Monday, August 2, 2010

Cleaning House

At 31, I've come to realize that I have an agonistic relationship with cleaning. I once heard someone describe their relationship to cleaning as being "mellow," but mine is pretty much a dyad of hero and nemesis. Although I would never describe my home as dirty, the word 'cluttered' works on a number of levels. You may also notice discrete pockets of garbage, although never anything that represents a bio-hazard. And I do clean up for company, unless you have the misfortune of being my family or one of my closest friends. Then you get the full experience. Let me paint a picture: a friend of mine once asked me, sweetly, without even pausing to think that I'd take offense, "hey, can I clean your toilet?"

I realize that, because my mother cleaned every surface I have ever touched, I was able to grow up in a world that seemed to clean itself. I was the sort of kid who'd offer to clean, but rarely with the serious intent of getting anything done. And I had the sort of mom who would decline my offer 99& of the time and tell me to go read a book. I'm now learning, painfully, that I saw my mother's work at home as a kind of icing on the cake that was my existence. By taking her cleaning and cooking for granted, as rewards I was owed by some higher power, I vaporized these concrete realities into self-propagating concepts. I was understandably surprised, upon moving away from home, that my laundry did not wash itself. The first time I saw an industry-grade washer at a pay-laundry, I thought it was a Dalek, or at the very least, a money-eating machine.

I was witness to my stepmother's aggressive cleaning style from the ages of 10-15, but she wasn't able to teach me much of anything. I regarded cleaning as beneath my dignity, and saw it as tragic that my father had been forced into it. I hid in my room as much as I could, banging away on a blue screen with yellow font (this was WordPerfect 4), one ear cocked to the sound of someone's voice asking me to clean something. I moved the mop over the linoleum, but I wouldn't call what I did cleaning, and my techniques haven't improved much. This aversion has no root, at least not one that can be reached via psychotherapy. I am lazy. Not in the sense of never getting work done, but rather in the sense that my notion of 'work' is a filthy patriarchal one that ignores cleaning. I feel I've steadily improved, although I can't tell you what my gauge is. Being a bachelor helps, because there's no well-meaning partner to say, "hey, here's a thought, why don't you pick up all your books, and put them somewhere?" You have to do it yourself--otherwise, you won't be able to reach the bathroom.

I feel like Talbot, from True Blood, could teach me a lot about cleaning, since he seems to keep the King's demesne looking like an actual eighteenth-century seraglio. I suppose the embossed silver doors signal that the vampire couple enjoys flirting with danger as much as they enjoy Paladian décor. In the last episode, Russell remarks that the Magister's creepy cane-stake is "from Andalusía, the Iberian peninsula." Then, to remind us that he speaks Spanish without actually needing to prove that he can say anything interesting in Spanish, he tells the Magister that its destruction would be, "hay que lástima," a great pity. Meanwhile, all Eric is thinking about is how to get his Warren Cup-esque silver Viking crown back from the pantry of precious objects that Talbot showed him the night before. And for those of you who don't know me, the segue from my patriarchy to vampires should stand as a reminder that I am an only child, given free-reign by wonderful parents to become as weird as I wanted to be. Seriously, though. When I saw Sam Merlott in that dog-collar, I did feel a touch of the vapors.


Mardel said...

My mom used to clean like a fiend. She used to make my sister and me clean too, but never made my brothers clean. As a result, my sister still cleans very well, but for myself - all of us (as in my boys and me) all are kind of haphazard at cleaning - I like my toilet clean though - clean it at least once a month LOL.

The only think I'm regular on, is putting the dishes in the dishwasher - that's it.

I'd rather read, myself. :)

Dr. said...

My cat will clean if I make her run around enough--her tail acts as a floor-buffer/

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