Thursday 27 September 2007
Chores : is this life?
Why are household chores so excruciatingly horrible? Like most people I just hate chores. The sight of a wash basket makes me creep. When I'm putting out clothes I try to rush it in order to minimise the duration of the experience.
The thought of some chores hurts something deep within my being. It's as if I'm mopping the floor and asking: can this be life? And rather like a life sentence in prison there is the added tyranny of repetition. "I'm washing this floor now. I will need to wash it again. And again. In fact this cannot end until I get rich (the equivalent of escape from prison) or die".
Some tasks are bearable: the dishwasher isn't so terrible, it's more like bad sex - in, out, done. But most are devastating. There are few sounds in any home which distress the ear more than the scream of the hoover. It seems singularly designed to torment. For chores of any length, like mowing the lawn, I sometimes wear an ipod or portable radio. But the hoover kills that angle for soothing the mental pain. It allows no escape.
Ironing too is annoying, but my solution there is a combination of buying clothes which don't require much ironing and learning to live with the crease. My wife and I have an agreement that we never iron anything for one another. We detest it equally and think it unfair to ask another human being to do it on our behalf. The other chores at least have the merit of being for mutual benefit.
Dusting is a particular abhorrence of mine. The returns seem so pitifully small against the effort of lifting and shifting so many little fidgety items that you passionately feel aren't needed anyway. I eagerly await the invention of the dusting machine and I envy those with wives who are committed minimalists when it comes to ornamenting the living room. Photos should remain where they belong - in albums. You know, there really is no need to display all of those birthday cards. And what about the little shells and a million other little uninteresting things which I cannot even name.
Nothing though, but nothing is as bad as the bathroom. As you plumb the depths of un-enjoyable activities, cleaning the bathroom is, if you pardon the pun, at the bottom. It stinks. After donning the gloves and wielding the horrid brush, who would not be humbled. At a certain dark level it can be a positive experience, for somehow, the bathroom reminds us of the fragility and arbitrariness of what it means to be human.
Instead of an obscure tract called "Being and Time", I wish the German Philosopher, Heidegger had given us a tome on coping with the angst of household chores. He might have called it "Being and Toilet".