Okay, so I admit that I shamelessly drew you in with a title that is misleading and based on a slight exaggeration. I am not a germaphobe, but for many years, I was definitely a clean freak. If I knew company was coming, I cleaned for days. I would be exhausted and completely overwhelmed by the time my company arrived. I did an all-out spring cleaning: every. single. spring… I didn’t start any cleaning job – no matter how big – that I didn’t intend to finish. I cleaned out every single inch of every single cupboard at least once a year. My kitchen sink sparkled…clear down into the drain, as far as my eyes could see. I actually regularly washed my walls. I thought that the only way to properly scrub a floor was to scrub every single inch, on my hands and knees…
When my son – my first child – was born, I scoured every single thing that he was allowed to put into his mouth, with scalding water, every single night. Despite my ‘efforts’, my son caught every germ, every bout of stomach flu, every virus circulating. When he was really little, I had to take him to the hospital a number of times with croup because he was having difficulty breathing. By the time my daughter was born, I simply didn’t have the time or the energy to sterilise everything she was going to touch. I had also been reading about germs and cleanliness and had discovered that some exposure to germs was actually a really good thing for babies. Interestingly, my daughter was almost never sick and she still has the constitution of a Viking warrior. Nonetheless, I remained an enthusiastic cleaning freak for the rest of their childhood and into their teens. You simply do not give up a compulsion like that so easily.
My cleaning craziness ended abruptly when I met my husband. From the get-go, I was not even allowed into his kitchen. For someone who hates to cook as much as I do, this was akin to hearing angelic choirs singing in my ears. I did, however, expect to do the dishes. Fair is fair. To my surprise, he vehemently disagreed with my proposal, stating, “That is NOT your job! I do NOT need a washer woman!”
I know that for most woman, these words would have been heaven-sent. They certainly were for me: I had been married before and I well knew the difference between a partner and one more person to clean up after. This did not sound like much of a partnership to me, however, and as a result, we spent many months hammering out ‘who does what around the house’. Remarkably, we spent our time arguing over which one of us did ‘too much’. Even now, all these years into our marriage, if I go ahead and lovingly do one of ‘his’ jobs, he counters by rebelliously doing one of mine (I kid you not).
And again, ask all the woman of the world: what is the problem here?
Well, we have different standards of cleanliness, you see. My husband will do anything that needs doing, but, well, he can be kind of… laid-back about it… For example: I change the bed sheets once a week: more if one of us has been ill or if the dog jumped up on the bed with muddy feet. He changes the bed…well, eventually… And by ‘eventually’, I mean that weeks; even months could have passed before the sheets disgust him to a point where he notices that they need changing. I have rigorous standards when it comes to cleaning cloths: there are dishcloths to wash dishes; dish towels to dry dishes; a good-sized bin full of cleaning cloths recycled from old towels and t-shirts for the big, dirty jobs and most important: a bin of cleaning cloths in the garage intended especially for the car. My husband, on the other hand, uses one cloth for everything. There’s mess on the floor? Use the dish cloth. The cat or the dog left something gross somewhere? Use the dish cloth! The car tires have spatters of tar on them? Use the dish cloth! The dishes are dirty? Use the (same!!!) dish cloth… (to his credit – and as I did ask him permission to print this, he says I should clarify that if he does use the dish cloth to clean up a pet mess, he gives it a good soaping and rinses it before putting it back beside the sink). To top it off, besides having a boisterous dog who loves mud puddles and an outdoor cat, my amazingly wonderful husband also has a complete aversion to footwear in the summer months. His feet are black from May until the end of October. And he quickly let me know that washing them every time he comes in from outside is not an option.
So early on in our marriage, after I went out and bought a LOT of dish cloths (I just assume the worst and use a clean one each and every time), I quickly realised that I would either murder my wonderful husband, go stark-raving mad or…well, figure out a way to get over it.
I knew how far I had come on my last visit to see my sister. She and my brother-in-law had just caught a nasty cold and she was very concerned about me catching it. At one point, she handed me a disposable cleaning wipe so that I could wipe down any surfaces before I touched them. I stood there looking at it blankly until it occurred to me that she was trying to protect me from germs.
“Aw, that’s okay,” I said matter-of-factly without taking the cloth from her, “I’m married to ‘P_’: I’m used to a few germs.”
And voila. Just like that: I understood I had been cured…
Patti Moore Wilson © wednesdayschildca.wordpress.com