Yes, Virginia, Men Can Clean Toilets
Yes, Virginia, men can clean toilets. Some of us have peculiar ways, out here in California. Since I retired from teaching, five years ago, and excluding this most recent summer, I have maintained the household, endeavoring to keep ahead of the dust that descends upon us each day from Bell Springs Road. I would think of it as the gift that keeps on giving, except when I try to exchange this “gift’ at Customer Service, they suggest I try elsewhere.
Ann has her long-arm quilting machine here at the house, so she is gainfully employed much of the time. I have my pension, but except for plunging back into the world of construction this past summer, for the first time in more than twenty years, I do not work outside our home. Therefore, it seemed logical that Ann should not have to worry about house-cleaning.
Having been raised in a household where the four oldest of us were boys, I learned at any early age, that washing dishes and floors, though not at the same time, was not women’s work. It was work, pure and simple. Mama used to give each of us a list each summer morning, with a number of tasks which might include cleaning one of the bathrooms, or washing the lunch dishes. We learned at an early age that if you ate meals, then washing the dishes came with the territory.
If you watched television at any point in time, then vacuuming the living room seemed appropriate. I tracked dirt into the house, either on my bare feet in the summer, or my shoes in the winter, so sweeping and washing the kitchen floor seemed the only logical course of action. I never felt as though the chores were demeaning or unmanly (unboyly?). That doesn’t mean I enjoyed the chores, it just means that I accepted it as a way of life.
Now, I keep the kitchen counters clean, the mechanics of the recycling, trash and compost coordinated, the floors swept and mopped, the bathrooms cleaned, and the clutter on the pool table kept to manageable levels. I wash dishes, do laundry, clean toilets and feed the cats. I vacuum, make the bed, empty the ashes from the wood stoves, and get up on a stool to clean the top of the refrigerator. One of my son Ben’s favorite things to do, at six-two, is run his finger across the top of the ‘fridge, as though at the firehouse, conducting an inspection, and cluck disapprovingly. If you have ever been “clucked” at, you know what I’m saying/talking about.
I hear all of the men out there muttering, “What do you want, a medal, or a chest to pin it on?” and I say, “Eat a root.” I’m simply not a macho kind of guy. Kat didn’t call me Pooh Bear, because I walk around flashing knife scars all over my face.
OK, there was that incident last summer on the job site, when a one-inch piece of plywood, slipped innocuously into the side of my finger, and nestled there, rendering my finger incapable of bending by its very rigidity. Was there a tweezers in the house? Does the shoemaker’s kids wear shoes?
Luckily Casey, who was visibly distressed at my discomfort, had a spanking new razor blade from his pack of a hundred, and I was able to make that inch-long incision in the time that it would have taken to scream bloody murder. Of course, I may have had to put squeezing out the mop temporarily aside, except that during the summer, I was lucky to be able to water the tomatoes upon my return home, let alone mop floors.
MY point is that washing toilets, is no more women’s work than men’s work, unless the men refrain from using the toilets. [Be careful what you ask for.] If someone wants to view my househusbandry, in any other way than an equal exchange of responsibilities, then I say, “Fine, I’ll leave the chain-sawing to you, and you leave the grout-cleaning to me," and I’ll get the better end of the deal, because we don’t got no grout.