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All Washed Up

by Stephen Lautens


April 14, 2000

There are few things that show the difference between men and women than the way we do the dishes.

That is, if you can get men to actually do the dishes.

Personally, I'll do any crummy job around the house before I'll do the dishes. I'll fish unidentifiable hairy things out of the drain. I'll investigate the strange smell in the basement. I'll gladly walk the drippingest bag of garbage to the curb. No bug is too big and no middle of the night sound is too small.

I'll clear, scrape, rinse and put away, but for some reason dunking my hands into a sink full of dirty dishes gives me the willies.

Most of the problem is solved with that greatest of human inventions - the dishwasher. Or as my wife calls it, the marriage-saving machine.

For my money, the wheel, fire, penicillin and maple-glazed donuts pale in comparison as inventions to the contribution the dishwasher has made to the quality of life.

Maybe I'm squeamish because I was a bachelor so long before I got married. I was never one of these men who goes from being looked after by his mother to being looked after by a long-suffering wife.

Don't get me wrong - my wife is long suffering, but for reasons unrelated to the topic at hand.

No - for almost ten years I lived on my own in a man's world. That is to say I ate over the sink.

I loved to cook, but I hated to clean up. I was the master of one-pot cooking - everything done in the same pan. It cut down on the washing up but made the pancakes taste suspiciously like spaghetti.

When you're a man living alone the secret is to not let anything sit in the sink. If it does, it will soon be joined by more dishes. Eventually there will be a pile too big to wash and then you'll have to move.

Because my wife doesn't hate doing dishes with the same passion I do, she stacks dishes on the way to the kitchen and puts them in the sink.

Stacking dirty dishes horrifies a man. In the first place, dishes are only dirty on one side - the top. Stacking them doubles the work by making the other side dirty too.

In a pinch, as a bachelor you could always turn a dirty dish over and use the clean side - as long as company wasn't coming or you weren't having soup.

Stacking them also makes almost clean dishes definitely dirty. You know - the dish you put under the soup bowls or bread plates that only have a few crumbs. Those are ones men will cast a critical eye over to determine whether they can just go back into the cupboard. At most they may just need a little wipe.

I don't want you to think that we're running some kind of biotech lab in our kitchen sink. There's no reason for environmentalists to picket our house because food is being genetically altered while the pots and pans wait to be washed.

In fact, we haven't lost a guest yet, but that's mostly due to the fact my wife does the washing up.

And so I don't get a lot of angry letters (and so my wife doesn't get any better offers) I want you to know I do most of the cooking.

So you're welcome to come over for dinner anytime.

Just bring your own plates.


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