The story, by Janice Shaw Crouse, is billed as "a lighthearted story to brighten your weekend". We join our intrepid heroine Janice as she is in the midst of a true dark night of the soul, a revelation that threatens to shatter her world and everything she has ever believed: throughout the course of her 20-year marriage, she has used a sponge mop to clean the floor, because her husband Gil prefers it. However, she has just realized that she, in fact, prefers a string mop. This, my friends, is the kind of life-altering awakening that, handled improperly, leads one to become a dope-smoking ecoterrorist lesbian panhandler. Self-awareness is all well and good, but some caverns of the soul are best explored with care.
As her housekeeping kundalini rockets up her spine (what she has of one) and blasts a hole in the ozone layer, her family comes running to see what blood, fire, or searing pain is causing her such distress. She explains to them how she has been Oppressed By The
Janice helpfully gives us some context that we might understand her pain, and not, like her unsympathetic whelps, giggle behind our hands at her:
I told her that it had all started in the early months of our marriage. I had stood by another sink wringing out the mop and feeling smugly confident of my newlywed housekeeping skills. The floor looked shiny and clean and I felt a definite sense of accomplishment that the task was just about finished.
Then Gil came in as I was wringing the dirty water out of the mop. With a frown he said, "Oh, nasty! That's awful! You shouldn't be putting your hands in that disgusting water. I don’t want you getting your hands filthy wringing that thing out! You shouldn’t be using a string mop! That thing just spreads the dirt around. I'll get you a good sponge mop. Then, you won't have to get your hands dirty."
I must agree with Amanda at Pandagon that the only correct response to one's spouse criticizing how one accomplishes a bit of household drudgery is, "you don't like it? then YOU fuckin' do it!"
Also, note the chivalry: He doesn't want her to get all nasty and dirty, but instead of calling in a Molly Maid service or offering to wash the damn floor himself, he buys her the "right" mop. Wow. What a prince. I bet he buys her the prettiest aprons evar for their anniversary, that she might not sully her dress while cooking his meals.
Poof – there went my pride and satisfaction with the clean floor. There went my confidence in my housekeeping skills. My self-esteem evaporated in the face of Gil's disdain for my string mop.
Does anyone else think that a self-esteem that is crushed by a fairly mild if obnoxious comment is a self-esteem that could benefit from a lot of therapy and maybe some antidepressants?
...I turned to the sink to hide the tears that were threatening. As I looked at the water swirling down the drain, I had to admit that it did look nasty and my defense became a bit more hesitant, "A string mop gets into the corners and REALLY cleans the floor."
Come on. The woman's crying over a mop. Now either Mr. Janice beats the hell out of her for "mistakes" like not alphabetizing the spice rack and she was crying in anticipation of his furious retribution, or she has WAY too much of her identity invested in simple household tools to be considered emotionally stable.
Gil confidently assured me that a sponge mop would be much better. "A sponge mop absorbs the dirty water instead of slinging it all over the place like a string mop does," he declared with finality. Today, Gil refers to this early period as the stage of his life when he was "often wrong, but seldom in doubt."
Whereas she refers to this early period as the stage in her life when "my last dying ember of spirit was brutally extinguished."
True to his word, that afternoon Gil came home with a fancy sponge mop with a lever on the handle to compress it, so that I didn't have to get my hands wet squeezing out the dirty water.
For the next 20-some years, whenever needed, I dutifully bought a new sponge mop for us.
Surprisingly, though Gil and I have differed and compromised on a myriad of issues over the years, the question of what kind of mop to use never emerged as a point of contention.
Surprisingly, dutiful Janice still had it in her to differ with Gil from time to time, although he always managed to win the arguments with a simple, "Don't make me get the mop."
No wonder the poor woman cries at the drop of a hat.
But our story has a happy ending, as Gil is revealed to be a sensitive New Age man, a passionate lover, an egalitarian, and a champion of women's rights:
At least not until that fateful Saturday morning: On that morning, I finished mopping the kitchen floor and turned to other tasks on the week-end “to do” list. I was busy putting away groceries in the late afternoon when the doorbell rang.
I noticed that the two kids and my husband were standing in the living room, near the foyer and wondered, briefly, as I rushed past them, why they hadn’t answered the door.
Duh, because, like, did someone break your widdle feet, Mombot? What the hell do you think they keep you around for?
I opened the door and there stood a delivery boy from the local florist –– holding a brand new string mop with a dozen beautiful red roses artistically arranged up and down the handle!
I stepped back, stunned! Then, I burst into laughter, reached for the bouquet and read the card.
A warm glow welled up inside of me. Gil, Sr. had not dismissed my "insight" as irrelevant after all!
How much did he understand?
The card in his handwriting stated simply, "I don't care what mop you use, as long as it is our floor you're mopping! Love, Gil."
I have to admit, I found that pretty stunning too. Although in my case I think I'd have overcome it in time to shove the mop up Mr. Janice's ass, roses and all, screaming "See how well a string mop gets into corners, muthafucka?!?"
With tears streaming down my face, I saw clearly in that gesture Gil's love and unconditional acceptance of me.
1) She's crying again.
2) It sounds to me like clean floors are a condition of Mr. Janice's acceptance and love.
3) I reiterate that a true gesture of love would be a couple hours of maid service and maybe a spa outing for our heroine. The roses can stay too.
4) If he's gonna cave on the mop thing, the least he can do is buy her a bucket with rollers to squeeze the water out. But I guess that whole "soiling your hands" thing was just a cover for the controlling behavior at the heart of the argument. Then again if he really cared about her hands he might have sprung for a pair of rubber gloves.
5) They're both wrong-- the only way to truly clean a floor is with a bucket of super hot rinse water, a bottle of strong cleaning solution, a scrub brush and rinse rag, and a whole lotta hands-and-knees time. But Janice's life sounds pathetic enough that I'm not going to suggest an even more subservient posture for her to adopt.
Oh, how I love the lighthearted tales of love and romance amongst the Stepford classes!
On a side note, I find that I am getting tired of hearing the word "pussy" used to describe things that are weak and lame, and "balls" to describe boldness, courage, daring, and chutzpah. Especially when you consider that a pussy is tough and resilient enough to pass a baby through it, and balls are really remarkably fragile little guys that can disable a whole guy with one strategic blow.
So I think I'm going to engage in some turnabout, although I haven't quite got the wording down yet. I'm inclined to say that someone doing something really strong and bold has got a real cunt on them, partly because I find it offensive that a word that just means "vagina" has been turned into such a slur, and partly because I'm dirty and I just like to say "cunt". =)
To be really fair, I ought to also characterize something that is weak, vulnerable, overly sensitive, or something of an Achilles' heel as being "a real nutsack". In general I would prefer to build the one up without tearing the other down, but it does strike me as wicked good fun to do a little semantic dance on the myth of balls being tougher and more badass than pussy. *eg*