likely to get a treat from. To my university colleagues, I could be anything, from boring to unusual, competitive or "harmless". To the lady at the supermarket, I am the annoying girl that looks for "exotic" ingredients every week. To the staff at Starbucks, I am the "one tall non-fat latte" and to my patients, I am the chick that is too young to look like a doctor at all!

All those people that I know and have the slightest impact on their lives, good or bad, make me more than just a statistical number. Because, if you think it through, we are not much, unless we interact with others. It is that interaction that gives us those funny little stories to remember, or those great bad moments that we wish we could forget. It is that interaction that fills our lives with memories and meaning.

So, that's why I am starting this blog after all. To share my moments, to read your own, and to create new ones. Unique ones. As unique as everybody else's but still, unique...