Tiny Acts of Domesticity

It’s the tiny acts of domesticity that keep us together and tear us apart. Horribly ordinary peeves that rip our brains into picayune shreds and leave us warped with resentment. I think it happens to everyone who shares a home for a long period of time. As my mother used to say, familiarity breeds contempt. Love conquers all except those hairs in the bathroom sink, the spaghetti sauce on the wall over the stove, the missing screwdriver, the empty bag of dog food, the bed that’s never made. You’d think after so many decades of cohabitation with other humans, a person’s sensitivity to this minutia might wane. But no. Some days a raw nerve dangles ripe for conflict. Like yesterday.  

Billie Best writes about tiny acts of domesticity.

It was 6:30 in the morning and fresh out of bed, I saw it, the paper towel on the rug, a signal. Beware of schmutz. And I knew what was under that paper towel. I could see it with my eyes closed. I’ve seen it a hundred times. Dog blast. We have solutions, treatments, methods, a drawer full of rags and all manner of sprays and disinfectants. I’m one for getting a big flat metal spatula, a hamburger flipper, and lifting the solids first. So, I got the spatula and hit the button on the coffeemaker while my mind played a familiar variation on the theme of resentment. He put the paper towel there to cover the mess. Why didn’t he just clean it up? The dog must have barfed during the night. Why did he leave this mess for me?  

There are so many assumptions embedded in that little question. But I was in a pre-caffeine haze, oblivious to any point of view but my own. Seeds of irritation sprouted. Silent accusations fired in my head. Why do I always have to be the one that cleans up the dog puke? Why me? Why can’t he clean up the dog puke? He never cleans up anything. He just throws a paper towel over it and walks away. Poor me. Can you hear the violins? Self-pity is my soundtrack.

I’m the cleaner. I expect to clean up the big messes. He’s just not the type. My choice. I chose to move in with a guy who doesn’t clean. So, I sacrificed my morning, got down on my knees with the spatula, and picked up the paper towel. Dang! Something wasn’t right. No schmutz. I put my face to the floor and sniffed the rug. It was just a wet spot with the telltale signs of kibble crumbs. The guy who doesn’t clean cleaned. Sort of. At least he picked up the chunks and left the paper towel to mark the spot. Very thoughtful. I couldn’t wrap my head around it. 

In one sweep of the second hand on his noisy clock I had worked myself into a tizzy. Over nothing. It was very satisfying. I was high on self-righteousness and didn’t want to come down. Emotions clashed in my head. I was wrong. But my martyrdom was so comfortable, such an easy, validating place to be. Those violins were so sweet. That gush of superiority so satisfying. I loved feeling sorry for myself, and then it was over before it started. 

What a deep rut I’m in. I thought I knew exactly what he had done without even looking. Blame stood at the ready in my head, cocked and loaded for my cohabitant, the guy who doesn’t clean. Now I see that he’s changing, and I’ve become a fossil of my gripes. Yes, I know, it’s terribly mundane. But it’s the tiny acts of domesticity that mutate our relationship, and I think I just felt myself evolve. 

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6 thoughts on “Tiny Acts of Domesticity

  1. I feel your pain. While hubs was gone fishing this morning, I cleaned the kitchen. He comes home and makes a sandwich (bc I’m not his mother). 3 hours later, the lettuce he dropped on the floor is still there. Hell no, I’m not picking it up.

    Enjoyed, as always.

  2. In my house, living with two pigs, where most of the objects and furniture belongs to me (dead parents), i am the cleaner. Way more a cosmetic cleaner than you, Billie. (I’ve seen your spotless house and apartments.) But I keep things fairly ok. I figure it’s my deal. They don’t care so why should I ask em to do something they’d never do and happily live in a dump (like their behind closed doors bedrooms). Here n there? Yeah. Clean the top of the stove and where you cut vegetable and make coffee at least once every 2 months. And I leave it at that, and i feel all high and mighty about it.

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