I have a regular volunteer kitchen clean-up crew of one in my house– my husband. Like many households in the modern era, kitchen duties are shared by couples and family members. Interestingly enough, I have no memory of ever brokering this arrangement, and that is why the fact that my husband leaps for the sink after mealtime to wash up touches the very depths of my heart. How generous, how thoughtful, how sweet. What better wish is there for the exhausted chief cook and bottle-washer than to pass along her dish duty to a willing and appreciative mate?
After several decades of this arrangement, I say, “Be careful what you wish for.”
My husband’s dish-doing has become a great source of frustration for me. The task has become, of late, a gesture with little skill behind it, and the more I request he attend to a few details of proper washing up, the less likely he is to oblige.
First of all, we have a dishwasher. Yes– that’s right. So how can simply loading it be problematic? It’s not that I care about the arrangement of the dishes, but since the machine is on its last legs, and we don’t run it everyday, there are just a few simple considerations that would make a world of difference– like, please rinse the grease and goo off the dishes. If not, the drying food festers and smells up the dishwasher, and oh, yeah– doesn’t come off in the cycle. And wine glasses should not go in because they shatter from the extreme heat and break when the swirling water crashes them up against the other glasses in the top level. And the peanut butter on knives and oatmeal on spoons need to be rinsed off because the dishwasher simply can’t clean them, especially after they have cured to cement.
Since hubby generously empties the dishwasher, too (What a love!), he obviously doesn’t mind putting dirty flatware back into the drawer, or picking out the shards of broken glass. I spend pre-meal time re-washing and scraping the crud off the forks and dishware, particularly when we have guests.
His technique for washing pots and pans also leaves much to be desired. It’s a quick perfunctory tour of the inside of the pot with the greasy and soap-less sponge. Drying with a dish towel simply spreads the grease around. I used to redo them quietly, but now I toss them back into the sink, soap up the sponge with very hot water, and glare. Yup. You get a do-over, Buddy.
Most irksome of all is when my Dinnertime Dishman (I think there is a blues song in there somewhere) flicks off the kitchen light and retires to the living room with his coffee and reading material, well-fed and self-satisfied with his specialized and self-appointed marital role on the kitchen front. I enter the kitchen right behind and approach the sink with dread. And as always, in the bottom of the double basin is the sodden sponge, chunks of food, along with both drain catchers full to the brim with bone and gristle and pieces of garbage. Shining brightly around the entire edge of each sink is a reddish-brown, tomato-tinged ring of soapy slime– evidence of my husband’s valiant effort.
I cry out, deliver a stream of mildly cynical rantings, and commence a vigorous scrubbing and disposing of the nasty bits of food. I sing out, “Remember, please, that the sink needs to be washed, too. Think of it as the last dish, honey, okay?” I hope the term ‘honey’ helps. A muffled ‘yup’ is the only reply.
I am married to a very helpful man, and since hammering nails and any sort of house repair is really not his thing, I get a great guy who runs a vacuum, makes the bed, hangs up his clothes, and washes dishes– all without any begging on my part. He gets lots of points for that along with my adoration and love. But it’s his role as dishwasher that really seems to impress my family and friends. To that I say phtppp.
Sure, getting some fancy new dishwasher might forever end my anxiety about the whole affair, but there will always be the matter of the last dish, my husband’s last stand– a gentle and annoying reminder that when it comes to doing the dishes, he is going to continue to do them on his terms. I think we’ll be going out to dinner more often.