I work at a high school in a dateline city in the year 2022, so I’ve gotten very used to sharing my pronouns (she/her) every time I introduce myself.
Although I definitely identify as female, there are times when I feel like an absolute failure of traditional femininity.
Any time I attempt to apply eyeliner, I look like I let a drunk toddler go crazy on my face.
I will almost always order a cheeseburger over a salad.
I don’t know how to French braid.
I do know how to disassemble and reassemble the garbage disposal when it gets clogged.
I only have one purse, and when it broke this weekend, I went to Amazon and reordered the exact same one. It’s not a fancy purse. It’s not a name brand or anything. I spent $40 on it, and that honestly felt extravagant. But I like it because it has pockets where I want pockets.
I don’t particularly like jewelry and wear only my wedding ring most days. (I had pierced ears, but I think they closed up.)
And my nails! Oh, God, my nails are a disaster. I’m a lifelong nail-biter (which is crazy because I’m also incredibly germaphobic), but when I’m anxious – and I’m almost always anxious – I also peel and bite all of the skin around my nails and pick my cuticles till they bleed.
Recently, a friend and I were discussing how stressed we were.
“You can always tell my stress level by looking at my nails and my house,” she said.
“Me too!” I said.
“When my nails are a disaster and my house is immaculate, you know I’m at peak stress,” she went on.
“Oh,” I said, chagrined. “My nails and my house are both a mess when I’m stressed.”
I wish I stress-cleaned. That would be so useful. But I don’t. Instead, I let tumbleweeds of dog hair collect in the corners and toothpaste scum collect in the bathroom sink.
Meanwhile, I’m stress-baking, possibly the opposite of stress-cleaning because it dirties up the kitchen with spilled flour and bits of egg shell and beaters with clumps of dough clinging to them.
Since my dad went into the hospital on Oct. 6, I’ve baked sourdough bread and spice cookies and quiche. I’ve baked olive focaccia and chocolate-orange cupcakes. I’ve baked brownies and cinnamon rolls.
Luckily, working at a high school means there is always an eager audience for these goodies and I don’t have to keep them around to tempt me.
And at least the timing is right for this coping mechanism; I’m not stress-baking in July.
It hasn’t saved my cuticles, but at least I’ve fed a bunch of teenagers along the way.
If you have a favorite stress-baking recipe I should try, please email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.