The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

WASHING MACHINE BLUES: This may or may not come as a surprise to you, as the case may be; it certainly surprised me, but then I don’t get around much; but it seems that today a growing number of young American males elect to remain at home with their parents after their graduation from college. There is any number of explanations for this hitherto unheard of and otherwise inexplicable phenomenon, from the now crushing burden of debt from student loans to the near impossibility of finding an affordable apartment at a time when rents in the nation’s largest cities have risen beyond the financial means of any young person not already endowed with a trust fund to the acute psychological immaturity and fear of adult responsibility that afflicts so many young people in our fast-paced and often frenzied modern world. I believe, however, that a disinterested analysis of the pertinent data clearly shows that this failure to complete the maturation cycle, this refusal to sever the physical, psychological, and financial ties binding these young men to their parents stems directly from a complete and profound unwillingness to do their own laundry.

How this profound ignorance is unknown at present, but that it exists is not subject to debate. I think it’s safe to say that most men have next to no idea how the pile of filthy, sweaty, stinking, and otherwise noisome clothing they leave on the bathroom floor in the morning, or in a hamper if they’ve had enough training, finds itself cleaned, dried, folded, and deposited in one’s dresser drawers. It is an inspiring tale, filled with drama and human interest, and most men know as little about it as they do about photosynthesis, or possibly even less, since a lot of guys think that photosynthesis involves using their personal computer to digitally paste a female celebrity’s face onto the nude body of a centerfold. There are honorable exceptions to this general ignorance; the men of the United States armed forces know how to do their own laundry and how to do it well, and I think that rates a big salute from the rest of us; and the many single men who’ve bucked the stay at home syndrome and moved away from hearth and home, kith and kin, and all the other alliterative aliases for their mothers. This skill, unfortunately, deteriorates at an exponential rate after marriage, which may explain why laundry is one of the leading causes of divorce in the United States and why court battles over who gets custody of the fabric softener tend to get vicious.

But all this is by the by, isn’t it? I should say so, I think, and the time has come, the Walrus said, to speak of many things, or just one, in fact, and that one being why men do not want to do their own laundry, which is what this piece is allegedly about. As I mentioned previously, theories abound as to why this aversion to detergent exists, the most popular (and the oldest) coming from the psychoanalytic school founded by Sigmund Freud, which holds that men subconsciously regard washing clothes as a sign of latent homosexuality, something on the order of putting ketchup on a hot dog, and therefore an unendurable threat to their masculinity. This school of thought has many critics, who say that the half-cooked food in the Freudian school’s cafeteria is having an obvious deleterious effect on the practice of psychology. The leading critic of this school of psychological thought was my late grandmother, who held that the reason why men did not do their own laundry was that the vast majority of men are just bone-lazy.

There may be something to this theory, although I couldn’t tell you what that might be; Grandma had lots of very strange ideas about a lot of things. She thought, for example, that moonlight, molasses, and maple syrup were a dangerous combination and therefore you ought to avoid them to keep from damaging your health, and that the light reflected from a cat’s eyes could help you find missing money under a couch. Yes, I know how that sounds, and yes, I loved my grandmother, make no mistake about it, but even my grandfather thought she could be pretty damn peculiar at times.

Now I am sure you have noticed, and if you have not please permit me to point it out to you, that the men least likely to do laundry are those men who are the most likely to get dirty, and that these men are among the most loyal and patriotic citizens of our nation, a combination which, to my mind, eliminates the more extravagant theories of causation such as gender-based congenital sloth or the supposedly permanent effects of childhood cereal abuse. No, we see here, in the first instance, the male need to get dirty, and in the second, the male desire to belong to some entity greater than himself, fused together into a single drive to dirty as many clothes as possible in a human lifetime, thereby stimulating the economy and helping our government defend us against the numerous and nefarious enemies of this our Great Republic.

It is, of course, women, who with their constant demands to put money aside for the kids’ education and to pay the electric bill, who now constitute the greatest single threat to the national security, what with their constant cleaning of already dirty clothes so you can get another’s day use of them instead of buying new clothes. It is just this sort of mindset that is driving the young people of this country to Rack and Ruin, where the steaks are just okay but you might as well skip the seafood platter; some of that stuff was old when trilobites swam in the Earth’s oceans and horseshoe crabs were the hot new species everyone had to keep a sharp eye on, assuming that the they doing the watching had eyes in the first place. Some species didn’t bother evolving eyes at all because their health plan wouldn’t pay for eyeglasses.

So here we have a tragic story of fish slaughtered by the barrelful for no other reason than a simple lack of basic optometric care and yet what all too many American men hear everyday is the constant whine about the wash cycle from American women, that their lives are nothing but a constant round of washing, drying, folding, and then the earth again, when it isn’t spaghetti sauce, grass, or motor oil, a cycle, I must point out, that American women are largely responsible for. If they really want to do something to help improve the planet, they should cease the endless caterwauling about laundry and help raise money and consciousness so that myopic and astigmatic fish can finally get the corrective lenses they need to survive. This would be a bold, even a radical departure from the usual complaints about blood and dirt on freshly cleaned clothes, clothes any loyal American would have thrown away immediately at the first hint of botanical discoloration for something newer, better, and more expensive. This will not happen though, and the Federal government ought to do something about it, I think. It is increasingly clear at this critical moment in our country's history that laundry is nothing more or less than the last refuge of the unpatriotic, and isn’t it a damn shame, too?


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