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Archive for July 25th, 2013

The test of a vocation is the love of the drudgery it involves.  –  Logan Smith

retro dishwashingWhen it comes to housework, everyone is different; though some people are either OK with all of it or hate all of it equally, most of us are OK with some tasks and despise others.  For example, I’ve known people who will let the dishes pile up onto the counters before doing them, and others who whine if they don’t get “help” doing the laundry.  Neither of those bothers me at all; in fact my attention to both of them might be considered by some to border on the obsessive.  Though I have a dishwasher, I must wash every dish by hand before putting it in there, and it must be done before I go to bed; even if I’m about to drop from exhaustion (as I was while we were working on our house two weeks ago), every dish must be washed and the dishwasher started or I won’t be able to sleep.  While preparing feasts, I wash dishes every time I get a break so as to keep the sink clear.  And though laundry is only once per week, I have similarly-stringent procedures for it:  all clothes are sorted by color and washed in a certain order determined partly by habit and partly by relative load size.  Nobody else is allowed to interfere in the process, and previously-hidden dirty clothes dropped into the wrong color-pile after the process of washing starts are likely to result in the offending item being hurled at its owner, along with various terms of opprobrium.

But lest you think I’m some sort of paragon of domesticity, consider my bed-making (woefully inept when even attempted, which is rarely), dusting (hopelessly inadequate) and clutter management (the less said, the better); our new house incorporates design elements intended to make all of these dreadful chores as much less onerous as our current levels of technology and affluence allow.  But of all the things which need to be done to make a living space livable, none of them are as awful to me as cleaning bathrooms, and no bathroom-cleaning chore is as repulsive as cleaning toilets.  Part of my aversion is practical:  the filth that needs to be removed from bathroom fixtures in general and toilets in particular is just nastier than that which needs to be removed from other rooms.  But the worse part is a conditioned response:  my early adolescence was plagued by week-long attacks of illness characterized by violent nausea, and to this very day the characteristic odor of even a clean toilet turns my stomach; whenever I have to perform the horrid task, I get it done as quickly as possible for fear of being sickened by the power of suggestion.

toilet cleaningAnd that’s only my own toilet; the idea of having to scrub somebody else’s – or horror of horrors, a public one – is so utterly revolting that I would do almost anything else to survive before taking a job that required it.  To me, cleaning public toilets is the most degrading, demeaning job imaginable, and the irrational part of my mind tells me that a woman would have to be completely desperate, perhaps even forced or coerced, to do it.  If I were the sort of fanatic who believes it’s perfectly acceptable to force others to live according to my idiosyncratic feelings, I might even push for the profession of charwoman to be criminalized as intrinsically exploitative and degrading; in fact, I might even campaign for public bathrooms to be banned altogether on the grounds that as long as they exist, somebody will have to clean them.  Oh, I know that some people say they don’t find it any worse than any other paid work, or even that they prefer it to the other jobs available to them.  But obviously, they can’t be telling the truth if they disagree with me; because my ideas and feelings are the only right ones, anyone who says anything to the contrary is either lying or suffering from “false consciousness”.  They might even be in the employ of the powerful janitorial industry!  Did you know that 300,000 children in the US are forced into a life of toilet-cleaning every year?  And that their average age is 13?  It’s true!  They have to clean 50 toilets an hour, and make $300,000 a year for their traffickers while they make nothing and have to sleep locked up in broom cupboards at night.

Of course, I’m not that kind of person.  I realize that everyone has different likes and dislikes, different aversions and motivations, and different thresholds of disgust for different activities; I even recognize that it’s possible for other people to be perfectly comfortable with a job I would consider a form of torture, and vice-versa.  But because many people are either unable or unwilling to understand this, it’s important that we take away everyone’s ability to inflict her own skewed weltanschauung upon others; though it’s impossible to make all people tolerant and accepting of differences, we can at least eradicate the processes by which fanatics force all of society to pretend that their own subjective feelings about various behaviors have some basis in objective reality.

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