It’s Sunday afternoon and I’m walking around the house, trying to figure out how I’m going to complete everything on my weekend to-do list. I’ve been so busy with other projects lately that housework has taken a back seat - and it’s beginning to show. The dishes are dirty, the floors unswept, and the smells emanating from the garbage disposal have set off the carbon monoxide alarm. I have two choices: Clean or move.
I scan the living room and my eyes find my husband, lounging lazily in front of TV. He’s munching on Cheetos and cycling through a series of football games, completely unaware that our house is one mouse shy of being condemned. He has, I’ve discovered, a superpower: the complete inability to see filth.
“What’s wrong babe?” He asks. He may not notice a mess but he can always feel my disapproving eyes on him. Another superpower. When I don’t answer he extracts himself from the couch and plods towards me, offering me his bag of chips. “Anything I can do?” His gaze stays with me only for a second before sliding back to the game. Someone in a blue uniform catches a ball and my husband raises his arms in victory, launching several Cheetos in my direction.
I rarely ask my husband to help. After all, I’m the one who works from home. And since I don’t earn enough income to feed our plants, I try to make up for it by taking care of the house. But even I know when I’m licked. “I’m overwhelmed,” I admit, hoping that fuzzy thing looking at me from the corner is my daughter’s doggie slipper. “There’s just too much to do.”
“The house looks fine,” he says.
“I’m not sure why I told you.” My lip starts to tremble. “I knew you wouldn’t understand.”
“Come on babe,” he says. “It’s not that bad. I can help. Just let me know what you need.”
“What do you know how to do?” I ask dubiously. To this day the only evidence I’ve seen of his domesticity is that he lives in a house.
“I can do laundry,” he says confidently. “I used to do my own laundry, you know, before I got a wife.”
“Are you sure? Maybe you should dust the furniture."
“No. Laundry is perfect. Wash. Dry. Fold. Easy Peasy. And…” he says as he hustles up to the guest room where we store our dirty clothes, “I can do it all during commercial breaks.”
My husband is in the room and I hear the swish-swish of flying clothes. When he doesn’t emerge I call to him. “Need help gathering?”
“Don’t worry babe. I’m on it.”
My husband is a smart man. He wears khaki pants to work, crunches numbers, and manages people at his office. If he says he can handle the laundry, I have to believe him. I start on the dishes, wondering if we should just get a new set, when I see my husband trot down the stairs with a basket of clothes piled so high I can’t make out his face.
“I didn’t realize we had so many dirty clothes,” I say.
“There were four hampers in the guest room. I managed to fit them all into one stack.”
“You combined the clothes from the green hamper with the clothes from the red hamper?” I gasped. I had explained to him countless times that clothes in a green hamper were clean and clothes in a red hamper were dirty. Even if he hadn’t listened it should have been easy to figure out: Green - clothes were ready to GO. Red – the next STOP was the washing machine. “Now the clean and dirty clothes are mixed up.”
“Sorry babe,” my husband says, offering to do a sniff test. I tell him that it’s okay, we will just wash them all again, and I follow him down to our laundry room. When we get there he turns on the machine, dumps in half a box of detergent, and starts adding the entire contents of the basket into the washer.
“First of all,” I say, yanking out the things that appear to be mine. “That’s too many clothes. It will break the machine. Secondly, you can’t wash them all together, in the same temperature.”
“Sure I can. Saves time and money.”
“But you didn’t sort the colors from the whites.”
“No need. I was them all in cold.”
“Do you really want to wash your socks and underwear in cold water?” I ask. “That’s not hygienic.”
“Marilyn vos Savant says that all clothes can be washed in cold water. The germ thing is made up by the gas company to get you to use more hot water.”
I groaned. Whenever he wants to win an argument he quotes Marilyn vos Savant. But I wasn’t buying this one and I googled it.
“Aha!” I say triumphantly. “Socks DO need to be washed in hot water. Otherwise you might get athlete’s foot. And who knows what you will get if you don’t wash your underwear in hot water?”
“You don’t say,” he says scratching his head. “I wonder why Marilyn said otherwise.”
The bell on the washing machine rings, letting us know the wash cycle is over. He removes the wet clothes, which have all turned the same shade of murky blue. I raise an ‘I told you so eyebrow’ and he shrugs. “I don’t mind wearing clothes that are all the same color,” he reassures me, “easier to match.”
At least I saved mine, I think. And then a terrible thought occurs to me.
“Honey…what did you do with the clothes that were in the washing machine?” He didn’t have to say a word. A buzz from the dryer confirmed my deepest fears.
“You put my clothes into the dryer!?”
“Yep. You’re welcome.”
“Oh my God. You can’t do that”
“Because my clothes fit just right, but if they get hit by so much as a gust of wind on a warm day, they shrink.”
I opened the dryer and a load of clothing that could have fit my daughter’s Barbie Dolls tumbles out. I hold a skirt up to my body. In its current state it would either make me some extra money or get me put on probation. “I can’t wear these.”
“Why not? You’ll look hot.”
“We live in the Suburbs!” I say. If I went out in this I’d be banned from schoolyards, libraries, and The Home Depot. But maybe not Lowes.
“Suit yourself,” he says. “Anyways, laundry is done. Need help with anything else?”
I look at the pile of what had once been people-sized clothing and fight back the sigh that is welling up inside me. Maybe it’s not that bad. A few short years on Slimfast and I’ll be wearing them again. I kiss him on the cheek and hand him a new bag of chips. “No, honey,” I say. “I don’t think I need any more help today. Why don’t you go and watch your game?”
“Okay, baby. But only if you’re sure.” My husband takes the chips and disappears into his mancave, and somehow I manage to do everything on my list that day. I guess all I needed was a little extra motivation.
And maybe that's his real superpower after all.
And maybe that's his real superpower after all.