How to Sew a Button
How to Sew a Button

I am Not June Cleaver*

*not that there’s anything wrong with that

Last week, I was lucky enough to be invited on The Today Show to talk about How to Sew a Button and demonstrate some of the simpler tips in the book, which were previously excerpted in Self magazine in a story cleverly called, “Learn to Dance and Eight Other Things Every Woman Needs to Know.” SELF’s editor-in-chief, Lucy Danziger, presented with me. In case you missed it, here’s the segment. (Notice how I’m wringing my hands in the beginning. Nope, not nervous at all.)

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It all went so quickly, but I had so much fun! I even got to hang out with the lovely Ann Curry for a little while after my bit. (Also, got to say hi to the other hosts, Matt, Al and Natalie, too!) When I got back home, my Sweetie took me out for a delicious champagne brunch. (I’m so lucky!)


I had emails from old friends from high school and college, who found me on Facebook. My Twitter friends were so happy for me. And then, I noticed a few tweets that honestly sort of surprised me. They said, “GE/NBC’s @todayshow wants 1950’s gender roles – ‘9 things every woman should know.’” Wha? Really? beaver

I guess I need to address this, even though I’m more of a learn-it-do-it-enjoy-it type, rather than a talk-about-it type. So, here goes: There are 110 tips in my book, including everything from how to make a pie to how to brew your own beer, from how to speak out at a town hall meeting to how to build a fire, from how to dance a waltz to how to defend yourself from danger. Yes, I firmly believe that women could benefit from knowing how to do all of these things. And you know what? Men could, too.

One of the grandmothers I interviewed for the book, Lucile Frisbee, told me something interesting. She said, “During the Depression, there was no men’s work or women’s work. There was just work, and anybody who was around was expected to chip in.” When the laundry needed to be done, whoever was available did it. When the fire needed to be stoked, whoever happened to be closest to the wood pile would split the logs. They knew how to do these things because their lives (or, at least, the quality of their lives) depended on it. I sensed from my interviews that the gender divide–and the subsequent devaluing of so-called “women’s work”–came a little later. And, evidently, it still persists. If there were really a sense that “women’s work” was as valuable as men’s, would we even be having this discussion?

Equality stems from having the ability to make free choices in your life. Learning a new skill, whether it’s sewing a button, unclogging a drain or learning how to negotiate a better price, can only empower you, right?

Anyway, I think I’ll leave this discussion to the theorists. I’m going to go bake a pie, or maybe hang some drywall, or go snowboarding, or whatever the heck I feel like doing. I hope you all do whatever you want to do, too!



6 Responses to “I am Not June Cleaver*”

  1. Well said!

    I’ve had a few people make snotty comments to me about my love of sewing – as if I was setting the womens lib back in time. Umm, I also own a chain saw. We’ve come so far, that we should be allowed to do what we love, because we love it…not because of our gender.

    Some people just live to bitch & moan.

  2. Condo Blues says:

    Sewing is a matter of survival for me. I’m short and all of my clothes have to be shortened or altered in some way since I was a kid. It’s in my best interest to learn how to do that myself and to my liking because I’m picky. How is that 1950’s thinking?

    I get the opposite reaction when some women find out that I do all of the home improvement and fix it stuff around the house. I like to do it and I’m good at it. I often get this vibe from women that what I should be doing is nag my husband to do it for me. How is that forward thinking?

  3. Love this post! Well said. As the mother of two little boys, I find the gender divide in play as frustrating as it is in work, and as silly. Thanks for speaking up for the value of having skills–all kinds!

  4. karen says:

    I just posted my review of your great book and even though I know how to do most of the things in the book ( I didn’t know there were 110!! Wow – even more impressive), I didn’t think they were for just women. My hubby is going to can his fresh tomato sauce according to your instructions next summer!! I think your book is a life skill book – aka. “Life Lessons for Dummies – that men and women should learn. I am planning to give the book to my son and my daughter, just in case they forget what I taught them – or for their spouses when they get married.

    Those critics are jealous because they are spending way too much money for other people to do those things for them.

    Now off to unclog the toilet. Really.

  5. Michelle says:

    Thank you for such a wonderful post! I whole-heartedly agree with you. @Elizabeth, I, too, and constantly frustrated with imposed gender divisions in play. My son LOVES his cooking toys and his doll, while my daughter is happiest with her truck. I don’t think there is anything wrong with this. Men will one day have homes and/or children, and women will one day drive – how are the playing at skills outside expectations for their gender?

  6. Annette W says:

    Isn’t it great when the work just gets done…and everyone is thankful that it’s completed?

    I just learned of you and this book tonight. I have to say I am thrilled that someone…you…have put together some wonderful thoughts with respect to lost “arts.”

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