One of the most necessary aspects of human socialization is cleanliness. You cannot function effectively in the world without the ability to keep yourself tidy. I can assure you that if I smell like I just ran 10 miles, ate a whole clove of garlic and then jumped into a pool of Vicks VapoRub mixed with vinegar, would have a hard time keeping a job or relationship. I’d also be a candidate for immediate psychiatric evaluation. Hygiene is a basic element of everyday life. That’s why I am perplexed as to why the generation I belong to is so horribly incompetent when it comes to maintaining sanitary conditions.
Shower mildew seems to come standard in every apartment occupied by someone in their 20s. There’s more hair trapped in my friends’ carpets than I have on my head. Of course, as a man approaching 30 and learning to cope with a thinning mane, maybe that’s not quite so spectacular. Regardless, no matter whose domicile I step into, I expect a relatively clean situation, but I rarely get it.
In college, I grew to understand the male tendency to be slovenly. Empty beer cans were something like décor for a college age man. Some people collect Beanie Babies; others collect filth. It was not until I graduated from my university that I understood that this phenomenon crosses all gender boundaries. In some cases, women are actually far dirtier than men.
This could be a symptom of the patriarchy’s manipulation of culture, but I grew up assuming that all women were like my mother. They cleaned up the mess of the men in their lives. They dusted, vacuumed, washed dishes, scrubbed sinks and showered on a regular basis without having to be blackmailed with incriminating photos of sexual misconduct. As a person heavily influenced by maternal suggestion (aka guilt), I developed a need to have order in my home. I do my laundry with gusto. I take the trash out before it starts to smell, not after. I have wood polish…that I bought.
Even though I grew up to be the physical embodiment of the utter fallaciousness of my childhood stereotype, I still wanted to believe that all women were neat. I hate to break it to my younger self, who I am sure is reading this through the use of the time machine that will be invented in 2035, but there are plenty of gross women. I can trace my discovery of feminism back to the moment when I first saw bras left casually strewn across a cracked leather couch in my girlfriend’s apartment. I had such a hard time reconciling my love for her with her cavalier attitude toward undergarments. Did she not realize those were private, and more importantly, not sanitary? Did she have no respect for my presence in her home? How many discarded tampon wrappers were underneath her couch? Women really are equal to men, because they can be just as repulsive with their habits. I shudder to think back to this seminal event, but I must for the sake of society.
This has to change, ladies. I need my innocence back. I demand it. At the very least pretend that you care, for my sake. If you really can’t bring yourself to straighten up the place, let me do it. I know now that the ignorant cliches I grew up with were merely a construct of male hegemony. I get it. I respect the diversity of the species. I will wash everything. Your dishes, your floor, your walls, your shower. I’ll even give you a non-erotic sponge bath just so you don’t have to go to the trouble of washing yourself platonically.
Cleanliness is not a male or female issue. It’s just an issue. We are rolling toward the base of a slippery slope of sloth, and the bottom of the hill is full of old Burger King wrappers. Have we lost our way so completely that a well-dusted Hallmark Star Trek ornament on your mantle isn’t a sign of cultivation? Am I some kind of backwards, National Geographic-reading square just because I get my suits dry-cleaned once a month? Am I just old?
Perhaps I should embrace modernity in order to retain some semblance of perspective and sanity. Trash is, after all, a readily available reminder of what humankind is actually doing to the planet and to themselves. What we put in our body and into the earth is just as repulsive as what we leave growing in our bathtub grout. Your colon generates waste material. Your car pumps out noxious fumes that are destroying the atmosphere. The cigarette butts that you leave in front of your favorite bar are not going to decompose for years, not to mention the fact that you are inhaling poison when you smoke said cigarettes. The blatant lies propagated by cable news outlets are fairly close to wasteful speech.
People are actually incredibly gross without even trying. We pretend that we smell like a mountain spring, but we actually do just smell like a lunatic marathon runner who rolls around in mentholated ointment. I guess I should just quit faking it and take my metaphorical bras out of the closet.