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The Skinny By Elaine Langlois

Happy One Year Anniversary!

Note from the Editor:

Gosh, I remember when Elaine first walked into the office for a job interview. The job had been filled but she was just so darn nice I thought I'd interview her for the associate producer position. I remember during the interview I asked a few basic questions about her religion and marital status and she told me that I wasn't allowed to ask those things. Ha ha ha. I remember telling her "You've got spunk." She blushed and stammered and then I told her "I hate spunk." Which was very hilarious of me. Then I showed her around the newsroom and introduced her to Murray, Ted, Gordie and then we did a whole bunch of funny stuff...

At least I think that's what happened. I used to drink a lot of cough medicine. What I'm trying to say, if you'll just stay on topic, is thank you Elaine for all the laughs you've provided this last year. If you'd like send Elaine an anniversary greeting or if you have any comments, questions or kudos you can email her at The Skinny @ happywomanmagazine.com

Coming Clean

It's spring and a young woman's fancy turns to . . . cleaning. Or rather, the days have gotten long and light enough for you to get a good look around and be aghast at how filthy things managed to get when you weren't looking.

The clots of dust scudding gently across the floor like tumbleweeds. The grimy baseboards. The ghostly smiley faces drawn months ago grinning mockingly at you from windowpanes. The dead mouse at the bottom of the basement stairs that turns out, on close inspection, to be a baby Snickers bar swathed in dust, so disgusting even the ants won't bother with it. How did things come to this pass?

We weren't brought up to clean houses. We went to college. I don't know who we thought would clean them. Elves, maybe. Like the story about the shoemaker and the elves; I loved that story, didn't you?

When we were growing up, our houses simply got cleaned by our mothers, who didn't make a lot of noise about it like I do ("This house looks like the wreck of the Hesperus!") but just got it done. All the time we thought our mothers were doing nothing, it turns out they were really doing a lot.

So, we have more work (but not enough to pay for a cleaning service), less time, bigger homes, and fewer household members to clean them (assuming you could get anyone to help!). Is there an answer?

The self-cleaning house. There was a self-cleaning house in a story by Ray Bradbury. Where little robot mice zoomed out of the walls and cleaned up your messes for you. Like the day I dropped my mousse and the top flew off and I couldn't get it back on and my efforts to do so looked like an episode of The Three Stooges with foam squirting out the sides and the floor and walls were covered with it. No, there weren't any little robot mice or elves frisking around cleaning it up for me.

What I look for in a house was aptly described by the playwright and humorist Jean Kerr: "space near the kitchen for a washer, a dishwasher, a freezer, a dryer, and a large couch where I could lie on sunny days and listen to them all vibrate."

Area cleaning. This is where you clean things in your immediate area. So in the general devastation there are little pools of cleanliness, like George Bush's thousand points of light.

Ten items. This is where you get up from whatever sedentary thing you are doing and instead of heading to the kitchen for a brownie, do ten items of cleanup. This would be fine and well if there weren't fifteen items that silently got undone at the same time. What profiteth a woman to empty the dishwasher if the cat vomiteth on her bedspread?

Enlist the help of household members. Ha. Ha, ha, ha. No, seriously, this works, but you have to accept their limitations. For instance, it is true what Dave Barry says, that women can see dirt "at the level of molecules, whereas men generally don't notice it until it forms clumps large enough to support agriculture."

A typical guy approach to housework is to go out and buy a lot of cleaning products. Then, a couple of weeks later, he goes back to the store and buys a whole lot more.

Until they get old enough to catch on, children can be chivvied into helping with child-sized implements like a dustpan and brush or squeegee. There are toy vacuum cleaners that actually work, like the Bissell 3600B Barbie Real Vacuum, "in signature Barbie décor."

Do I detect a touch of sexism here? Where is the Bissell 3601B G.I. Joe Real Vacuum, in signature camouflage? ("Suck it up, soldier!") And let's not get locked into traditional notions of what constitutes children's chores. Why, even a five-year-old can regrout a shower.

A new you. Since probably no one else can clean your house to your satisfaction, instead of cleaning, maybe what you should be doing is cloning. For simple do-it-yourself instructions, see http://www.happywomanmagazine.com/DIY/cloning.htm.

Have babies. Lots of 'em! Then you'll have a household workforce. And being pregnant gets you out of cleaning the litterbox.

Use both hands. I came across this piece of advice in Woman's World, a weekly publication available at supermarket checkout stands that features intriguing articles like these:

  • "The fat that can speed up your metabolism"
  • "Miracle makeup that can give you big, beautiful eyes"
  • "What color is your perfect job?"

I can sort of see it: dusting a china cabinet while washing a window, scrubbing a countertop as you rinse a dish, mixing an angel food cake with one hand while repotting a spider plant with the other . . . oh, never mind.

© 2003 Elaine Langlois