Early on in my marriage, one of my new family members said to me, “One day, you will be domesticated.”
Now, I’m American by birth, and I’d married into an English family. I knew this phrase must mean something different from what it seemed to mean to me. This well-meaning relative must have meant I’d learn how to cook and clean better, how to be a good mom and wife. Still, my hackles rose.
To me, the word “domesticated” meant “tamed”.
For an Aquarian Fire-Horse like me, the most freedom-loving of all creatures, this idea was, well, not terrifying, but somehow unlikely. Me, tamed? Ha! Me, of the wild dreams, of the adventure sports – me, who was sure I’d never have kids. Me, who didn’t even have a kitchen in my New York apartment, just a hot plate, and lots of deli options. Me, who sang songs of liberty at the top of my voice in the shower…
For five years, I’ve lived in the suburbs in Melbourne, Australia, with my young children, two cats, and a loving husband. I’ve learned how to cook and clean, how to parent, how to garden. I’ve examined myself up against the sound images of some strong domestic role models, friends, woman who I turn to when I don’t know how to do things like, “cream the butter and the sugar together”. During this time, I’ve thought often of my own mother, and her path in life as an executive assistant in one of the largest New York City ad agencies – she never learned to cook. And I’m sure being “domesticated” never even occurred to her.
As a woman, there is a fine line between being domestic/domesticated and being tamed. Wait. I’ve got that wrong. It is not a fine line. It is a big, fat broad line. I’ve discovered this line is so broad, we can run trails along it, waving our hands freely in the air, and singing our favorite songs. We can be domestic, without being domesticated.
This morning in the gym, while lifting weights, I heard that phrase again, in a rap song on the radio. The rapper was Robin Thicke and the phrase, “…tried to domesticate you, but you’re an animal…”…
I know, I’m a Bon Jovi girl really, but that phrase, as I bench-pressed my twenty-pound dumbbells, followed up with a set of push ups, and a set of triceps extension with that same twenty-pound dumbbell – well, it was kind of perfect. “Tried to domesticate you…”
And failed. I am nowhere near domesticated.
Last week, in that same gym, I was the sole woman in the free weights area at 10 am on a Monday morning, and I was surrounded by young men from a footy team working out. I had to fight hard not to feel intimidated by the overwhelming testosterone, to know that I too belonged there in that world of steel and muscles. To be tamed would mean this area no longer belonged to me; I stayed.
This morning, when the rapper was singing, I was in the free weights area with just one other woman nearby, and I could listen to the words, and reflect on them.
“Tried to domesticate you…”
It is the passivity in the phrase that gets to me – the idea that someone or something else is taming us. For the stray cats among us women, for us with holes in our jeans torn from climbing trees, for the ones without makeup, for the rebels, it is essential that we remain untamed, even in the suburbs, even in the boundaries of our own homes. I’ve learned to cook from YouTube videos rather than a cooking class, and I’ve shied away from any attempt by friends or family to tell me the “right” way to be a woman, a mom, a homeowner. We all find our own way; I love having a home and a family, but I am sure I’ll never be tamed.
Running, long-distance running, ultra-running, is, for me, the ultimate act of “anti-domestication”. Out in the woods, it is just me and my backpack, for hours and hours, all alone. My only fuel, little packets of GU gel and salt tablets, the mud my best friend.
There, the idea of being tamed does not occur to me. I sing the Savage Garden Animal Song loudly as I run:
“…Cause I want to live like animals
Careless and free like animals
I want to live
I want to run through the jungle
the wind in my hair and the sand at my feet…”
Domestication, bah. Now I’m off to make my children dinner. Wild and free.