Prince William and his girlfriend, branded by the press as 'Waity Katie'
“What is WRONG with women in their twenties?” a 37-year-old single friend asked me over lunch last week. I looked at him blankly. “Um, nothing?” Wrong answer. He put down his fork and took a deep breath. “Look, I’ve been dating twenty-something girls for a while now and I despair that their ultimate goal is to take up life long positions in the home raising children.” “That can’t be right,” I insisted, tucking into my toasted sandwich, “I thought they were all madly ambitious and accumulating degrees.”
“I thought that too!” he exclaimed, throwing up his hands. “But the ones I’ve met just seem to be using the whole uni and career thing as a springboard to meeting appropriate blokes who share their interests. They even want to take my name if we we’re married! Frankly, I’m appalled. The whole Stepford thing doesn’t appeal to me at all.” He looked down at his pasta, shaking his head sadly. “I’m going to have to start dating women my age….well, over thirty anyway.”
I thought about this conversation over the next few days and decided to check the veracity of his claim. Was my friend dating in some weird retro time bubble? Apparently not. The Courier Mail recently declared the Young Domestic Goddess movement an official social phenomenon: “The seductive appeal of cooking, housekeeping and family is increasingly favoured by women tired of pushing the boundaries of the ever-present glass ceiling.”
(Sorry, you lost me at “seductive appeal of housekeeping” but whatever. I’m clearly not the demographic). A couple my friends are in their twenties, both ambitious but equally keen on marriage and babies. They’re not particularly compelled to ‘have it all’, not at the same time anyway. “I have nothing to prove,” said the single 26-year-old. “I love my job but I know I’ll enjoy being a wife and mother too and I imagine it will be just as fulfilling.”
To cast my anecdotal net a bit wider, I decided to Twitter the following questions: “Are women in their 20s really the new Domestic Goddesses? Are marriage/babies more important than career?” Of the hundreds of instant replies, some were stridently opposed (“I’d rather have a life than be a wife”) but the consensus was generally yes. Who knew there were so many 23-year-olds out there baking, crocheting, gardening, marrying, procreating, making their own pasta and having Tupperware parties? I even heard from a few lesbians, or ‘young domestic gay goddesses’ as they called themselves.
But don’t be fooled. These women consider themselves empowered underneath their pink gingham aprons. “It’s more India Hicks or NIgella Lawson than Flo Bjelke Peterson,” explained one 27-year-old mother of two, differentiating herself from the generation of women who had little choice but to subvert their own aspirations to accommodate their husbands’.
These twenty-somethings who aspire to a life resembling their grandmothers’ make a clear distinction: it’s their choice to be domestic. They buy their aprons and their rolling pins with irony, almost like playing pretend. Underlying it is the unshakable conviction that they have complete equality. Not to mention the knowledge that a life dedicated to work can be a little meaningless when your company sacks you. “I saw my workaholic parents miss out on their kids and for what?” one 21-year-old girl Twittered to me. “Loyalty to a company that treated them as expendable? I won’t make that mistake.”
Another woman contacted me to say she blames the young DG movement on Sex & The City. “I work with many girls in their twenties – all educated, funky types – and they say, "we saw those women alone and desperate in their late 30s, and we said to ourselves ‘oh my God, there’s no way I want to be like that.’”
The patron saint of young domestic goddesses may well be Kate Middleton or Waity Katie as the UK media have so patronisingly dubbed her. According to Princess Diana’s biographer, Andrew Morton, there’s a disconcertingly back to the future vibe about Kate’s relationship with Prince William. “With no career to speak of, his girlfriend is a lady in waiting, spending her days grooming and hanging around waiting for her prince to come calling,” he wrote recently for online publication The Daily Beast. “She confided to novelist Kathy Lette during a polo match that she had to concentrate on every play so that she could discuss it with the heir later. Even in her salad days, Diana was never that enthusiastic about the game.”
Morton goes on to compare Kate Middleton with Michelle Obama, another woman famed for her connection to a famous man but who has achieved so much in her own right. “Michelle Obama has it all because she has had to do it all: raise children, hold down an executive job, feed the family, and support her husband. Unlike 27-year-old Kate who he describes as “a young woman whose self-defined role in life [is] accommodating her man. Her mission is to blend in and to conform, to choose the correct wardrobe—demure but flattering—for the three costume changes a day required at Balmoral or Sandringham. Is this then the ultimate ambition for the best and the brightest of her generation—to find and snare a man?”
Gosh, I certainly hope not. Although if it drives single guys like my friend towards women their own age, that’s not entirely a bad thing.