Lifestyle writing is all about aspiration, which is code for making people envy you and shop accordingly. In our series I Like This Bitch’s Life, the Cut bitterly admits that it’s working.
Naomi Davis, who also goes by the nickname Taza, favors bright colors and bursts of emotion. Her blog reflects these tastes in photographs of her home, of food, of family, of her own face — freckled, usually smiling, with a button nose. Her domestic spaces lack fashionable muted colors and farm-dream wooden countertops; instead, they look approachable, with youthful shapes and colors. Some elements, like a piano Naomi painted banana-yellow, walk the line between delightfully dorky and eye-rolling whimsy — as do the goofy-faced photos of loved ones, open-mouthed over burgers or pointing at baked goods. Her prose is as earnest and wholesome as the milkmaid braids she sometimes wears.
Naomi and her husband, Josh, have been married since 2007, the same year as her blog’s inception. They are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the parents of three young children: Eleanor, Samson, and brand-new Conrad. The Davis family lives in Manhattan, not all that far from where my husband and I live in Brooklyn. But we have little else in common.
I first stumbled upon her blog in 2009, while visiting my parents’ old house, and I read its then-two-year run from start to finish in one night, sitting up in a twin bed. I was 24, about a year older than Naomi, and I had a boyfriend but we didn’t live together and didn’t seem destined to do so anytime soon. He had just quit his job to freelance, and I had two, sometimes three, part-time teaching jobs. Between us, we had six roommates.
Not Naomi, though! When I first discovered her, Naomi was living in D.C. with husband Josh (a banker and a bow-tie fan) and an achingly adorable English bulldog puppy, Kingsley.
Two years before that, the spring of her junior year studying dance at Juilliard, Naomi and Josh had huddled inside a blanket fort while he proposed. That summer, they celebrated their marriage among family in Utah. Naomi wore three-quarter-length sleeves and a veil fastened at the nape of her neck. Josh was clean-shaven, in a slightly too large black suit and crisp white shirt. Naomi (“the only student in the entire school as an undergrad who is married,” she wrote) finished her degree while living in the couple’s first shared apartment, a small studio in Harlem.
In that initial, fervent night of binge-reading, did I scrutinize their decoration choices? You bet I did. (A chalkboard-painted wall, a child’s school desk that, I noted, might be a good space-saver.) If my boyfriend and I were to eventually share a space, it was sure to be just as tiny.
Life tumbled on, and my boyfriend and I did move in together. Naomi expressed remorse over not going on dance auditions in Europe; I hated my jobs. We moved to New York, so did she and Josh.
On the blog, Naomi’s photos went from blurry and inconsistently sized to professionally clear and composed. She experimented with orienting her text on the left, rather than straight down the center. She experimented with the part in her hair, as well as bangs and the lack thereof. Naomi and Josh had babies: Eleanor, and then, about a year later, Samson. While Naomi was pregnant with Samson, I turned 27. At my birthday party, the sink crammed with dishes and empty beer bottles behind us, my boyfriend clutched my hands and said he had something to ask me, something he’d been thinking about a lot because he loved our life together so much. “I was going to do this tomorrow, but I just can’t wait.” He paused to make his smile bigger. “Would you,” he said, eyes shining, “want to get a dog with me?”
Our dog came from a shelter in Connecticut. We decided to get married seven months later.
When Naomi and Josh moved back to New York from D.C., they re-homed Kingsley, who was no longer a small pile of folds but a squat, prehistoric-looking creature. In the announcement post, Naomi called him “my first little baby” and closed the comments. It did seem extremely difficult to have two toddlers, plus a dog, in a city apartment. How would you juggle that — the double stroller, the dog galumphing down the stairs? Kingsley would be happy living near the beach with Josh’s brother, I told myself, and clicked on. I also looked at my dog, curled into a sideways snail on the couch, and thought: Not us, though. Never.
Half a year ago, over drinks with a friend who shares my lifestyle-blog taste, I brought up my pity for Naomi, how she’d given up her dancer dreams and her dog and was now stuck with two kids all day while her husband got to work and interact with adults. “Not so,” my friend pointed out. “Have you seen Josh’s beard? There’s no way he’s still working in finance, if he’s even working at all.” I was stunned. “Oh my God,” I said. “You’re right.”
And she was. A few months later, after an increasing number of suspicious beard photos, Naomi made the official announcement: Josh had left his bank job, and was now helping her raise their children and run her lifestyle blog full-time (as well as vaguely pursuing “entrepreneurial work projects,” including the couple’s 2014 “beautiful mobile community” app, Pippit).
I felt stupid for not realizing how successful Naomi’s blog is. She, not her husband, was financially supporting their lifestyle with her lifestyle blog. As for how much Josh actually helps, though, I can only speculate. And, to be sure, I have. Which ideas are his and which are hers? Did she teach him how to use a camera, or the other way around? How do they juggle child care? Are they happier, now that he doesn’t work long hours in an office? And, most crucially: Did this move mean Naomi was making more money than her banker husband used to?
If the answer to the above question is yes, the same has never been true for my husband and me. Like Naomi, I have moved twice for my husband’s career. In our house, I am the primary cook, the one who makes the vet appointments, the grocery-store-goer. It just makes sense: I don’t commute every day, and my husband works long hours. We both work hard, at our jobs and at home. And after years of keeping score, I think I am finally ready to put down the chalk and set the chalkboard wall on fire.
But I wasn’t always sure I’d even want to feel this way. In the past, I have been very far from graceful or even pleasant about my husband’s career and how it affects my life. Unlike Naomi — at least as far as she tells us. Yet she has emerged as her family’s breadwinner, and, as I’ve found myself thinking more than once, she hadn’t even been trying.
This past December, after Naomi’s third child, Conrad, was born, I could not click fast enough on the nursery pictures. New notes about Naomi’s small-space décor decisions: Somehow, her two toddlers sleep in a room with a crib securely nestled (not crammed) into one corner (still dorky and debatably cute: charmingly uneven stars in the baby’s corner, different-colored knobs on the toddlers’ dresser, itself an electric green-yellow). In January, I turned 30. In June, Naomi will be 29.
For more than half a decade now, I’ve measured Naomi Davis’s growing family against what has turned out to be my own very small one. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I think I first became drawn to Naomi’s blog for what seemed to be the clarity of her existence. Of course she wasn’t straining for a “real career.” Of course she would have her babies before turning 30. Of course she would follow — maybe accompany is a better word — her husband, without any ugly resentment.
Do I want this bitch’s life? Maybe not exactly, maybe not in a way I’m comfortable talking about publicly, but sometimes: sure. I do.