stress cleaning

I have blogged before about some of the fundamentally different ways that Danny and I process information (our ways of navigating Houston streets, for example) and about about some of the minor household conflicts that make life in the Smith apartment interesting (like the Battle of the Towel).

These are, of course, just two examples of an entire array of differences that make our marriage interesting.  Danny likes chianti.  I like riesling.  Danny likes toast that is, essentially, warm bread.  I like a little but of singe.  Danny has an absolute house rule that we don’t dress the cats.  I think Echo would look stunning as a pumpkin.  You know, just for a few minutes.

Another difference: I always make the bed.  Always.  Every morning.  If I don’t get to it in the morning, I will make it at night, even if that means I’m straightening the sheets five minutes before bedtime.  Danny? He never makes the bed.  He actually prefers climbing into bed at night when it’s unmade.  He likes finding that warm cave of covers and blankets his body created the night before.  I find this.  Well.  Gross.  My aversion to unmade beds is much stronger then his love for crooked pillowcases, so I win. He has graciously ceded that one.

This afternoon, as I was reading my latest issue of Real Simple, I came across a short meditation by writer Isabel Gillies on making the bed that explains very gracefully why a smooth comforter is important to me.  Toward the end, she writes:

I make mistakes, feel in search of out-of-reach answers; but I can assemble something that has been dismantled, straighten what has been undone . . . A made bed is good to come home to.  It says to the world and, more important, to you, “I am not unhinged.”

This is exactly why I make the bed.  While I’m a neat person by nature, I’m definitely a stress cleaner.   The more out-of-control my life feels, the more “out-of-reach” the answers seem, the fewer spots you’ll find on my bathroom mirror.   The job market worked wonders on my closets, and my bookshelves were never so organized as they were when I was finishing my dissertation.  If I can’t control the questions my committee will ask me during my defense… well… I can control the placement of dry goods in my pantry.  Small to large.

This is ironic.  The manic bed-making that makes me feel like “I am not unhinged” makes me appear a little unhinged.  But as soon as I found these two sentences I dogeared the page and planned on reading the passage aloud to Danny as soon as he got home.  See! Making the bed — it has a purpose, a psychology!

When Danny walked in the door and dropped his keys on the kitchen table — I probably immediately moved them to the tray with my keys and change, because it’s a stress-cleaning type of day — I whipped out my magazine triumphantly and began reading.  He listened patiently and took a minute before responding.

“I did all of the bed-making I will ever do when I was in the Army.”

Fair enough.  But even if he hadn’t spent four years cinching perfect hospital corners, I still don’t think he would make the bed.  Because cleaning does not give Danny the same sense of control that it gives me.  And this is just another reason why it’s always challenging and, well, kind of awesome being in a relationship with someone who is different from me in so many ways.  Because here is this person who is willing to stand next to the bed at 10:45, in his pajamas, while I fluff the pillows, even though he has no real understanding of why I have to do this.

And, in return, I will never put Toby in a jester’s cap.


3 thoughts on “stress cleaning

  1. This is one of the (many) reasons I miss living with you. Your orderly self kept me honest. Perhaps I need new bathroom signs as a reminder of my cleanliness potential.

  2. I have a feeling this might change if/when you have children. Having Andy has made me reevaluate the importance of cleanliness in life. I used to be obsessively clean, but living with Terri softened that, and having Andy made me give it up completely in order to preserve my sanity (fragile as it is).

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