In order for a marriage to work there has to be an equitable division of labor that capitalizes on each person’s strengths. It’s helpful if those skills are complementary. Two people who like to cook, but none who like to do dishes is a recipe for a messy kitchen and frequent arguments. When Oregano and I got married we signed a ketubah, a Jewish marriage license. It is written in English and in Hebrew. I have no idea what the Hebrew says, but my Dad read it and assured me I wasn’t agreeing to a lifetime of servitude. Whenever we encounter an unpleasant household task, I inform Oregano that it falls squarely into the list of his responsibilities as outlined by the Hebrew portion of the ketubah.
For the most part, Oregano and I have settled into a division of labor that helps our home run harmoniously. I cook dinner. He washes the dishes. I do the laundry. He folds it. I plan our vacations. He carries the luggage. There are some chores that have evolved into solo endeavors. Oregano is responsible for all vermin and rodent removal. This includes, but is not limited to, things that fly, crawl and scamper. When we were newlyweds our kitten caught and killed 3 mice that had made the unfortunate decision to visit our apartment and raid his food bowl. Proud of his accomplishment, Scooter brought a trophy to us while we were sleeping in bed. Oregano chivalrously leapt to his feet, collected the recently deceased prey and then had the kindness to lie to me, so that I could fall back to sleep.
On occasion, when I am home alone and have come under attack by some creepy crawly, I’ve had to take care of business myself. It is unpleasant and there is usually some squealing on my part, but I get the job done. The act of killing a giant spider, caterpillar or stink bug is far better than the alternative which would be to leave the intruder to wander freely through my home until Oregano arrives to do his duty.
While I have stepped up to the plate when necessary, Oregano has not reciprocated. In 18 years of marriage, he has never once cleaned the shower.
“Why don’t you ever clean the shower?” I asked after a few years.
“How dirty can it be? We use soap and shampoo when we’re in there. That should be enough to keep it clean,” was his reply.
I continued to be the only one who scrubbed the shower and brought up the issue again a year later.
“How am I supposed to see how dirty it is? I don’t wear my glasses in there, so I can’t see soap scum,” was his next excuse.
I couldn’t argue with his logic, flawed as it was, so I changed tactics and decided to play a game of chicken with the soap scum in the shower. I purposely held off cleaning the shower to see which one of us would flinch first. I lasted 5 days. Oregano hadn’t even noticed we were playing.
Maybe a less labor intensive method would entice him. I tried employing the use of one of those self-cleaning shower systems. It hangs on the wall and as you exit the shower you push the button which sprays cleaner on the walls to do the work for you. Oregano never remembered to push the button.
All of this changed on November 8, 2013. I had the day off from work and was in the kitchen having a leisurely breakfast while Oregano was upstairs getting ready for work. When he came downstairs to pack his lunch he casually announced that he had cleaned the shower. I almost choked on my toast.
There was no fanfare. The sun did not explode, yet the world I had always known was forever changed.
“Did you just say you cleaned the shower?” I asked once the shock wore off and I regained the ability to speak. “Who are you and what have you done with my husband? The man I married would never clean the shower. You’re an impostor!”
“Yep, I cleaned the shower. I noticed the soap scum, so I cleaned it,” he said matter-of-factly as if this wasn’t a once a decade occurrence.
“When you say you cleaned the shower, did you use cleaner or just splash some soapy water around during your shower?” I still didn’t believe him.
“No. I used the cleaner with the bleach, but I think I might have missed a few spots,” he said. “Why do you look so surprised?”
“I’m surprised because as long as we’ve been married you’ve never even thought about cleaning the shower, let alone actually pick up a sponge and take action. This is a momentous day in our marriage. I just want to give it proper deference and acknowledgement. The next time this happens again, we’ll be in our sixties. I want to be sure we mark the occasion.”
Oregano left for work. I finished my breakfast and went upstairs to celebrate. I pulled back the shower curtain to reveal a gleaming tub. Then I stepped in to bathe in a clean shower that, for the first time, had not been scrubbed by me.