Monday, July 17, 2006

After The First Four Years The Dirt Doesn’t Get Any Worse

My significant other is really, really into comics. And I’m really, really not.

Now here’s a hypothetical: suppose he started complaining because (he said) I haven’t been doing enough to keep the household comic collection in proper shape. “I’m trying to take them out of alphabetical order and move Swamp Thing next to Promethea because it makes more sense that way, and Jennifer’s not doing a thing to help me!”

Truth is (and I don’t mean to sound callous) I don’t care how his comics are organized. He could put them in boxes at random and I would think no less of him as a man.

He feels the same way about my collection of 50-year-old View-Master reels. And I feel the same way about women who complain that their husbands don’t do enough housework.

Where housework is concerned I possess perfect insight into the stereotypical guy mind because mine works the same way: housework, like life itself, is an unwinnable battle against entropy. It’s a battle you must fight anyway, but don't let unnecessary skirmishes sap the strength from your main force.

The key word is unnecessary. If you have kids you should probably clean them as soon as they poop or throw up on themselves. And when you drop food on the floor, cleaning it up is a lot easier than dealing with the resulting bug infestation if you don’t.

But most housework is just hyperventilating into the wrong paper bag. If you must push a few books aside before you sit on the sofa, does this detract from the subsequent sitting? It does not. And so long as you’re conscientious enough to vacuum the spot whenever you knock over an ashtray, over the course of a month or so you’ll wind up vacuuming most of the rug anyway. Make sure you buy one of those hand-held vacuums that plug into the wall.

My significant other, by the way, has very different cleanliness standards. For example, he does most of the laundry because if I still have something clean to wear I just don’t notice details like a dirty-clothes pile that’s grown taller than I am.

Whenever he gets into one of his unaccountable housecleaning moods I usually feel vaguely guilty about relaxing while he’s doing all this work, so I’ll wander around in an attempt to help. But the place always looks fine to me, and I just wind up getting in his way so I retreat into my office until he is done, playing music loud enough to drown out the vacuum cleaner.

Ms. magazine would be appalled by my attitude if I were a man, and explains why in this article, a review of a book called Get To Work: A Manifesto for Women of the World by Linda Hirshman. The book decries those women who gave up lucrative and rewarding careers to raise kids at home, arguing that such behavior degrades women everywhere. That topic is worth a debate in itself, but Ms. takes for granted that its readers agree and uses the review as a springboard to leap into a rant against men who don’t do enough housework:

Once a year Americans celebrate their independence from government tyranny with parades, apple pie, the beach, and family get-togethers. We don’t think too much about personal independence – being free from various mini-tyrannies in our own lives, be they personal or vocational . . . .
. . .Quit taking responsibility for all or most of the housework, the scheduling, the driving, the worrying, or as [Hirshman] puts it, “managing the butter.”
This is good advice. If the “choice” to stay home is so great, why don’t more men choose it? Why is the laundry “women’s work” anyway? Is the floor cleaner because a woman wields the mop? It comes down to our national belief that men own the jobs, and women own the kids and all the clutter of life outside the workplace. As long as we believe this, we’ll never be equals, and equality starts at home.
So this July 4th, ditch the guilt and declare your independence. Read Hirshman’s book with a beer in the backyard while he assembles the picnic, finds the beach towels, gathers up the dog, and makes sure the kids have their flip-flops and sunscreen. And when it’s all over, sit back and enjoy the game while he unloads the car, launders those beach towels, bathes the kids, and checks on overdue homework.

Whose idea was this picnic? If the man really wants it he’ll make sure it happens. If it’s your idea, what gives you the right to insist he do it? And if your kids got in trouble for overdue homework a few times, maybe they’d learn more from that than they do from you hovering over them.


Anonymous Jeff said...

For the record, I do keep them most of them in boxes randomly. I am also an emotional wreck because, after 75 issues, Lucifer came to an end, effectively closing off the Sandman Universe. But Red Star, Elephantmen, and Scarlet Traces are all back, so that helps...a little...OH YOU JUST DON"T UNDERSTAND!

4:38 AM  
Blogger Robert said...

I try to live by a few simple rules:

(1) If you made the mess, you clean it up.

(2) If you think it's messy, you clean it up.

(3) If I don't think it's messy, it's not my problem.

I live by these rules with varying degrees of success, depending on my wife's mood at the time...

5:23 AM  
Blogger rhhardin said...

The stereotypical guy mind does not vacuum the carpet monthly, or ever.

I have dust bunnies that have been growing for 20 years. (``I wonder how big it will get.'') They're libration points, where natural air currents with horizontal convergence head upwards, leaving, on the average, bits of dust bunny behind.

Women take possession of the cleanliness of the house, in that they're the ones who say when it's clean enough.

Guys as so far more tolerant of junk that it doesn't often come up.

Okay, I clean up dust bunnies when I get a puppy, in puppy-proofing the house, which happens once every Doberman lifespan, many years. Then, for a while, there are accident cleanups; but as far as cleanliness goes, guys feel it strenghtens their immune system.

12:53 PM  
Anonymous pigwiggle said...

I clean, do all the cooking, manage the money, resolve the minutia. I do it because it needs to be done and my wife works nonstop. We are both busy professionals, but my wife more so (medical resident). However, sometime in the not to distant future we will be able to afford a maid. Good lord, I can’t wait.

2:13 PM  
Anonymous NoStar said...

At home I'm a slob at least in my personal space. On my boat, I am almost a neatnik. Necessity is a Mother. And as I plan to live on the boat, I'm sure my Felix side will overtake my internal Oscar.

When it happens, I hope I come off more like Jack Lemmon and not Tony Randall.

3:32 PM  
Anonymous Wild Pegasus said...

I was once pretty slovenly, but I found that my health improved if I dusted and ran the vacuum once a week. In a bachelor pad, that's a whopping 20 minutes of work. That's a pretty small investment to dampen my allergies considerably.

- Josh

6:41 PM  
Blogger Kitty said...

I agree with you on the Ms. article, it really was whiny. That said, I would like to weigh in on the side of resentful, whining spouses everywhere. It makes a huge difference if one person gets stuck with all of the scutwork, especially in areas that benefit both people. My husband is pretty good about sharing the load, which, with two sons, is considerable. And we have a maid service. (You will notice that I never have an opinion about immigration; glass houses and all that.) Still, I have friends where she does all the laundry and dishes, even though he wears half the clothes and eats half the food on half the dishes. She has a job just as difficult and time consuming as his is, but he's become a domestic freeloader. I think that's the point that the Ms. article should have made: it's not fair for one person to freeload just because he possesses a Y chromosome. If he makes part of the mess, he should clean it.

Finally, credit where credit is due, my husband is really good about housework. If could just train him to put his soda cans in the recycling bin, we'd be golden.

8:25 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Kitty, I agree with you about things like the dishwashing. But as for the laundry--I'm the type of person that if I were your friend, I would take the extra effort to remove my husband's clothes from the pile before washing my own, and when he says something like "Honey, I'm out of underwear!" I'd respond "that's all right, dear, we have plenty of detergent for you to wash some."

6:01 AM  
Anonymous Warren said...

Oh my deary me. I wouldn't have guessed that the babe was harboring so much pig pride. You know, the more of your stuff I read Jennifer, the less respect I have. I'm sure the feeling is mutual.

11:06 AM  
Anonymous NoStar said...

Alone or partnered, I do my own laundry. I like my clothes hung up fresh from the dryer and when other people do it, they are too slow abd shirts and pants get wrinkled. I'll throw in a load of towels when I'm done with my own stuff.

When alone, I leave the toilet seat up. I use it more in that position. When partnered, I leave it down, primarily because I can't help laughing when someone doesn't check first and shrieks when her butt hits the cold water. This can cause a break up and I do like being in a relationship.

11:27 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:35 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Just to clarify, NoStar: the main reason I don't do much laundry is because of the way our laundry room is set up. You have to open the window (behind the machines) to put the dryer hose-vent through it, and turn various faucets and things on the wall. For Jeff to do this is very simple: he leans over the machine, opens the window, turns on the faucet and does whatever else needs doing.

For me, though, I have to climb on top of the machine (being very careful to avoid the parts that can be dented), and balance myself in a rather dangerous way to get the water faucets on or off. So it's a very sensible division of labor: the tall one does what comes easily to him but dangerously to his short girlfriend.

11:36 AM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Just so nobody thinks I'm turning into one of those censor-moderators: the "deleted comment" was my own, only I'd make some mistakes in it. The corrected version appeared right below.

11:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If my partner wants the house to be clean, he can either clean it or get a job and pay for his half of a maid. I work full time, pay all the bills, and do all of the cooking and grocery shopping by myself.

3:18 PM  
Anonymous stevo darkly said...

Only tangentially on-topic, but I've been wanting an excuse to post this item from The Onion:

Who's Going to Clean Up This Romantic Gesture?

"When I walked through the door last night, red and pink rose petals were scattered across the vestibule and up the stairs to the bedroom. How inconsiderate can one husband get? ..."

4:06 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

FREE hit counter and Internet traffic statistics from