Thursday, December 06, 2007

The Gaping Hole in My Education

We had friends over for dinner last night. It was a festival of lasagna and meatballs, wine and laughter. THAT DOG pranced about adorably with her new bone, I made a pot of coffee at the end of the night without blowing up the kitchen. All in all, it was a huge success.

But evenings like this make me aware of a gaping hole in my formal education. I followed the typical path: I spent my high school years learning things that would get me into college, and my college years learning things that would make me sound pithy and erudite in interviews and at cocktail parties. (We'll leave out my law school years, where I learned little besides how many Miller Lights it took to fend off a panic attack.) The thing is, though, nothing in my eduction prepared me for the mundane, practical aspects of social living: that someone needs to cook, and someone needs to clean. And sometimes, that someone is me.

I blame feminism. Now granted, I'm grateful that my college moved beyond it's historical tradition of teaching women only the domestic arts. But the result is that I never learned any of the domestic arts. And contrary to what I haughtily said to my mother when she suggested it might behoove me to learn, my years of training in how to think about a problem and tackle it effectively haven't helped me figure these basics out at all.

Now don't get me wrong: it doesn't all fall to me. Steve is a great team player in our attempts to sustain life here in the Ryan Hood. He can Swiffer abandoned dog fur into submission like no one I've ever seen, and he came home at 4:30 yesterday to make the lasagna. But still, it took me SIX HOURS to clean the rest of our 900 square foot condo. And it hasn't been all that long since we did it the last time. Six hours??? Clearly, either there are some tips I'm missing, or this is the reason so many couples stop having marital relations once they move in together--they're too busy trying to stay ahead of the creeping crud.

It makes me wonder--might the whole course of my life have been different if all students at my college had been required to take a semester or two of Home Ec? Think of what a great place the world would be if every History, Math, and Poli Sci major came out of school armed with a good oatmeal cookie recipe and an understanding of the difference between 409 and Windex? If I'd known I'd someday live in the city with a furry dog, I might even have declared an official minor in dust management.

THIS is what I'd like to see on HGTV: a reality show where they reveal other people's pathetic attempts to fight mold and mildew, and then give them Home Ec makeovers so they don't have to re-route their 401K contributions to the Merry Maids. We could call it Clean Eye for the Dirty Guy.

Just a thought.

15 comments:

Melek said...

fantastic idea! in fact, i think kids should have to take a LIFE 101 class where they learn basics like 'how to read a mortgage agreement,' 'how to balance a checkbook,' and dont forget 'how to find a girl/guy to marry and how to put up with your in-laws thereafter' :)

kristen said...

Love ALL these ideas...I agree on Life 101, but would add how to work the washing machine, the dishwasher, make a bed...oh, the possibilities!

Beck said...

I stink at cleaning the house, so yeah. I agree.

La La said...

I hear you! I don't know how to do any of that stuff, either. I started a book club for the teachers at my school, and it took me hours to shop for food (mostly because I don't even remotely grasp how much to buy of something for 10 people). Then I had to search for serving dishes for this food. Yadda. Yadda. Yadda. I'm 40 something and single, and this entertaining business is something I just don't get. The result: WAY TOO MUCH FOOD, as it always is with me.

ellesappelle said...

Scarily true.

Patti said...

his is exactly why i made boy learn how to clean smart not hard...it didn't hurt that my mother was german (known cleaning machines).

i was her biggest cleaning disappointment...

L Sass said...

Don't you just wish you could spray the whole place down with a fire hose (without ruining everything or having to lug a heavy fire hose, of course)?

John Elder Robison said...

I designed our new house (completed in 2004) with things like dirt management in mind.

For example, I employed radiant heat, where the floors and cealings are warm. There are no hot air ducts, radiators, or baseboard heaters. That means . . . no circulating air currents, and cleaner walls.

I used polyurethane sealed hardwood or stone floors everywhere in the main floor. That minimizes fiber dust.

I installed a central vacuum system that exhausts into the yard. Hand held vacuums simply recirculate the dust they pick up that's too fine for the bag to trap. Whatever is sucked up, stays sucked up.

Finally, I installed high efficiency electronic air filters in the air conditioning system.

And the final step . . I hired a housekeeper a day a week.

kim said...

All the education about it in the world won't make it suck less. It takes so long because deep inside you know there are better things you could be doing with your time -- the inner struggle makes simple things take forever.

That's my theory anyway. I have afriend who spends little time and her house is always clean. And then there is Kate of "John and Kate pluse 8" -- have you seen the show? 6 year old twins and 2 year old sextuplets and she cleans her kitchen floor three times a day -- her house is really clean. I think you either have it or you don't.

oooh! If I get a mother in law call that she will be here in 40 minutes, I can whip the house in shape -- but if I have three days notice, I clean for three days and still scramble at the end -- give me a show on what's up with that. The magic of multi-tasking under pressure -- why can't i do that in 40 every day? I can commit to forty.

Jenny said...

What a great idea. I could certainly benefit from it.

Princess Extraordinaire said...

Love th HGTV idea as I am hooked to that channel already - I think six hours is a record - next time go for five and a half...

Stacy said...

My place is smaller than yours. 700 or 800 square feet, maybe? And it feels like it takes me all day to clean.

LEstes65 said...

Home Ec taught me NUTT'N, honey. You need a few weeks with me and my MOM. And sweetie? I was a glaring tom-boy that prayed nightly to wake up being a boy. I can sew, cook and clean. I can cook fancy when I want to. But darlin', I have a whole list of recipes that are so simple to make and make your friends think you've been taping cooking shows on your DVR.

Ditch the mental block and get your butt down here. It's easier than you think. I'll learn yah a thing or two.

Michelle said...

i'm with you on this. but if anyone would have suggested that to me while i was in college i probably would've given them the evil eye. but i definitely could use a lesson in the art of domesticity.

Mary said...

I always underestimate how long it takes to clean my house. Not to mention the gardening! Mostly I try to forget about it and hope it goes away. It’s just too shocking to contemplate spending so many hours doing something 'unimportant'.