SYDNEY: Chasing domestic dreams

Self-Absorbed

Guy, the Israeli-French hairdresser cutting my bangs, knelt down in front of me. He snip-snipped for a while. Slowly, I regained my vision as the curtain of dark hair rose. He looked deep into my eyes. “Caroline,” said this man who I’d met barely three minutes ago, “tell me your dream.” Snip-snip, snip-snip. I blinked.

SydneyCI felt like Beyoncé at the beginning of “Pretty Hurts.” I expected this to be about a superficial beauty routine. Yet there I sat, forced to consider the tongue-tying question: What is my aspiration in life? Finally, I answered him: “A full table.” Guy did not understand. I tried to rephrase the sentiment in Hebrew and failed. I tried to explain with more words. “You know,” I said, “a full table — family, friends, food.” He remained baffled. I should have just said: “To be happy.”

The thing is, I do want a full table: I have domestic dreams. I really do want the home-cooked three-course meal and the four kids. I want to come home from work to do arts and crafts projects and pack picnics on the weekends. I want my days to end with bedtime stories. Of course I want an interesting, challenging and fulfilling career, but my ambitions also include the full table.

In my life on campus, I aspire to find this full table feeling through homemade dinners in the Sillikitchen and wine and cheese parties in my common room. But as much as I enjoy these occasions, posturing at hominess can border on embarrassing, and hostess with the most-est can sound like another way to say “bad feminist.” Sometimes, when I go to the farmers’ market and joke about wanting to be one of the 30-something women with toddlers, it rings a little too true.

While catching up with a friend at the beginning of the semester, his first question was: “So, have you cooked anything yet?” I told him I hadn’t. He gave me a concerned look. “But you’ve at least gone grocery shopping, right?” Of course, to his relief, I had. I don’t like dining hall granola. It has too much coconut. Okay? I’m sorry.

Given these domestic desires, it should come as no surprise that I signed a lease for an off-campus apartment the week before spring break. And I spent much of my break planning for my new home, reading blog posts about “dining ideas for small spaces.” Over the course of the past (almost) two years in Silliman, I feel I’ve exhausted the common room as social space and dining hall as meal provider. I don’t just want to feel at home, I want to make one. I’m not moving off campus to be more independent, or even to have a single. I’m moving so that I’ll have a kitchen and a kitchen table.

I don’t want my college years to be an island, so I’m trying to figure out the best ways to connect them to the rest of my life. In this process, I’m learning to reconcile the way I want to live now and the way I envision myself living in 10 or 15 years. The full table of my 20s looks different from the full table I envision for my 30s, but that doesn’t mean I can’t start planning ahead. Obviously, my kids and husband don’t have seats right now, but I can still throw together a drug store flower arrangement that won’t look out of place. I won’t have toddlers trailing me when I bring the groceries home from CitySeed, but that doesn’t make the local cheese any less delicious.

At this point, the goal of “having it all” is trite, meaningless and impossible, but aspiring to achieve what one desires is none of the above. At 20, I’m starting to build my full table. Next year at 210 Park St., I’ll have my first opportunity to make a home for my friends.

Caroline Sydney is a sophomore in Silliman College. Contact her at caroline.sydney@yale.edu .

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