Wednesday, September 5, 2007


Right now, I'm not working.

When I worked, when I was working very hard, I had this dream of a non-working life. Not a completely ridiculous dream: a dream of croissants and tea for breakfast and regular reading of the New York Times and a brisk swim in the pool. Also a clean apartment. I pretty much knew I was making it up, even at the time.

My non-working life is in fact a lot like my working life, but more leisurely. My house remains approximately as clean as it was when I worked. Maybe a little less clean, because there's not the same urgency. If I don't clean today, I can always clean tomorrow.

That's not very clean. I am tidy, but not particularly clean.

I wasn't thinking about it very much, when I came across this comment on this blog, which, by the way, I totally recommend. Especially in conjunction with the Big Mango bloggers.

Context: the bloggers, who appear to have stopped blogging, but who had the tagline "We're not here to lose the weight, we're here to gain your hearts," had put up an ad on Craigslist asking if the guys there would date a "fat girl."

The comment reads as follows:
I've dated fat girls but there are some issues.. they are too overweight or out of shape to make love with and that them being fatis not the issue but it's a reflection of themselves (unable to takecare of themselves, etc.) One of the ones I've gone out with had amessy apt, never cleaned the coffee maker... that kind of thing (I rarely see it with thin girls)

Let's leave the weight issue to one side. Which is hard to do, because the weight issue is pretty compelling. Let's think about cleaning the coffee maker instead.

It didn't surprise me, particularly. We know from tv, both shows and ads, that women are cleaners by nature, always trying to tame their unruly (and impish and charming) menfolk, who have no sense of cleaning, and can't even be brought to see that cleaning is important.

And even I, who am not very clean, have lived that dream. In college I shared a room with a girl and a guy. (It was a big room.) The phone (this was in the pre-cellphone era) sat on the guy's desk. One morning, sitting there, talking to somebody, I glanced over the desk and found a) a large hairball and b) a cup full of mold. Later that day I suggested that maybe the hairball and the cup of mold should go. He was with me on the cup of mold; the hairball, he said, he had wanted to keep because it was pretty.

Is it a bad stereotype? Cleaning, on balance, isn't a bad thing -- it can make life more comfortable and cozy-feeling. There are certain pleasures to it. I'm not anti-cleaning, despite my disinclination to do it myself.

Only a woman totally lacking in self-respect would fail to clean the coffee maker, the commenter seems to suggest.

That strikes me as a bad thing.

I once emailed a friend about trying to shove my duvet into the post-laundry duvet cover. I have a duvet cover because top sheets are the work of the devil. It is easier to make a bed without top sheets and you are less likely to wind up in a cocoon of sheeting with a duvet. So when my friend wrote back, saying, in essence how cute and girlish I was for having a duvet cover, I was surprised. I felt, I guess, as though because I was a girl all the things I did for my personal comfort were shoved into a box of cute girlish fussiness. I was both taken aback and flattered; I felt like a real girl.

The idea of women as a repository of physical comfort, as charged with bringing cuteness and cleanliness into the communal life, that strikes me as a bad thing.

I generally don't clean my coffee maker, by the way.


esto said...

i feel as tho i have to turn in my girl certificate--how does one clean the coffee maker? is that the "mythic running through with water only" thing? i must say I have shied away from this, for the simple reason that it yields no coffee. Now I am cast into unknowingness.

Captain Colossal said...

I think turning in the girl certificate is the only honorable way out. My housekeeping manual says only: "wash your coffeemaker and all its parts thoroughly after each use with hot, soapy, water, and rinse it thoroughly." Also you should wash your coffee grinder, she says. But I feel like someone, somewhere, told me to do something with vinegar to my coffee maker.

I like the fact that here we are, again, at mold and coffee.

Noko Marie said...

CC, I'm with you. The girl-as-keeper-of-the-home-comforts thing kind of blindsided me as I was leaving college. I'm sure someone, somewhere, has an evolutionary biology explanation.

On TV once I saw a talkshow segment on simplified housekeeping for guys. They recommended: a duvet and no top sheet! So.

esto said...

still of the coffee.
to be honest, if i took apart my coffeemaker to clean each and every part honestly and with good will, i would not be able to put it back together again. Even if i was relatively simple and chances were high that i could sort it out, the whole exercise would still smack of folly.
what other things are we supposed to know? I feel like the people that know all these things also know how to curl their hair with newspaper etc.

hithere said...

and besides, what if the coffeemaker explodes in fury, having only water, or water and vinegar, or water and potassium chloride (no, don't do that), or bon ami in it, leaving little glass shards all over you and the incredible outfit you (the hypothetical you) have bought with your last 2K, to impress the person you are cleaning the coffee pot for?? these things need to be thought through carefully; meanwhile, mold is growing in the coffeemaker . . . .

Captain Colossal said...

So I sort of cleaned my coffee maker yesterday, by scrubbing kind of half-heartedly at the carafe, and was a little depressed by the fact that the coffee actually tasted better the next time I made it.