It’s Sunday morning. I’m wearing sweatpants, a T-shirt I don’t care about, and a head wrap that holds my hair out of my face. It’s not glamorous, but it’s functional. I’m dressed that way because I’ve been cleaning. Nothing major but the kind of light cleaning that doesn’t wait for a weekday to be done.
I normally do my chores then, when I’m alone. As a break between tasks. I write one thing. Do chores. Write another.
Sometimes while I’m doing chores, my mind wanders, and the writing gods deliver inspiration.
Other times I just end up stinky and sore. No new ideas.
But something in my home gleams. No matter what my bored brain does while getting there.
But I’m cleaning Sunday morning while my partner is there. Their presence while I’m cleaning is uncomfortable for me, but I try to push it out of my mind. I’m sure it has to do with how many times someone passive-aggressively cleaned in front of me while I was growing up. Making pressuring eye contact. Non-verbally telling me, “If you weren’t so lazy, you’d be doing this.”
And when you try to jump in and help, guilted to the brink of desperation, they snidely respond, “No, I’ve got this.” Their acid tone indicating the opposite. Leaving you to choose between two conflicting messages:
- It’s fine. They have it. The literal content of their statement.
- It is not fine. You are being an ass. They resent you for it. And you had better well insist on helping. The passive-aggressive tonal content of their statement.
It’s an aggravating double bind you’re in. No matter what you do, whether you barge in and insist on helping or you sit it out, they’re in control, and you’re a bit of a heel in comparison to them. (People who frequently double bind others plan it this way; they usually have control issues and are deeply insecure underneath all of their coping strategies of moralizing and bluster.)
This obnoxious predicament was a staple of my childhood. As a result, I endeavor to do my chores when no one else is around, so I don’t inadvertently make the person who is simply trying to exist at home feel like I’m shaming them by cleaning.
I try to be a magical chore fairy who works when no one can see her. That’s how I like to roll.
But sometimes a mess happens at an inconvenient time. Like a Sunday morning that should otherwise be lazy. So I schlep on my unloved cleaning clothes quickly and get to it.
I stop in the kitchen to fetch my tea, which my partner has thoughtfully made for me, when I feel large arms wrap around me tightly. And the familiar contours of my partner’s body press against mine, from behind.
A squeeze. A soft neck kiss. I turn around and kiss them back. They smile.
“I told you I like you,” my partner says, in response to some insecurity I’ve voiced recently.
I know I must look like a mess, but that’s clearly not what they see. And they certainly don’t see someone passive-aggressively cleaning in order to shame or punish them.
When I go to finish my chores, I find myself floating, floating, floating through it. Musing at how easy it is to get one’s own thoughts and feelings mixed up with someone else’s, for better or worse.