As you probably know, I was raised by wolves, so when I was growing up we never had to clean anything. And I mean anything.
When I was 11 at summer camp I got a rude awakening when Goober, the counselor, told me to sweep the floor. After she saw me sweeping she said:
“Haven’t you ever swept a floor in your life?”
I wanted to say, “No, actually, I haven’t,” but I didn’t want to look like more of a heel than I already was.
That was my first realization that there was a huge body of information out there that most people were privy to but that I had no idea about. Especially in relation to what I still regard as The Great Mystery of Cleaning: its procedures, its products, rituals, and schedule.
I blame my mother, of course. My mom took the women’s libber thing too far. She felt that if you were female, any interest in the kitchen or cleaning meant you were being “subjugated.” We were forbidden to buy her kitchen gadgets, cookbooks, or household items as gifts, so over the years she amassed a small mountain of unopened bottles of Chanel No. 5.
Also, she hired a man <gasp!> – Richard – to clean our house twice a week. She was the only mom who had a male housecleaner, and it was kind of cool. She never said anything to me but I have no doubt that she greatly enjoyed openly toying with deeply ingrained gender stereotypes by having a man do her laundry.
We’d have dinner parties, and afterwards instead of doing the dishes like regular families – we would just leave them for Richard.
My mom taught us how to sunbathe, watch soap operas, swim without getting our hair wet, and how it might actually be possible to live your entire life without ever really having to do the dishes. She taught us other stuff, too, like how to go to college – but she kind of castrated our feminine sides – she handicapped us by making us believe that to be interested in cooking, cleaning, raising your own babies, or decorating was tantamount to well, slavery.
Her point-of-view is understandable when you consider that she was from that generation of women who came out of the Fifties wearing a heavy-artillery push-up bra, that they had to burn in the Sixties, and then in the Seventies – braless or not – they had to try to redefine the female gender.
Now that I’m a mother I’ve got this nagging feeling that there is some basic knowledge I should be passing along to my daughters about Clorox or Oxyclean that I just don’t have. My mother had a huge impact on me, and I could give a shit about mopping a floor, and when I walk down the cleaning supplies aisle at Safeway – I run. But now that I have daughters it really bothers me.
It’s ironic that I have many friends who have cleaning OCD, and I often envy them. One of my friends used to have to make his bed, military style, every day – his dad would check it for creases. He loved coming over to our house where he could relax. But now that he’s an adult, he’s got full-blown OCD. He can only relax if his house is immaculate. His kids eventually developed that washing-your-hands-too-much ritual.
I sometimes envy my OCD friends because their bra drawers are color-coordinated or their spices are alphabetized, but I’d really rather not have OCD, thank you very much. I have enough issues.
like love my house to be clean, and although I seemed to be doing a never-ending load of laundry – no one ever had any clean socks, and the house was never very clean for very long. So last year my husband said:
“You are constantly doing laundry but nobody has any clean clothes. The likelihood of you ever ironing anybody’s underpants is zero. So why give yourself a hard time about it? Let’s hire it out.”
It took me a long time – almost a year – to get my head around the idea because of the guilt. I’m a stay-at-home-mom. I should be better at housekeeping than I am. I should have a favorite brand of toilet cleaner, shouldn’t I? Lemon-scented something? I got over this guilt as soon as I realized that for about the same amount as our monthly dry cleaning bill and the cost of having a once a week house cleaner who doesn’t do laundry or dishes, we could have someone come to the house 3 days a week and eliminate the dry cleaning bill. So now we have someone come and do dishes, laundry, ironing, and help me organize things.
Every time she leaves the house it feels like she has blessed the entire house.
So these days instead of opening my daughters drawers and finding them empty I opened them and see:
I’m telling you – the first time I saw this kind of thing in our house, I nearly had an orgasm.
There are just some things I will never be good at, and house cleaning is one of them.
10 Things I’d Rather Do Than Clean the House
1. Swim with electric eels.
2. Swim with electric eels and stinging jelly fish.
3. Swim with electric eels, stinging jelly fish, and Snooki.
4. Get stuck in an elevator for 10 hours with Kim Kardashian.
5. Attend a Justin Beiber concert with my tween, who h-words him.
6. Get chased and pecked at by a herd of rabid emus.
7. Eat live grub worms.
8. Read Ulysses backwards, in Pig Latin.
9. Wear a burlap sack to one of my husband’s work functions.
10. Get stuck in an elevator with a group of bickering moms from Toddlers and Tiaras, and their toddlers.