Wednesday, April 25, 2012

See Spots Run

I’ve told a number of stories about that period in time when I was married (cold chill runs down spine.)  There were the stories about my Ex-wife getting stuck upside-down behind the dryer and getting trapped in the back yard buck-naked.  (Both can be found in this post.)  I’ve mentioned the strained relationship she had with her young son and the toll he took on our relationship.  I’ve talked about how she had a new guy living in the house a month after I moved out.  And I’ve talked about the wearying fights we would have, usually after she was already pissed off at the boy and I would stumble into it.

House cleaning was a subject that came up all the time, especially during the periods that I was unemployed (or under-employed).  Now I had no problem with doing the housekeeping.  I was the one at home, so I did all the cleaning, shopping and cooking.  But damned if I could ever do it “right.”

But it wasn’t even so much that I didn’t DO it right, it was that I didn’t decide to do it before she said to have it done.  I think a lot of that came down to a basic difference between men and women.  Dave Barry said it best: “Men clean when they see the dirt.  But women see the actual dirt molecules…” so we seldom considered something in need of cleaning at the same time.

She would yell at me because she had to tell me what to clean and when.  This would take about a half hour.  I would respond by saying, “All you have to do is say, ‘would you please vacuum, clean out the microwave and change the cat litter tomorrow?’  And I’d say ‘sure’, and we’d be done.”  Since I was the one doing the work, I didn’t see the big deal.  Obviously my perception of what needs cleaned did not match up with hers, so why not just tell me?

Anyway, the Number One Bone of Contention was the issue of Spots on the Mirror (SOM).  Toothpaste spots, to be exact.  For some reason, SOM short-circuited every synapse in her brain. 

Now, we had a big bathroom mirror.  It spanned across two sinks and included a low-level mirrored cabinet with sliding doors.  Knowing how she was about SOM, I began brushing with my lips closed, and I’d wipe away any errant spot as soon as I saw it shoot out.  So it wasn’t like I didn’t try.

More often, the problem was her son, who was much less careful with this brushing, or anything else, really.  Plus, he was brushing at a much lower height, so his spots were rarely in my line of sight.  But goddamn, this woman would rage for a solid half hour about these fucking spots!  I mean, she’d get started, I’d walk over and clean the spots in, like, two minutes.  And she’d still be carrying on… I’d say, “Honey, I cleaned the spots 15 minutes ago… let it go.”

In later years, I often thought that it was the kind of mental issue that could best be summed up with Goth Girl poetry.  You know… the kind scribbled on spiral notebooks by sad girls on rainy afternoons…

For years, I’ve had the tone in mind, along with the opening.  But I’d never been able to take it any further… until last night.

I was out at Happy Hour with Sitcom Kelly and for some reason, SOM came up in conversation.  I mentioned my Goth Girl poetry idea and right out of left field, the next line popped into my head, so I quickly wrote it down on my napkin.  Maybe it was the nachos, maybe it was the beer, maybe it was my proximity to Sitcom Kelly that goosed the Goth Girl portion of my brain into action.  When I got home, the rest of it poured out, still on the napkin.

I don’t write poetry; that’s my mom’s gig.  In college, I took a creative writing course where I had to do both poetry and prose.  It was painful... I did maybe one decent poem, another that was absolutely atrocious, and all the others were comic.  I couldn’t help it.  If it’s not a limerick, I’m hopeless.  (I’ll have to see if I can dig some of them up.)

So, picture this being read by a woman dressed in black, alternately pounding her chest and gesturing towards the skies, reading with the voice of Carmela Soprano.

Spots on the mirror
Spots on the mirror
Speckled doom fills my soul.
Connect-the-dots torment,
Your pox mocks my very being
Out, out damned spots
Or at least get a better job.

[drapes arm across brow]

Thank you.


  1. I am pretty sure I should have been born a guy. My husband just asked me the other day if I had noticed the dirt on the floor and if/when I was planning to vacuum. I, as usual, was completely oblivious to the tiny bits of grass and dirt the dog thoughtfully brings in most days. As for SOM, I can ignore those for a few days as well. Eventually I break down. :-)

    Great poem, by the way. I read it more as a rap.

    1. Maybe all the dog residue is just something one becomes used to and therefore, immune to noticing.

      I never considered a rap… The way that the SOM seemed to strike at her inner being, it just lended itself to dark, heavy-handed imagery.

      Perhaps I could work up a “Get a Real Job” rap…

      Or maybe the “Wipe the Shower Down Boogie.” This was another thing with her that I’ve never heard from anyone else, ever. She insisted that every person that took a shower had to wipe down and dry all surfaces in the tub (unless someone was showering right after). She had it so ingrained in me, I was still doing it even after we split up and I moved 600 miles away… up until one morning I was wiping down and finally thought, “WTF am I doing this for?”

  2. My last roommate was a guy who just never cleaned. When I finally approached him after cleaning up SOM by myself for two years, he said, "I'm really sorry, but I just don't SEE things that need cleaning." I try to remember this whenever Kamran leaves beard trimmings on the soap.

    I was thinking about SOM again just this week when I had a friend over. I rub shampoo on my mirror now and then so it won't fog up, and I get spots where it runs down the mirror and then dries after a fresh shampoo application. It'd be really easy to just dry the spots after the first shower, but I leave them there, because I know what they are, and they don't gross me out. But I realized after my friend left that she probably thinks I'm toothpasting all over that mirror and not doing a thing about it.

    1. I try not to leave hairs on the soap, and that’s just for me because Pinky has her own bathroom. But on the floor… it takes a tumbleweed to roll by, before I notice that maybe I ought to sweep up.

      Never heard of the Shampoo on the Mirror thing. I just turn on the bathroom fan and keep the door ajar, and my mirror doesn’t fog up.

  3. All I can say Bluz, is that I am glad you got out of that marriage with your sanity intact. Seems like she was a tad OCD? Whatever the deal, it's too bad that child got the unfortunate draw of her as a mother.

    1. I always say that I was disappointed when my marriage ended, but got through the transition well because I knew that I wasn’t particularly happy. I just hated to admit the “defeat.”

      But those two were something else… The neediest child ever, combined with a mother that never really wanted him in the first place. I was very happy to put that dynamic behind me.

  4. Spots on the mirror? WHAT spots??? Oh, you mean THOSE spots! Hmmmm. I really didn't notice. Who gives a rusty F*** if there are spots on the mirror? O.k., so I occasionally go on a cleaning jag and clean those spots, but they always come back!! Cleaning is such a thankless job! Especially since when everything is clean and SPOTLESS, no one seems to notice. If stuff is too clean, it freaks me out. Whose shoes are always so straight and organized in the closet, and whose 200 golf shirts are organized by color? Who reads the paper, then puts it back together in the exact order at which it arrived in the driveway? BUT, who leaves little bits of jam on the countertops, and after 13 years in Tucson, and unloading the dishwasher, asks, "Where does this go?" every F****** time? Not me, I tell you!

    Such is life, Bluz. I have the black lipstick to prove it.



    1. I always thought that the amount of fuss put forth greatly outweighed the gravity of the situation. I guess everybody has their own special hot button issues.

      Oh, and my polo shirts are totally arranged by color. T-shirts too. Once you set them up, they’re easy to maintain. Just another one of my “systems.”

  5. Or, in Haiku... ah-hem...

    Spots on bathroom mirror
    Burned into my retina
    Why Bluz, can't you see?

    1. The Ex’s haiku, as I remember it:
      Fer cryin out loud
      Why must I keep telling you?
      Clean the damned spots
      (Repeat 7000 times, and occasionally make some lines nothing but F-bombs.)

  6. I go back and forth with housecleaning, which is mostly dependent on whether I've been doing my part lately. If I feel guilty about stuff I've let go, I'm much less likely to get on his case about anything.

    I second the comment about animals and about cleaning being a thankless job. We call our dog "Mud Foot" because, through no fault of her own, our cocker spaniel grows mops for feet at a ridiculous rate (seriously - like 6" diameter monsters - we trim her before rainy seasons, but in lush WV, that's all year long), and our backyard is a complete swamp (we live in the middle of the biggest hill in town). So, naturally, she hauls in a few pounds of mud every time she comes in. I love that she has the yard access (we have dog doors), but I've just about given up on the idea of ever having clean furniture. *sigh*

    1. Yeah, animals require a whole other wave of cleaning. (Which is one of the reasons that I still live pet-free... even though I loves me some doggy and kitty!)


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