I have a couple of important men in my life. But up there in the top three has to be Gene the cleaner. And before you even start with the clichés: no, he doesn’t clean like this:
All my non-single girlfriends spend major beer time detailing the toilet habits of their male cohabitees, and complaining about beard trimmings in the bath, pee on/under/around the toilet seat, snot/dribble on the pillow cases, I could go on…so you could be forgiven for thinking that all men are really crap at keeping the place buffed and shined. But have you ever seen a man clean his car? Or phone? Or computer screen? Oh, yes, let’s make a frigging science of it. I bet pretty much any man you know can tell you a recipe for perfect homemade screen cleaner, along the lines of ‘3 parts water, one part lemon juice’ or something. Go on, ask.
None of this spit-on-a-tissue-wrapped-round-your-finger crap you learned from your mum when she was cleaning the chocolate off your face. My mum actually told me that cleaning your hands with leftover orange peel was the way to go if you didn’t have a tissue at hand. It was only years later that she admitted she simply never seemed to have a tissue on her (but apparently bagfuls of oranges!) and so had fed me this housekeeping lie, to get me off her back! I spent 10 years of my life with pith-covered sticky fingers…
It just seems to me that men really might be better at it than…well, at least than me! I am about to go really un-PC on you all, so close your eyes NOW if you think men and women are identical in every way except for their junk). Gene the Clean has a plan. A big plan. He works systematically, with a tool kit and a bottle of organic orange-oil-based cleaning fluid always at his side. He makes every minute count. He enters the flat, takes off his shoes and socks in a slightly ritualistic way, rolls up his trousers like he is about to enter the swamplands of Southern Louisiana or the boggy wetlands of Romney Marsh (I try not to take it personally) and gets to it.
This man puts fresh sheets on my bed. He folds my shirts in origami-like exactitude. He gently lifts up my collection of animal skulls one by one, wipes underneath, and puts them back. He oils the floors like he is giving them a massage, he polishes those tiles to high shine. He makes me feel ….oh so much better than most men in my life.
Yes, I went through the moral quandaries all middle-class feminist do: I generally believe if you made it, you should clean it. But: if someone is really good at something, well, we can’t all go around painting our own modern art, and soldering our own wrought iron bedposts can we? Write our own books, make our own music?
I do a lot of things myself that other women (and men) are happy to pay for. I’ve laid my own floors, my dad even taught me how to change a plug, last century, and I can put up shelves with the best of them, but it doesn’t mean I really want to. Why is it OK to pay good money for clothes someone else has sewn (preferably not 6-year-old waifs in Indonesia), but not for someone to hoover the flat?
Then there is the feminist issue… I still don’t think I could bear the idea of another woman cleaning my mess. Or maybe I just don’t want to be judged by another woman. Being judged by a man? Well, we women got used to that as soon as we hit puberty so it’s no biggie. So, why is it less of a problem for me to have a cleaner who happens to be a man? Does that make me a sexist? And what if he happened to be black? Would I still be good with it? Asian? Polish?
Or is it all about class? I am British after all. This guy is training to be a dancer, he is American, I am guessing from an ok-income family. He probably earns more cleaning than he would making lattes for the tourists.
But the bottom line is this: If you do a job you are getting fairly paid for, and you are being appreciated for it, then it’s good with me. And it makes me happy. Happier than getting nine likes on a blog post.
Plus, my girls get to see that it’s not always mummy cleaning the bathroom (he comes once a fortnight, so it’s not like I don’t have any housework to do). Being a single mum makes it hard sometimes to supply good male role models. So, it’s all about compartmentalizing. And if I had to choose just one man for regular access to my sheets…it would have to be Gene the Clean every time.