A few weeks ago, I decided that I would put my suite’s kitchen to use and make myself a culinary classic a grilled cheese sandwich.
The result of these best-intentioned efforts, however, turned out not to be a golden brown and melty sandwich, but rather billows of smoke, a burnt table cloth, a ruined pan, a blaring fire alarm, disgruntled neighbors and axe-wielding firemen.
While I laughed the episode off to my roommates, I have to admit that the entire affair sent me into something of a crisis. I called my mother and lamented my complete and utter lack of domestic talent, street smarts and common sense (I may or may not have cried).
While I may be pretty good at schoolwork, I have always found simple chores and day-to-day domestic skills more than a little daunting. I have lost more of my belongings than I care to count.
I just recently learned that whites and darks should be separated in the wash. And, worst of all, I am such a bad cook that even boiling water seems like more than I can handle.
As I commiserated with my peers about my many failings, I realized that perhaps my problem is not limited to myself, but may be fairly widespread among college students.
It occurred to me that these gaps in common sense and practical skills are not actually mental deficiencies but the result of over-dependence on parents and other enablers.
The merit of this theory was made clear when one of my roommates admitted to me that she was hoping to avoid doing any laundry for the entire semester.
I began to think about all of the people in my life who I have used to avoid taking care of myself. My mother is an incredible cook whom, if begged just right, can usually be convinced to make even the simplest snack.
Over the summer I lucked into befriending someone who would see me in despair over my dinner each night and end up whipping me up some amazing meal.
I threw my clothes in with another one of my roommate’s laundry the other day and had them returned to me folded neatly in a pile. And whenever I drive anywhere, I ask my passengers at every turn, ‘Now which way?”
While this method of getting things done can be effective, it doesn’t leave one feeling very self-reliant and occasionally it can lead to firemen at your door. I am going to Argentina in a couple months and somehow I have an inkling that getting people to do things for me will be much more difficult in Spanish.
For these reasons, I have finally started to take matters into my own hands. I am determined to gain those real-life, grown-up skills that have eluded me for so long.
Luckily, I have found that acquiring domestic skills is surprisingly similar to acquiring academic skills.
Mainly, you need to read the directions, ask for help if you need it and, most importantly, pay attention to what is going on (like, if your sandwich starts smoking, turn on the fan and turn off the stove).
I’ve already had a few small victories in improving my day-to-day competence: I cooked a delicious (albeit not gourmet) dinner of rice and boca burgers for my friends the other night and didn’t come close to setting off any alarms. I gave someone correct directions to a place downtown. I even set up an online bank account.
While to some these may be insignificant moments, to me, they were almost as great as getting an ‘A.”
Healy is a member of
the class of 2011.