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For the past week, a hobo village of clothes has occupied my formerly neutral Ikea dresser. My clean panties are silently protesting gender biased cleaning practices, people! Their official spokeswoman (me) has tried to enter negotiations with the 1 percent of my household, otherwise known as my boyfriend, to absolutely no avail.
Here's our diplomatic bargaining during commercial breaks:
"What you need to do, Mayor Bloomberg, is clear those protestors outta the bedroom!"
"Babe, I don't even know what they want. What's their stance on dry cleaning?"
"They're taking a stand against oppression!"
Over the last several days, he's repeatedly asked when I'll put away the clothes I washed in the first place and I answer in my Pee-wee Herman voice, "When are YOU gonna put away the clothes." This hasn't been going well. And it might be all my fault.
When I was a kid, we cleaned on two occasions: if company was coming over or if we were going on a trip. "Nobody wants to come home to a dirty house," my mother used to say and I've carried that with me well into adulthood. I've missed international flights because I needed "just one more second" to Swiffer the floors. I won't buzz people up unless the kitchen counters have been sufficiently wiped. I won't denigrate those suffering from OCD by comparing my occasional cleanliness to a mental disorder, but let's just say I've gone mental over something like spilled milk.
And now that I'm sharing my mental and physical space with another human being, clearing out clutter has never been more important. Who wants to worry about baked-on lasagna when love's in the air?
So I've been doing all the cleaning to keep the peace. Plus, I want him to come home to a clean house and know that I DID THAT for him. ME! He's always grateful and appreciative. Just never participatory.
"I hope you know I can live like this," I told my boyfriend while digging through our Mount Everything for a pair of mom sweats.
"I don't even know where everything goes."
"Really? Away! Everything goes away!"
I promise this dude is half man, half amazing. He cooks (BBQ), fixes things I would've left broken, loves my dog and emails my mom. I've just bleached away his senses with my over-achieving domestic skills. And I don't know where that lady came from. I want her gone before every original thought I ever had leaks out onto my spotless hardwood floors.
The very notion that I might actually like being the Atlas of our "domestic sphere" scares me. Mostly because I've been taught through feminist osmosis that that life was for suckers. So if I give myself over to this new sense of accomplishment through chicken cooked through to the bone, will I be giving up on the self I spent 30 years piecing together?
I had dinner a few months ago with a very famous and well known feminist thinker, writer, academic who's also married with children. Instead of talking reproductive rights and Hillary Clinton, we chatted about babies n' hubbies. I told her that I felt out of sorts in my new and self-assumed role as a "work from home-maker." She told me to get a maid. "Just avoid the fight, girl." But I wouldn't listen.
Eventually someone's going to buckle under the crippling weight of our stuff and most likely that someone's gonna be me.
Once a good friend had a come-to-Jesus session with her boyfriend's girlfriend (yeah, you read that right). My friend found herself on the fake bigamist's couch while girlfriend No. 1 pointed to a load of laundry in the middle of the living room. "See?" she said. "All our stuff is together." The pile of clothes was proof of their irrevocable bond. That's ridiculous, right?
For now I'm going to go with "yes," but the Leaning Tower of Pants in my bedroom is tilting in the other direction. What about ya'll? How are the domestic negotiations going in your living situations? I mean, is 50/50 even a real thing?