To continue the housekeeping theme, I will report that I have done 2.75 hours of housework today, albeit without a hoover. I broke the hoover on Thursday. Fortunately B.A. was sanguine about this loss, as he had got the device free and second-hand years ago. And we have ordered a new one, a 3-in-1 gadget from VAX, which not only hoovers things, it washes carpets. Yes, this is what married life reduces you to: the same excitement one used to have for a new dress, one now has for a new vacuum cleaner. And to think that I am actually looking forward to washing the carpets. Have I been brainwashed by aliens?
But it turns out that I do not hate housework; I just hated the thought of housework. It's the same with everything difficult, actually: I hate the thought of effort, so I procrastinate like mad, and then when I do it either it's not so bad, or I really enjoy it. I suppose the big exception would be cleaning the cat's litter box, but we don't have a cat, so I'm spared that.
To make myself do necessary tasks that take effort, I need a personal system of bribes and punishments. I also need to get up around 7 or so. And then, because morning is my brainiest time and it seems like a shame to spend the whole thing on housework, I make my coffee and study Polish for an hour. (Lately, though, I have been terribly distracted by the internet, so that hour goes on for quite a long time.) And then, having finished the exercises at the end of the chapter, I get up with relief and a sense of accomplishment and put on my cleaning clothes to tackle the Room of the Day. And only then do I allow myself to set fingers to keyboard, or open a literary work--although sometimes doing even these things involve self-bribery. For one thing, now that I get paid to read books, I should stop feeling so guilty about reading books.
When I ponder my reluctance to do serious housework, right down to the nap of the carpet cleaning, for example, I see not just laziness and procrastination but shame. At some point in the twentieth century, it became shameful for women to do a lot of housework. The idea was that women who stayed at home doing housework were pretty useless (for how long could it take, with all our new labour-saving devices?) and very boring compared to Career Women or, to describe the reality of the work world for the majority, women with jobs. This was a total reversal of my Canadian grandmother's way of life. Her primary profession was housewife, and she had a little part-time job behind the counter of a local store: Charlie's Smoke Shop, I believe. But by the time I was growing up, people (women, mostly) were so nasty about housewives and women so meek about being "just a housewife" that I honestly began to think that there was something seriously wrong with women doing their own housework and it was best left to paid professionals like Hannah Gruen, who ruled the kitchen in Nancy Drew's house. It was not until recently that I realized how much many working mothers long to stay at home and housewife all week instead of just on the weekends. All of a sudden, it's okay, even posh, for middle-class women to stay at home again.
Another situation that changed my attitude towards getting on my hands and knees to scrub is the phenomenon of Polish university students in the UK getting jobs scrubbing floors to pay their living expenses. My mother, who encouraged her children in their part-time jobs behind counters, would never have allowed me to scrub my way through uni. Yet the beauty of the parish gamely scrubbed the stairwells of Edinburgh for 12 pounds an hour, or whatever it was. (To put this into perspective, the pound has roughly the same buying power in the UK as a dollar has in Canada. The UK is hellishly expensive.) That impressed me a lot.
I am not sure what this all has to do with Single life, although naturally we all have an aversion to living in dirt. When I lived alone, I was quite good at keeping on top of housework, in part because I lived either in a bachelor (bedsitter), a one-bedroom flat or a room in a convent. When it is quite obvious that the only person who is going to clean and tidy is you, you just do it. When you have roommates or a husband, then letting things slide is a lot more tempting. But inevitably there will be drama. The preparing for marriage hint I will pass on is that expecting a man to do 50% of the housework is insane, even if you do work the same number of paid hours he does. To say that it is unfair for men to do less housework is like saying gravity is unfair. There seems to be some culture-based masculine enjoyment/toleration/shouldering of outdoor work, especially in the UK where men garden like mad, but honestly I think any indoor housework a man does is a nice bonus, unless it involves hammers.