Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Happy Homemaker

If I had my wish, I would have become a housewife. I love cleaning, laundry, cooking (and making reservations), and driving car pools. 

I would live in a split-level raised-ranch style home with my husband, two kids and a dog in a cozy Southern town. He would drive a green Imperial Crown four-door hardtop, and I would drive a Rambler Ambassador Cross Country Station Wagon. It would be pink and white with a matching interior and have Weather-Eye All Season Air Conditioning and a push button Flash-O-Matic transmission.

I would play Mah Jongg with the girls on Tuesday evenings and Thursday afternoons just like the girls in On Tuesdays, They Played Mah Jongg and Michael’s Secrets by Milton Stern (shameless plug). The Tuesday evening group would gossip about the Thursday afternoon group and vice versa, and I would be the only one to play in both groups. On Wednesday nights, my husband and I would play bridge with the Weinsteins. On Saturday nights, we would go for cocktails and dinner at the Huntington Club.

Our kids would go to the Jewish day school, and we would belong to a Conservative Synagogue – Bet Midler or Bet Davis or something like that. While the kids were at school, I would volunteer to help with Soviet Jewry even after realizing it had nothing to do with earrings. I would serve as Synagogue Sisterhood President for at least three years, perform in our synagogue’s annual cabaret and organize the annual rummage sale to benefit Jewish refugees. I would also go around the neighborhood and collect donations for the Heart Fund and American Lung Association even though I was a social smoker.

On Fridays, I would get my hair done in the morning with all the other Jewish women at Nachman's Hair Salon, so I could look good for Shabbat services that night. And my clothes would be tastefully tailored in a style similar to my favorite First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy.

I would have a home cooked meal on the table every night, pot roast, meatloaf, baked fish, or fried chicken. All meals would include overly boiled, tasteless vegetables and a starch, rolls and iced tea – I am Southern after all. If I were feeling lazy, I would make spaghetti and a salad, and if I were angry, I would make tuna casserole.

At least once a week, my husband would come home and find me in a bad mood. He would ask why I was in a bad mood, and I would reply, “If you don’t know, I’m not going to tell you.” Then I would storm out to the back porch and sneak a cigarette. A good housewife has to be dramatic.

My husband and I would have relations on Thursday nights since I was getting my hair done on Fridays. All other nights, my hair would be wrapped in toilet paper to maintain my bouffant while I slept on a satin pillowcase. If I didn’t play Mah Jongg on a Thursday in the summer, I would be at the Jewish Community Center Pool and go down the slide and make a big deal out of it because normally I would swim with my head above water to protect my coiffure. I wouldn’t slide down until everyone was watching because I must always be the center of attention (some things remain a constant).

With a few exceptions, I just described a woman I knew named Harryette.

Alas, my dream of becoming a housewife is just a faded hope for three reasons:

1. I was born in 1962.

2. I was born with a penis.

3. I was born in 1962.

Being single at my age diminishes my chances of finding a sugar daddy. I asked my friend Danny what was the stage between daddy and troll. He said, “Last week.”

However, I may work two jobs and bring home the bacon – kosher of course, but I still love and find time for housework. Yes, I love it all, vacuuming, laundry, dusting, scrubbing, etc. I have been doing my own laundry (and my family's) since I was thirteen. I make my bed every morning even though I live alone. I have three vacuum cleaners and a carpet steamer. Why three? The upright is for the carpets, the canister for the linoleum and hardwood floors and getting under furniture, and the stick vac for quick clean ups. I don’t use a mop. I clean floors on my hands and knees. I make a big bucket of suds with ammonia and detergent and go at it – none of those goofy contraption duster thingamabobs for me. My broom isn’t outside my window serenading me, he is in the broom closet waiting to be used on a daily basis.

I found a store in Jessup called Ollie’s Surplus, and they had vintage Top Job for $1 a bottle; I bought five bottles! I was so thrilled.

I sometimes clean in heels because it is good for the calf muscles. And I always wear a do-rag to keep the dust out of my hair.

Now, why am I sharing all this? Well, who knew moving into a mobile home would make cleaning even more fun! Joan Crawford, whom I admire and love, would be so happy here. But first, a story.

Back in the day in the Ivy Farms neighborhood of Newport News, Virginia, there was one empty lot at the end of one of the streets (I won’t say which one to protect the present occupants). One day, an eighteen wheeler with half a house came in followed by another with the other half, and construction workers put the two sections of a house on the lot, connected them, then laid brick on all sides to make it look like a stick house. But I knew what it was, and so did all the women in the neighborhood, especially my mother.

I remember her saying, “They can brick up that piece of shit, but once you go inside, you know it’s a goddamn trailer because it's one long hallway with rooms on either side. They aren’t fooling anyone.”

When I heard her say that, I stopped playing Donna Reed – or was it June Cleaver or Miss Brooks? – in my bedroom and ran outside and down the street to see the “open house.” I was eight years old, but I knew perfection when I saw it.

Yes, it was one long hallway with rooms on either side. It was fabulous! Even at that young age, I appreciated the efficient use of space. One could so entertain in there … and clean in a breeze!

And it had the one thing I have always wanted in a home, a bathroom that does not back up to the dining room. There is nothing worse than having your only bathroom on the other side of the wall to your dining room. Someone goes to the toilet, and everyone hears it while they are eating. Every apartment I have rented had that awful feature because apartments are usually squares not rectangles.

Years of working in restaurants taught me how to clean a space efficiently with little to no time. At the end of the evening shift, a waiter has thirty minutes to vacuum, clean and set tables for breakfast, scrub down the serving area of the kitchen, clean the bathrooms, and put everything away. It is a great training ground of people who like to clean.

I could clean my apartments in about two hours from top to bottom, but it was a bit of a cluster-fuck at times because I was always going in circles in one room then out the other and back and forth, knocking over the bucket of suds on many an occasion and getting tangled by the vacuum cord more often than I care to admit. My dogs would get nauseated watching me act like a whirling dervish or a Tasmanian devil, depending on how much time I had.

Enter my new mobile home with its long layout and a series of rooms in a row. Oh my God, the first time I did my weekly top to bottom cleaning, I was in heaven. All I had to do was start at one end with the vacuum, then the other vacuum, then go back with the Windex, then back with the Endust and two dusters (yes, two), then back with the sudsy ammonia water, and before I knew it, one hour and fifteen minutes had elapsed, and I was done! Four laps were all it took, and I didn’t knock anything over or get tangled in cords. Even Esmeralda loved it because she followed me back and forth without vomiting.

My mother may not have appreciated the efficiency of a mobile home because she did not like to do housework. She thought the best way to keep a room clean was not to use it. We never sat in our living room, and we had four inches of dust to prove it. My Nana (mother’s mother) visited once and said to my mother, “There is a cob web over there.” My mother replied, “Don’t look at it, and it won’t bother you.” During that same visit, Nana was standing in the kitchen holding a broom, and my father said to her, “Leaving so soon?”

Nana once told me a story about visiting a friend when she was a little girl whose house was a mess with potato peels in the corner of the kitchen to name one atrocity. Her mother prohibited her from visiting that girl again. Nana then told me if you keep a messy house, you won’t have friends. I will never forget that.

There is only one thing about being a clean person that I find curious. They have all kinds of psychiatric terms to describe clean people. My favorite is anal retentive – “my mother rushed my potty training, and you are paying the price for it.” And until the shows Hoarders and Clean House became popular, sloppy people were admired for their ability not to care. Sloppy people were always fun … until you had a sleepover and had to take a Silkwood shower upon your return home.

I don’t spend my time wearing latex gloves and dusting envelopes like the woman I saw on 20/20 in the 1980s, but I do appreciate a clean home (and car for that matter), so here’s to all the people who like to do housework. May you find your sugar daddy some day!

One more piece of advice. The secret to keeping a clean house is not to let it get dirty!

And to all you slobs, clean your goddamn houses!

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