Tuesday, May 11, 2010

we are laundrymen

when they were married back in the mid-50s, my parents took the then-radical and still-progressive step of divvying up household chores between them. my father chose laundry. in other families there are other signs that a young man has come of age: with jews, it's bar mitzvah; with american indians, it's vision quest; in wisconsin, it's ordering your own beer. in my family it was taking responsibility for washing clothes.

my dad, as a professional and a person who trained for a short time to be a teacher, tried to make a science of it, but it really isn't one. mainly, it's an attitude of common sense: "put like-colored clothes together; load the machine one piece at a time; don't overload the machine; separate the pieces and layer them on the floor of the dryer; take them out and fold them while they're warm, it cuts down on ironing time." I hear these instructions in my dad's voice each time I do laundry. I do the laundry here on the rim: I was trained.

along with tending the grill and mowing the lawn a man ought to take charge of the washing of the family's clothes. it is not a sexist or testosterone thing, but it is an acceptance of our obligation for doing for the family. like the responsibility for keeping track of game scores and checking the oil level in the car, it is something we ought to pride ourselves on because our fathers taught us. one task moving down the generations. one solid block of men, each holding a basket.

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