A Cleaning Woman of One’s Own

I came home today so cross, so “bullshit,” as my mother used to say. Lately my tolerance for mansplaining and manspreading and general man-boorishness is at an all-time low. Yet many (mostly white, mostly straight) men around me carry on as they always have, willfully practicing the obliviousness that is yet another privilege of the culturally dominant. Which is to say: assume they are authorities to whom the rest of us will defer. Now that I am a grown woman who’s been on her own for more than two decades, and now that we are 15 years into a new millennium that is so post-industrial that physical might should be entirely besides the point, there’s no legitimate reason for any sane male to behave this way with me and yet… well, you know. So many guys (even trans guys, even guys I like) still assume deference is part of the package when you walk this world as a woman. I don’t care why they make this assumption; I’m just over it. We female persons can practice as much magic, read as many self-help books, attend as many therapy sessions as we like. But male entitlement will not go away so long as we accept it as our problem to solve. We must trample over such inequities, and back up other women who do the same.  Make it the problem of the perpetrators, and it will finally fade away. This is the only way true social change has ever been effected.

Anyway, without getting into the specific origin of my pique, I’ll just say that, by the time I returned to my stoop, I wanted to punch somebody, holler at the heavens, break vases and glasses and hearts. Do something really, really ill-advised. So I cleaned my house.

I took my wrath out on the disorder and dust that had accumulated in my head and thus my house over these last few weeks. I scrubbed surfaces, mopped floors, washed dishes, windexed windows, folded rumpled cloths, polished handles. I beat rugs and emptied closets. I even put away my parka though weather forecasts suggested this was an act of ill-founded optimism. As I cleaned, I said hello to the women throughout time who had to do this for their whole family and sometimes other families as well. I also said hello to the women who, like me, only had to keep themselves happy.  Only after everything was spick and span did I feel sane enough to tackle the situation that had set me athunder.

I may not always recognize the adult I’ve become–she is thornier; she is less of a coquette; she takes up more space on every level –but overall she is much easier to live with. Back in the day I used to come home and cry “WHO LEFT THIS MESS?” before remembering that, since I lived alone, the fault was mine. I’d search high and low for someone–anyone, really–to clean up and then regret ushering them into my domain since all I’d really wanted was to be by myself. Until I made another mess. Now, I just shake my head, grab a broom, and push my world back into order. This is what we do, we grownups. We make messes. We clean them up. We live anew.

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy