lately i’ve been thinking a lot about women’s work, how even being the feminist-of-the-old-and-original-order that i am, i still have always enjoyed cleaning, sweeping, doing laundry. which is not to say that when my husband is home full-time, i don’t divide the duties, feeling it only fair that he contribute. just last week my husband put a load of clothes on to wash (unbidden, i hasten to add), and it surprised me when it made me mad. what kind of woman gets mad when her husband, who’s now home all the time, does the laundry without being asked? and i do appreciate it very, very, very much. after a bit of pondering, though, i realized that it felt insulting – not to me, personally. it was much bigger than that – more like a ping against women. he didn’t mean it this way, of course, but i felt a sense of women being dismissed (again), overlooked (again), under’ed (again). it brought up a host of old stuff, junk having to do with other people overlooking women because of things like humor, Southern accents, curves, long hair, and a beautiful countenance. i remembered how some women i admire and adore beyond measure were often overlooked because of their bad teeth or their run-down-looking house or their catywompus glasses or the trash they carted around in their car. i thought about all the women i know or know about who kept and continue to keep this town running, offices running, businesses running but because they are quiet and unassuming, because they don’t seek the limelight at ever possible turn, because they just go about their lives quietly, doing what they need to do, they are overlooked.
yes, really, something as simple as my husband doing a load of laundry without being asked brought all this up.
and let me tell you something: doing laundry is not necessarily a simple thing. how, for example, do you get blood out of cloth? ink? cat pee? how do you keep a down comforter from clumping up when you put it in the dryer? what to do about lipstick stains? dirty collars? towels that smell sour?
you know, back in the day, women would set aside specific days as wash days because doing the laundry was such a chore. they’d have to take clothes down to the creek or river to wash them, laying them on rocks to dry. imagine the upper arm strength it required to dunk all that fabric in the water, then pull it out, scrub it around, dunk it again, wring it out, and lay it out to dry. i’m exhausted just thinking about it. especially since clothes involved a great amount of fabric in those days, if the history books are to be believed.
in post river-as-washing-machine days, the women would have to fetch water from a rain barrel or creek, then heat the water in big ole’ galvanized tubs. they’d use old broomsticks to lift the wet clothes from the wash tub to the rinse tub. and they washed the clothes using soap they made themselves, usually from old rancid bacon or sausage grease and lye. speaks to their creative recyclist nature, doesn’t it?
and today washboard are sold as musical instruments. rhythm boards, they call them.
when my children were younger, i’d occasionally go on strike and refuse to do their laundry because they, like so many other people, don’t notice something, don’t appreciate something, until it’s gone. not available. missing.
sometimes you have to
empty a bowl
and wash it
having been an end-of-life doula many times over, today’s altar is dedicated to karen mead as she releases, reviews, revises.