The Theology of the Bathroom
BY Simcha Fisher
| Posted 4/23/13 at 8:24 AM
Not wanting to be one of those overbearing feminist types who always doubts the words of men who are wiser far than I, let me demurely defer to the great scholar of gender studies, Dave Barry. I can't find the exact quotation, but the basic idea is this: if you are cleaning a bathroom and are wondering, for the eight thousandth time, why men pee on the seats, then wonder no more. The answer is that men are jerks.
It's been strangely healing for me to remember this wisdom today. We've had several parties at our house lately, and usually that means that the bathroom gets cleaned regularly, if with more screaming and recriminations than are usually associated with peaceful domesticity. But for the last few parties, the guests have all been boys between the ages of 8 and 10. I'll be honest with you: I looked at the guest list, and I looked at the filthy bathroom, and I decided my time would be better spent knocking back a few glasses of wine and trying to persuade my husband that all the male actors in that Robin Hood TV show do so look unnecessarily similar. They do!
But today, the rubber hit the road: several teenage girls were coming over, and they were staying long enough that they would all, inevitably, see my bathroom. A teenage girl is not like an eight-year-old boy -- no, not at all. I briefly considered just going with the laissez faire approach, which means that I just keep telling myself, "Yeah, but I have nine kids! Who has nine kids? Nobody, that's who! But I do, that's who!" But last time I did that, the director -- the actual founder and director of my children's school -- was at our house for something or other, sledding or something. And I just decided to let the chips fall where they may, and who cares if the sink had a little soap scum on it, and maybe there were some rubber duckies here and there? Or maybe a towel or two on the floor? Keepin' it real.
But I had forgotten, you see, that the kids had found a box of those disposable blue medical gloves, which we had in the house for a non-medical reason which I would explain, except that it makes my face tired. So of course they had filled the gloves with water and toothpaste and soap and -- well, they had filled them with whatever they could find to fill them, there in the bathroom, and then they had left them scattered around the floor and the counter and the tub. And so when the director of the school -- the director, of my kids' new school -- decided she would just pop in to visit the restroom, she had the distinct impression that she was stepping into an unusually unhygienic crime scene, possibly involving a helicopter of poop, and that all of the doctors had fled in horror, leaving their sad rubber gloves behind them, gesturing on the floor in a sordid pantomime of entreaty.
The next day, I considered writing an email that began, "Thanks so much for coming sledding with us! It was tons of fun. Maybe you were wondering about all those rubber gloves." But then my face got tired, and I decided to skip it.
And so, not wanting to recreate that particular experience, I decided I'd give the bathroom a good old fashioned scrub down, and give the oldest three kids a good lesson in latrinewifery in the process. (They do clean it once a week, but it was mostly a clearing out, wiping down operation, without any vigorous, circular scrubbing, or caustic chemicals, or bitterness against men. In other words, they weren't really cleaning it.)
So I cleaned it, and I passed down what I knew to the next generation; and I could see, in their shining faces, that they were well on their way to despising cleaning the bathroom just as much as I do today, and that it was only a matter of time before they, too, would be the mistress of a house which was more or less livable except for that one room, that one room which, despite the rubber duckies and the cheery tropical fish festooning the shower curtain, was actually a repository of shame, neglect, loathing, rage, and poop.
So I guess I still have a few lingering questions, besides the one that Prof. Barry answered, above. Questions such as:
Q: If you are teaching your teenage daughters how to clean the bathroom, and you get done with the really gross, crusty part of it and move on to the relatively less hideous moldy part, and you tell your kids, "And now we can go ahead and take care of the mold. You know, mold isn't really so bad. Mold is a sign of life," and they say (this is an actual quote), "Mama, I don't know how your readers stand reading you," then what does this signify?
A: Your kids are jerks.
Q: Um, what is that on the wall? Peanut butter, right?
Q: Okay, but surely I'm imagining that the, uh, peanut butter spells out "DOOM," right?
Q: Well, missy, care to explain why is this post called "Theology of the Bathroom?"
A: Sorry, can't stay and chat, gotta get that birthday cake in the oven.
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