brni (brni) wrote,
brni
brni

this woman's work

Today I degreased.

I hadn't meant to degrease. All I'd meant to do was empty the dishwasher. And there was a vase in the dishwasher, because there had been flowers (courtesy of Liz and the yoga ladies - thank you all for being so good to Linda (this is an aside (in a nested parentheses (can you tell I have taken a LISP programming class and/or read Gravity's Rainbow?)), not really the point of the post). And so the flowers faded, as flowers do, and the vase went into the dishwaser, and then the vase went up on the ledge over the stove.

And I looked at the vase. And I looked at the other vases up there, and the cups and mugs and other stuff. And I thought, those could do with a good run through the dishwasher too.

That was my mistake. Because once those were in the dishwasher, it was painfully obvious by the circular non-grease spots on the shelves that my work had just begun.

So.

Citra-Solv and water, a rag, a sponge, and a scrubby were deployed. An hour into scrubbing, I figure I might as well take care of the over-the-stove microwave while I'm at it. So I pull the nasty, grease-filled vents off the microwave to soak, and, well, I'm filling the sink anyway, might as well soak the drip-pans and burner grates off the stove.

And Linda walked in and said, "Oh. I should be doing this. I'm so sorry."

And it occurred to me that whoever invented the concept of "women's work" was an evil genius: tedious and annoying? Your job. Interesting and challenging? My job. And since my job is so challenging, you job comes with an extra helping of guilt.

One time, back when I was living in Philly, in "the neighborhood" (as the residents called it), I'd lugged a duffelbag down Brown Street to the laundramat, sorted my laundry, and got four washing machines going. I'd noticed the anomaly when I'd walked in, but you learn to ignore anomalies. The anomaly was an older guy (maybe my current age, maybe +5 years) in a not-cheap three-piece suit, sitting on the window seat, balding head down between his knees, face in his hands. I had just started reading when one of the washing machines started banging, and the man jumped up in a panic. "What's wrong?" he asked. "What do I do?"

So I went over and popped the lid. There was a pair of underwear, a white t-shirt, a button down shirt, and a bath towel.

"What's wrong with it?" he asked.

"It was off-balanced," I explained. He looked at me blankly. "See how the towel is over on this side? It's heavier than everything else." I wrapped the towel around the perimeter and got the thing going again.

"Thank you," he said. "I've never done this before. My wife always handled this stuff."

"Oh." Because what else do you say? Wow, I thought your type died out in the fifties?, or oh, what happened to your wife?

"She kicked me out yesterday," he said, answering the unasked question, "and I don't know what to do." And he burst into tears. "I don't know how to wash my own clothes. I don't know how to cook. I just don't know how I'm going to do this."

So I taught him laundry theory: separating colors, load-balancing the laundry, what gets bleach and what doesn't, and why some things go in hot and some in cold. "You'll learn," I told him, meaning more than laundry. "You'll do ok."
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