Friday, July 21, 2006

Dirty Laundry

It’s time to air my dirty laundry – and there’s lots of it. People have asked what it’s like to be married to another triathlete. Honestly, and I'm coming clean here, I wouldn’t know because I spend half of my time hidden in our laundry room sorting, washing, and drying my way through loads upon loads of both tri and non-tri-related laundry.

It’s not that we are big people, or that we even wear a lot of clothes. But train over 15 hours a week, times two, and the sweaty clothes start to pile up. If you don’t keep up with it, you could end up consumed by your piles of laundry and the scents that surround it. Not only that, but if you don’t keep up with the laundry you’ll be forced to ride in that pair of shorts that you keep around just in case – the pair with chamois that chafes, or the legs that are just a little too tight, or the pair that makes your rear look a little too big. And you know in the back of your mind that if you are perchance forced to wear these shorts you can expect only the worst of workouts because you didn’t have your lucky shorts, or your rear felt big, or your hamstrings were squeezed by an elastic band of doom around each leg. If you feel me here, raise your bottle of Snuggle fabric softener and let’s do a load.

Laundry at our house is no simple task, there’s no consistent system of laundry in, laundry out. It’s a complicated hide and seek with the many bags, baskets, sinks, and other cavernous places that might be harboring any number of Chris’ need-to-be-laundered clothes. There are shorts in the laundry room sink, there are shirts in the towel basket, clothes on his bathroom floor, clean clothes in his workout bag, dirty towels in the foyer, even the car trunk has its share. There are so many places were laundry could, would, should be that on laundry day I feel like a pirate lost at sea with a tattered old treasure map looking for the bountiful booty and the promised land. Except the only booty I am promised to find has been rubbing the inside of bike shorts for 3 hours. It’s just not the same.

Don’t even get me started on the socks. Somehow, in some way, Chris leaves a trail of white cotton socks in his path. To my chagrin, I pick the socks up, one by one, marveling at how many, how balled up, how he can take off his pants with socks still remaining stuck in the legs. Socks are hidden, tucked, and stashed everywhere. In the basement, the garage, bathroom, under the couch, in bags, in his car, under our bed, in our bed, in the laundry basket, next to it, under it. I’ve never seen so many socks in so many places. His socks are like a sinister shadow that lurks and haunts me every step of the way. Just as I think I have finally collected all of the socks, and dumped them into a load of hot water, and closed the lid to be done with them, I find myself collapsing tired on the couch only to put my foot onto something soft and cottony shoved into one of the cushions, and as I look at it I realize that to my dismay oh no it couldn’t be, yes it is, another damn sock.

And then there’s the things that shouldn’t have been washed in the first place. You name it, I’ve washed it. We have the cleanest used gel packets around and on a weekly basis I probably wash twenty of them. Two car keys were washed the other day. The garage door opener – amazingly that can survive a washing and still work. Checks tend not to fare well but paper money does better. At least two dollars in pocket change settles in the bottom of the machine each week. The only thing that hasn’t been through a wash cycle yet has been Chris’ cell phone. But I found that in the kitchen sink the other day, so it’s only a matter of time.

Though we have three baskets, there’s quite a bit of laundry that never seems to leave the floor. Apparently, my husband has some master plan for this laundry - a transition area containing categories of clothing that was worn, but could be worn again sorted into piles of clothing that could be worn again to work or clothing that could be worn again around the house not to be confused with the pile of clothing that could be worn again but only to repair bikes. It is a system that only a man could understand, one that I do not subscribe to, one that I will never own. And I foil this plan every chance I get as I take it upon myself to transition this clothing quickly into the basket or the machine. Dirty laundry? Not on my time.

On a nightly basis, you can find me hauling one of three baskets up or down the stairs. Putting clothes away, hanging clothes, folding clothes, clothes, clothes, clothes. There are some days I stand in my closet in the morning detesting my clothes, refusing them like a fussy child, and swearing I will go naked to work for I cannot touch another article of clothing.

For awhile, I was so sick of doing laundry that I went strike. The week that laundry would not be done. I was ready to air out my grievances, to hang my sudsy, soiled hatred for the laundry on the line for all to see. Well, mostly for Chris to see but he never did really see it so I guess you could say my plan was not wrinkle-free. Clothing piled up in Chris’ closet, a mean pile of outrageously sweaty running shorts, sassy cycling socks, assorted other oh-so-unfresh fabrics, and work clothes. I resisted the urge to wash them. Bottles of detergent sat idle on the shelf. Fabric softener sheets went unused. But it wasn’t long before my nose started to twitch and my empty hands started to shake. Just one load, I thought. Just a little light load of white socks and t-shirts wouldn’t hurt. No - I had to stand firm on my soapbox to send the message of how enslaved I had become by the laundry’s cycles spinning around me like a web of wishy washy madness. And I was becoming a delicate load.

After a week, I was itching for a soapy fix. I started pouring the empty detergent cups into the empty washer, just for practice. I set and reset the dryer on timed dry and waited for the buzzer to beckon to me that it was done. I considered setting the dial to air tumble and throwing myself in to dry my antsyness out. When I could take it no more, I called off my anti-laundry strike and succumbed, starting a load. I spent that entire Saturday doing what seemed like mountains of laundry that I let pile up for the week in protest, in an unobvious attempt to make a plea that I was drowning in a heavy load of hot water and my mind was becoming permanently pressed.

In doing so, you realize the dangers of domestication are that the man will do the big, rough, and tough stuff while the woman gets stuck pre-washing, stainsticking, and folding the filthy, wretched untouchables that touch our bodies everyday. Of course Chris is quite capable of doing his own laundry, but there are some things I feel are better left in my domain. If it’s gender-induced, then let me iron out the details for you – I just think I’m better at washing the clothes. I’m not saying that I’m a stickler for sorting, but I do believe that darks should be separated from lights and workouts clothes should be washed alone. I can say with fabricated fortitude and freshness that laundry under my leadership tends to come out better, softer, and cleaner. In Chris’ world of washing, everything is dumped into the machine, thrown on large superwash, and set at ‘do everything in your machine-line power to clean this mess up’. I’m not sure – but I think he adds soap.

Knowing this, I simply cannot let him near my machines. If he gets the cars, the barbecue grill, the torque wrench, and the air compressor, then I get the washer and dryer. And care for them I will. I’m no stranger to wiping my machines down with some Windex and a rag or cleaning out the fabric softener holder with warm water. And when I see Chris approaching the machines, I quickly intervene and suggest that he find something better to do with his time, to leave the laundry to me.

It’s not that I don’t have better things to do with my time, it’s just that in the mundane repetitiveness of the task of putting laundry in, pouring soap, and taking laundry out, I have found a strange joy. Laundry is perhaps one of the most quietly predictable and simple tasks that fills my everyday. A clear start and a finish, there’s no ambiguity to the laundry. It goes in dirty and comes out clean, it’s as simple as that.

And here as I stand in my bedroom, sorting the clean laundry into piles to put away, I air my dirty laundry to you – this is my sorted secret from my white and colorful domesticated world – I like doing the laundry and can’t wait for the next load. So if you see me walking around waving a fabric softener sheet in the air, don’t fret, it’s just me, laundering my love of the laundry, just waiting for another pile to appear on the floor.

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