Problematic Cleaning

Reheated (64)

For newcomers and the nostalgic, more items from the archives:

Please Update Your Files And Lifestyles Accordingly.

Natan Last is a “fitful poet,” a Brooklynite, and a graduate of Columbia. Also, he will save us. 

The world of woke crossword-puzzlers - because that’s a thing that exists - is one in which enthusiasts, via social media, grumble about white men, bemoan the insufficient prominence of “queer or POC colloquialisms,” share “off-colour jokes about hypothetical titles for a Melania Trump memoir,” and fret about the exact ratio of male and female names used as clues. Because a lack of “gender parity” in crossword puzzle clues constitutes one of “the systemic forces that threaten women.” Crossword puzzles can do that, apparently.

She Feels Unclean

A woe is invented. A solution is discovered.

Gratuitous drama and “drenching guilt” aside, I’m not entirely sure why hiring a cleaner should obviously be more fraught than hiring, say, a gardener or roofer… But for the kind of middle-class feminist who as recreation writes for the Observer, life is apparently an endless moral torture inflicted by minor, everyday events, or at least an exhausting theatre of pretending to be tortured by minor, everyday events. Which of the two constitutes a more harrowing and nightmarish existence, I leave to the reader. 

And somewhat related,

Telepathy Not A Thing, Women Hardest Hit

Feminist titan Gemma Hartley bemoans the chore of getting her multiple bathrooms cleaned by someone else.

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Washday Blues

Because you crave one, it’s time for a thrilling adventure in the world of detergent.

My husband does the laundry. No one asks him to, and often no one thanks him for doing it. But somehow, every week, our clothes, our kids’ clothes, the towels, the sheets; they all get cleaned. And with each load, the jealousy grows.

Should readers be confused – and I quite understand – the jealousy is that of Erin Hendriksen, a contributor to Scary Mommy.

Throwing the piles into the washing machine is definitely the easy part. From there, he sorts them into mounds of hang-dry vs. dryer items, hangs the clothes, folds the towels and clothes, and puts the fresh sheets on the beds. A couple of times per week, I walk into our bedroom to find a tidy little pile of my clothes. They are folded with tenderness, neatly stacked, and grouped by category. 

What glorious man-creature is this?

I know he would put them away, too, if only he knew where they went.

A flaw. Thank goodness.

That is not even close to all he does around the house either. He’s the dishwasher, the grocery collector, the garbage remover, and the maintenance man. He follows behind us all, picking up the thrown socks, crumbs, and toys, somehow managing to maintain some sort of order within the chaos.

Ms Hendriksen’s husband also entertains the children with “nightly horsey rides, weekend swimming lessons, and stories before bed.” However, this is Scary Mommy, where progressive ladies bare their souls. And so, complications, and notes of sourness, must forever loom.  

I know that I am lucky to have him, he is a saint — but does he know how lucky he is? My husband… gets to leave the house… He ventures out into the world… taking in the fresh air, talking to someone other than me, and focusing on things that don’t involve our family. Sometimes he meets a friend for a socially distanced coffee. He often returns with a spring in his step, a spring that hasn’t been in my step for months. No wonder he has the energy to do the laundry... I resent that he can walk away, head downstairs, or off to work and take that vacation.

A vacation at work, that is - earning money to pay the bills. Not least, for detergent and fabric softener.

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The Year Reheated

In which we marvel at the mental contortions of our self-imagined betters.

The year began with a display of the Guardian’s famed sense of proportion, with the paper’s Barbara Ellen informing us, emphatically, that, “We’re nearly all vegan now” - we being the general population - before asking with equal confidence, “Who isn’t vegan in some way these days?” The Vegan Society, meanwhile, acknowledged that the demographic in question amounts to barely 1% of the British population. Hungry for more fearless and irrefutable leftwing journalism, we turned to the pages of Salon, where the chronically breathless Mr Chauncey DeVega declared that “The American people” – and not just Salon columnists – “are in a manic state because of Trump’s regime.” 300 million citizens are, we learned, living in fear of Mr Trump’s “fascism,” his allegedly annihilationist tendencies, and of course his “secret police.” 

Meanwhile, Slate readers mulled the moral quandaries of progressive life, before being rewarded with somewhat peculiar and potentially disastrous advice, on subjects including sex tapes and prodigious weight gain. And via which, we learned that the best way for an insecure straight woman to find romantic and sexual satisfaction is for her to start dating polyamorists and gay people, on grounds that this will ease both her trust issues and her frequent panic attacks.

In February, we learned, via the Guardian, of the latest must-have status accessory – namely, dinner parties at which one pays $2,500 to be scolded as a racist, an upholder of “white supremacy,” based on nothing, by someone suitably brown and opportunist. Participants – “mostly Democrats” – are told to “own their racism,” however invisible, and are warned against having “unmonitored thoughts.” Elsewhere in the Guardian, we were assured by leader writer Susanna Rustin that a “reordering of society” is in order, to correct the apparently unendurable problem of some people having a standard of living not yet available to every single human being on the planet. “Lives of luxury” – defined by “weekly shopping sprees” – could be “replaced” – “painlessly” – with “artistic expression and creativity,” specifically, dance lessons.  

While in Salon, Bay Area progressive Nicole Karlis wrote of the “heartache, tears and stress” brought on by the loss of one’s plastic water bottle. A sentiment echoed by fellow progressives and non-specific activists, who shared their wrenching tales of “water-bottle separation anxiety,” a phenomenon that can apparently induce fits of weeping and feelings of “falling into chaos.” 

In March, readers of the Observer were invited to ponder the profound moral question, “Is it ever acceptable for a feminist to hire a cleaner?” Much fretting ensued regarding the acceptable sex and skin colour of the person doing the cleaning, with the paper’s Sally Howard deciding that the most feminist way to empower cleaning ladies - and to avoid the “structural devaluation of women’s work” - is to make said ladies unemployed. The views of Ms Howard’s former cleaners, fired in the name of feminism, were not deemed worthy of inclusion.

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Telepathy Not A Thing, Women Hardest Hit

For Mother’s Day I asked for one thing: a house cleaning service.

In the pages of Harper’s Bazaar, Gemma Hartley bemoans the chore of getting her multiple bathrooms cleaned by someone else. Actually, the clean bathrooms are, it turns out, a secondary concern:

The real gift I wanted was to be relieved of the emotional labour of a single task that had been nagging at the back of my mind. The clean house would simply be a bonus.

It’s been said, here at least, that when someone uses the term “emotional labour” unironically, the person doing the mouthing is most likely a bit of a nightmare. Say, the kind of woman who complains about the “emotional labour” of hiring a domestic cleaner. Or the kind who bitches about her husband and his shortcomings in the pages of a national magazine, where friends and colleagues of said husband, and perhaps his own children, can read on with amusement.

My husband waited for me to change my mind to an “easier” gift than housecleaning, something he could one-click order on Amazon. Disappointed by my unwavering desire, the day before Mother’s Day he called a single service, decided they were too expensive, and vowed to clean the bathrooms himself. He still gave me the choice, of course. He told me the high dollar amount of completing the cleaning services I requested (since I control the budget) and asked incredulously if I still wanted him to book it.

Details ensue.

What I wanted was for him to ask friends on Facebook for a recommendation, call four or five more services, do the emotional labour I would have done if the job had fallen to me.

Many details.

I had wanted to hire out deep cleaning for a while, especially since my freelance work had picked up considerably. The reason I hadn’t done it yet was part guilt over not doing my housework, and an even larger part of not wanting to deal with the work of hiring a service. I knew exactly how exhausting it was going to be. That’s why I asked my husband to do it as a gift.

This, it seems, was unknown to said husband and so, alas, ‘twas not to be.

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She Feels Unclean

In the pages of the Observer, a new niche agony is detected

Is it ever acceptable for a feminist to hire a cleaner?

Needless to say, it starts off quite dramatically,

The day my cleaner used to visit, I would return home in the evening to the smell of Dettol mixed with Tania’s sweat, to a clean kitchen and bathroom and a drenching sense of guilt. 

Gratuitous drama and drenching guilt aside, I’m not entirely sure why hiring a cleaner should obviously be more fraught than hiring, say, a gardener or roofer. And it occurs to me that if you can smell someone’s perspiration above the odour of cleaning products, said person may require some kind of medical attention.

The piece, by empowered feminist author Sally Howard, continues in high gear,

It was the same unease that greeted me when I collected my son Leo from his nursery – a national chain disproportionately staffed by women of colour – or bought clothes from a mainstream clothing outlet that relies, as many do, on female garment workers in the global south.

For the kind of middle-class feminist who as recreation writes for the Observer, life is apparently an endless moral torture inflicted by minor, everyday events, or at least an exhausting theatre of pretending to be tortured by minor, everyday events. Which of the two constitutes a more harrowing and nightmarish existence, I leave to the reader. 

For [my book, The Home Stretch], I spent time under cover with the women who clean Britain’s offices and homes. I picked used tampons off bathroom carpets and scrubbed bathtub tidemarks and sauces spattered across kitchen walls; and I discovered a few things. 

That some women are so messy and antisocial that bloodied tampons are left for others to step on? Is that a permissible feminist thought?

I learned that fashionable householders’ preference for less-effective eco and homemade cleaning products doubles cleaners’ labour.

No laughing at the back.

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