Playing House.

By Alison February 2, 2006 5 Comments 5 Min Read


Bree disease isn’t something you can have diagnosed by the doctor which is a plain old pity, because I am worried that I’ve got it. I’m worried that I am deceiving myself and deceiving all of you, and more than that I am worried that this is a very, very bad thing…

In the Sunday Times Style magazine last week,  Shane Watson interviewed Marcia Cross  (Bree herself)  and they discussed the possibility that  women like Bree  are more prevalent than we would like to think…

"This struggle to maintain face at all costs is key to Bree’s character; it is what makes her intriguing in a way that none of her fellow  HouseWives are. On the one hand, there  is something 1950’s about  her (those half aprons and eggnog recipes, not to mention the repressed sexuality). And yet, beneath all the cookie baking and counterpane smoothing lies a message that is as true now as it ever was, as Wife Swap reminds us most weeks: there are plenty of women living lives of domestic enslavement, often voluntarily, who have lost sight of who they are and why they are clinging to those routines in the first place.
"Are there women as extreme as Bree out there?" asks Cross. "Absolutely. And they reveal themselves to me, more and more- or their husbands do. There are a lot of women trying to be the perfect everything and trying to hide what they percieve to be there failures." Cross who has a degree in psychology, believes this is the secret of Bree’s popularity. "She hides behind the domestic stuff and being perfectly coiffed. She diverts her feelings into obsessive behaviour and trying to control her exterior world." And on some level we all identify with that.
Obsessive behaviour doesn’t only manifest itself in sparkling kitchen surfaces and cookie presentation baskets. What about the yummy mummy in the 4×4 who runs her family like a military operation? Or the mother who dominates her children’s playtime and insists on them being stimulated every waking moment? Or the woman who waxes twice a month and hasn’t eaten carbs since the last century because she is terrified of losing her looks? And which of us hasn’t forgotten that the recovery of a sick friend is more important than the screwing up of a dinner-party seating plan? Bree is not so much wierder than many of us on a bad day."

And you know what struck me? The very idea that Bree was wierd at all. I have never thought of her as wierd, not when she oozes repressed sadness and tucks her disappointment away in lavender scented drawers. That isn’t wierd. It is the epitome of a woman seething with something she cannot describe and struggling to maintain order  in the face  of all that she cannot control.

We all  do it. Some of us just more than others.

Here in my pink palace I am often accused of hiding behind a facade of loveliness. Of pretending that my life is more scumpious than it is. Of concocting  a  persona of a domestic goddess who simply doesn’t exist.  Of not being real…

In the post below I have described all the scrumptious silly, puttery little things I did last week. While I am happy to tell you I baked mocha cupcakes and parsnip soup, I chose not to mention the many cans of tuna and plain old baked potatoes we consumed. I told you about washing my vintage aprons, but didn’t mention laundering Marks socks or Finleys smelly vests. I described the heavenly couple of hours I spent in the antiques shop, but didn’t bother telling you that I had spent the previous hour in a desperately dull queue at the council offices waiting to pay my rates. I told you I whiled away a cosy afternoon or two watching old movies, but didn’t tell you that Mark and I had an almighty row last saturday night about the fact that all our saturday evenings come to an abrupt halt as soon as Match of the day starts…

I don’t tell you the ugly, boring truth about my life because it is exactly that: ugly and boring and that is not what Brocantehome is all about. But does that mean that I am a liar? Does it make me unreal? A victim of a terminable case of Bree disease? Does it mean that I am pretending that the dull side of my life doesn’t exist to dupe you into believing that my life is immeasurably better than yours??

Of course not. But the whole question of domesticity creates littles fires in the hearts of the most unlikely women. Though there are very few of us who truly do not care about their homes and the lives of those who live in them, we are all too quick to judge those who we consider to be going too far. To satisfy ourselves that we are doing enough and that anything more is not only wierd, but slightly mental and probably not true to boot!

When we dare to raise homemaking to the level of personal art, when we are not willing to acknowledge on a daily basis that housekeeping is sheer drudgery, and when we profess to actually enjoying it for the most part, we are villified and quietly made to feel as if we have abandoned the sisterhood. A sisterhood that only existed in the minds of those searching for a crutch in the first place.  A  sisterhood  made  up of women unwilling to live and let live, in case, oh God forbid, we should see their glaring  insecurities. Easier then to gossip  and bitch then isn’t it? To form allies with other so called real women and slag off the Bree’s and Marthas of this world.

The truth is that Shane Watson is right when she says that there is an element of Bree in all of us: maybe we aren’t taking comfort in homemaking or gin,  but somewhere, on some level we are deceiving ourselves- we are creating elaborate facades to make our world alright. To find solace in the tiny rituals that sustain us, and to erect great big walls between what is and isn’t real. If only to get us through the night.

We are all liars. And there is nothing wrong with that.


  1. No no … not lying at all … For there is such truth in the very essence of the omission of the dull details.
    Oh how bloody boring your site would be if you weighed us down with the mundanities that ALL of us have to endure on a daily basis. We have them. And know that you must surely have them too. The fact that you are choosing to present the stuff in your day that has brought you joy is more evidence of a positive life outlook than representative of negative denial.
    Don't sweat over those who knock you Alison. I, for one, would rather read about the good stuff that comes with the territory of being 'woman' in this day and age … than constant whining about all the bad stuff.

  2. Sara says:

    I agree with Kerry. Presenting the good and the joyful doesn't make you a liar. Who wants to read about the boring details of everyday life, the problems and the mistakes. It's much more interesting to read about those things that make you happy. After all, life is only as 'scrumptious' as you choose to make it.

  3. Teri M. says:

    Amen, sister.

  4. Savannah says:

    Well, what I have to say first is… don't fret another minute about the 40,000 words you lost on your novel. You can sit down and spin out another because you have the "golden gift" of words and, as my gramma said, "a way of putting it" that make your words special. You know how you pick up a book, see a movie, or read the Bible and get something different than you did before? how you talk to someone and they saw something else completely different? How the five men explored the elephant and found him to be so completely different… yeah.. that's how every one of our days goes, don't you think? We have the power to spin it into Gold or leave it as straw, as I think Sarah pointed out. You, dear Alison, are a really fine spinner of gold… but a peek into your "straw" isn't a horrible shock. It made me cry because I just felt that much closer to you. I identify with Bree on the soul level, but I have never been able to pull it all off like her so not so much on the visible level…. Interesting comments though.

  5. Yes. I like the order, the tidy look and the femininity of Bree.
    And not saying or showing something is not lying, it's just not to tell.

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