Every month, my mailbox is brimming (okay, maybe not brimming, but I do subscribe to at least three such magazines) with magazines promising this and assuring that - full of advice on everything from how to brush your teeth properly to how to plant a garden to sustain your macrobiotic diet (ick). And every time I read about a new way to clean grout or dust a wax plant, I wonder…how do they really know? Do those writers test these “tips” time and again to make sure they really work, or are they just throwing the advice out there, in hopes that it will stick to some desperate domestic wanna-be who hasn’t a clue?
Not that I’m Queen of all Domesticity.
Because I’m not.
But I have to wonder if my generation has lost something – something very basic and very easy to attain – something we never should have lost in the first place…our ability to solve our own problems.
What I really want to know is, why do we have to be told how to mop a floor?
Yes, yes, yes, there is some merit in understanding the basic ingredients, if you will, in the processes which make up basic housekeeping; but one need look no further than the back of a bottle of Pine Sol to find the direction one needs to get the job done.
Am I right?
Take today, for instance…I had just dripped two big blobs of store-bought Chinese sweet-n-sour sauce on one of my favorite white shirts (while sitting in the living room having a “dinner picnic” with the kids) and suddenly I was in despair. Great! Now this shirt will be ruined forever, I thought, for I had no Spray-n-Wash on hand and I’d just used my last Tide pen the week before on a ketchup mishap. Feeling low, I went into my bedroom to change, taking the soiled shirt off and placing it in the sink to soak in…
Wait for it…
That’s right, no detergents. No special product. Not even any eco-friendly stain fighter. Just plain water. What harm could it do? I told myself and then returned to my kids, the take-out Chinese food, and the dogs staring me down just hoping that I’d spill again so that this time they could benefit from my clumsiness. Yeah, not going to happen pooches – I was much more careful this time around.
The evening wore on and next thing I knew, it was bedtime. I was just about to run water to brush my teeth when I looked down into the sink (now empty of water because apparently the seal that is supposed to keep the water from going down the drain is not working right) and there was my shirt, soaking wet, but none the worse for wear. I held it up to the light to examine what I was sure to be set in stains of sweet-n-sour sauce and there were none. Seriously. None. Not a hint of red dye #4 (or whichever one they use in that lethal but oh so tasty sauce) remained. The shirt was good as new! The day was saved.
And all in just plain water.
Was it live or was it Memorex?
Snapping out of my 80’s flashback just in time to avoid dressing up like Madonna and ratting my hair in ten different directions, I realized something. Those magazines really don’t have all the answers. In fact, I think their sole purpose of existing is to make us feel incapable of completing things and solving problems all on our own, without the help of fancy organizing systems or the newest, better, improved cleaning product. It’s almost like we’ve been programmed and led to believe, despite what Martha Stewart and Julia Child have told us, that we can’t get that domestic job done without a helping hand from either a really fantastic something or other that comes in a spray bottle, or a device that will basically do the job for us, leaving absolutely no room for that pesky little thing called human error (measure, grind, brew anyone?). Sadly, I think the worst thing about the future forging on, is the lack of the human in the everyday things we do.
I want to solve my own little domestic and undomestic mishaps. I want to know how much coffee I use to brew a pot. I want to knead the dough for homemade rolls even though I completely and utterly suck at rising yeast. And it’s not that I don’t appreciate the pre-made, roll out pie crust – because you bet I do, but I think it’s important to at least know what it’s made of. And if you’ve ever made homemade pie crust, you know how much of a gift that refrigerated stuff really is because lordy, it’s not easy!
Basically, I think we’re spoiled. I think we expect things to be easy – everything, not just the stuff around the house. Our cars talk to us when they need maintenance, our libraries email us when our books are overdue (hanging head in shame), and our doctor’s offices call us with a robotic voice to remind us not to be late for an appointment. If we get lost on our way there, we can consult our GPS or call OnStar and get directions.
Everything is just too easy.
And somewhere, our ability to think gets lost in translation.
Folks, there are two (count ‘em, two) full days left of Christmas vacation around my house and I’ve been reduced to writing about stain removal and the fact that I belong to a generation of slackers. If the children got their wish (I overheard them in the car talking about this), there would be two months of Christmas vacation instead of only two weeks – and here I thought time traveled slow as molasses when you were a child, because that’s the way it was when I was a kid. At least I remember it that way.
I’ve enjoyed them immensely for these two weeks, but the time has come.
On the bright side, I’ll have soaked all my stained articles of clothing in just plain water by the time they go merrily to the bus stop come Monday morning.
So, there’s that.