For some reason, I've read a lot about the 'second shift' or 'household chores' this week, and the division of labor between men and women when they cohabitate in a home. I can't remember where the rest of the articles were, but this one in the Flagpole got me thinking a little, and remembering the crazy messy roommate situations I have been in before.
Following will be analysis, why we live in filth/why we must clean. But first, the war stories.
I have lived with some of the messiest people on the face of God's green earth. One apartment I had during college, I left Athens for a week to visit Island City. When I got back, two of my three roommates had dirtied every dish in the house (which was a considerable task). After reducing the utility of the dishes, they started in on the pots, skillets, saucepans and cookie sheets. This task, too, was considerable. Once those items had been cased out, they began ordering takeout such as Chinese food and pizza, and using the containers the food came in as their dinnerware. They left all of this mess in an archeological timeframe style pile on the coffeetable and end tables as well as the counters in the kitchen. Their day jobs? Dishwashers at a local restaurant.
In that self-same apartment, one of these roommates had a beautiful blonde friend who would sleep over from time to time. His room was filthy. I mean, we timed it once he was moving out, and was cleaning his room: it took two hours of hard work before you could even see his floor. It was bad. Anyway, one day the blonde, who had been sleeping over for about a month, comes downstairs and asks where our vaccum cleaner was. I point to the closet and ask if she needs help cleaning her apartment. She wasn't cleaning her apartment. "I'm tired of sleeping in a bed covered in dog food and cigarette ashes," she told me.
Then there are folks like me: the borderline neat freaks. I am usually constantly cleaning. Especially when I get very drunk. I say borderline, because I can still tolerate a mess, but that apparently is not the case after a fifth of whiskey.
I used to think the thing that triggered that drunk cleaning thing in my brain was the subconscious knowledge that tomorrow I would have to clean up after the party (as I never consumed a fifth of whiskey alone) and cleaning up badly hungover is one of the most absolute worst things that a human being might do.
After looking back on my 29 years of mess making, cleaning, crazy roommates and reading all the socio-political experts talk about the division of labor in the home, I have one conclusion.
Cleaning is about power and control. Men more often than not exert power and control in the home through the TV, the computer or through video games. Their domination of the viewable playlist satisfies their need for power and control. Women need less of this rabidly visual stimulation, and exert their power and control over their personal space in the home. Ergo: the woman cleans, the man watches TV, but they are doing the exact same thing.
Borderline neat freaks like me take this one step further, and it has nothing to do with masculinity or femininty. It has everything to do with controlling where our things are and knowing the locations of our stuff. I might clean up, but I'm really only rearranging the mess so that I know where my keys are, my DVD's are, my books are etc. I can't deal with some woman cleaning up my stuff because she may put my phone charger in a place where I don't usually keep it, and that lack of access will keep me distracted for hours on end.