Work For Its Own Sake

The puritan compact, whereby a good or pleasure is sacrificed in order to rise on the moral hierarchy, need by no means involve sex. A close second in the currency of self-congratulation is unnecessary work. One must always take the trouble of helping little old ladies across the street – especially when they don’t actually want to go.

I know a man whose parents washed the dishes and then, rather than rinsing them, dried the suds off them with a dishcloth. This cloth was changed perhaps once or twice a week. Their son would point out that this was a dangerously unsanitary practice, with regard to both detergent residues and bacteria breeding in the damp dishcloth, and that it was better to rinse, drain and let dry in the air. Indeed, other cultures had two sinks and a wire basket that fitted into the one for that very purpose. For his pains he was severely reproached for being work-shy. They evinced no interest in the superior hygiene of this other method, only in the fact that it involved less work. Ergo, the only possible reason for using it was Laziness. (Younger generation, harrumph, not like in my day, harrumph, don’t know what the world is coming to.) The animus against the hygienic method was because it threatened one component of the deal whereby they performed this pointless makework and then, like the Pharisee in the Temple, congratulated themselves on not being like unto this disgraceful, bone-idle person who rinsed and drained his dishes.

Another important genteel practice is to blanket the house in brass ornaments. In the old days this signified that one had servants to do the inordinate amount of polishing required, just as the aristocracy did with their silverware. After the middle classes could no longer afford servants, the wife did all this pointless makework, thus staking a claim to martyrdom that could subsequently be exchanged for other benefits, such as the right to be unpleasant to everyone without reproach.

Similarly, in a certain time and place there used to be a type of genteel housewife who delighted in fitted carpets in the lavatory, right up to the pedestal. In conjunction with the inevitabilities of male anatomy and pilot error, this could have unfortunate results. It might therefore be wondered why she persisted in demanding such fitted carpets, with all the extra work of cleaning this involved, when tiles, vinyl, linoleum or varnished wood are so much more hygienic. That would be to miss the point entirely; the object of the whole exercise was nothing other than to create a situation in which the housewife must waste her valuable time cleaning up after her husband and sons. This is drudgery, but the consequent bitter reproaches of the downtrodden martyr are pure pleasure, and a social capital that can be spent on other things.

Besides, nagging the menfolk for dripping on a fitted carpet was an important middle-class status marker. It showed that you had risen above having to nag the menfolk for dripping on mere linoleum.

3 Responses

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  1. Written by Urban Djin
    on May 8, 2009 at 14:42
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    As one who lives alone and cleans up after himself, I can’t imagine a better
    explanation for fitted carpeting around the throne. But in truth, Hugo,
    although I don’t doubt that you can document the facticity of the
    phenomenon, no one I know likes cleaning up piss, whether from carpeting or tile. Such plush appointments for the privy are unimaginable in my milieu. Perhaps that is only because I tend to associate with folks sensible enough to prefer hygiene and easy clean-up over such opportunities for moral condemnation, but it’s hard not to suspect that wall-to-wall carpeting in the loo can’t have been all that common ever, for purely practical reasons,
    certainly not among women for whom housework was a second shift.

    That the water closet has been such a battleground between the sexes
    reflects which gender makes the mess and which cleans it. I clean my own and as a result try to minimize the splatter. Sitting to piss is very effective
    overspray control. I often do so because I have better things to do than
    cleaning. Yet I’m told that in Germany calling a man a “sitzpinkler” is
    derisive, implying that his wife runs roughshod over him. There’s something
    to that. If she really wanted to solve the problem it would be simpler to
    just have him clean the lav. He might then even choose to sit while pissing
    in order to minimize pilot error and thereby reduce the frequency of his
    chore. But that would be no fun. It’s much better to continue cleaning up
    after him and insist that her natural mode of urination is the only
    acceptable one while his is an abomination.

  2. Written by Hugo Grinebiter
    on May 8, 2009 at 15:08
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    Perhaps the fitted loo carpet has gone the way of the lava lamp. I haven’t seen one in a while, mostly because it’s unthinkable where I live now. I bet the Dursleys in “Harry Potter” have one, though: that’s the guilty class.

    Yes, I live alone and clean up after myself too. Regarding the sitzpinkler, I once knew a German green and leftist who regarded it as the only correct way to proceed. I can’t argue against it, but force of habit is strong. However, having him do the work would fall foul of the cosmic constant that no woman will ever admit that a man has cleaned anything adequately.

    I was going to squib later about the great question of the Seat, but in case I don’t live long enough, I will recall the time I shared a loo with four other males and a female. The latter did the usual routine about why couldn’t we leave the seat down for her, and I replied by asking why she couldn’t leave it up for us, as we outnumbered her five to one. The question crashed her operating system. It’s not about practicality or consideration for others; it is, as you suggest, eschatological.

  3. Written by Urban Djin
    on May 9, 2009 at 19:31
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    Ah yes, The Seat. I am so glad that THAT silly issue has largely passed from the scene. I see it as purely a matter of courtesy and find it fascinating that precisely the same generation of women which mocked other courtesies such as opening doors insisted on that one. Utterly bizarre.

    That a woman ought to be able, by natural right, to piss without looking first or lifting a finger is beyond strange. The poor helpless dears! Imagine extending that natural right to men. Keep a mop and bucket handy. And this demand came from a generation of women who were so extremely sensitive about double standards! As my ex-wife used to delight in saying, “What’s yours is mine and what’s mine is mine”.

    As one who generally favors fairness, I like “The Double Seat Solution” in which both seats being closed is the standard position. This is a courtesy to anyone of either gender who might want to sit down while toweling feet dry, filing nails, scooping the cat box, or anything else that one might do in that multipurpose room which also happens to house the commode, a room typically too small for other seating arrangements. And the practice obligates both sexes to adjust the seat position before they let fly.

    Solomon would approve, I think. With one thousand wives and concubines, just imagine how sick and tired he must have been of The Seat Problem!

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