the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

The Washing Machine – Part One

laundry2.jpg 

(from previous post)

A washing machine is like a woman.   If handled right it gets wet and inviting, and washes away all sorrows.    But a washing machine, like a woman, is a turbulent, emotional machine.  When something goes wrong — watch out!

OK, I hear you.  My comparison of women and washing machines in my last post is borderline offensive, but I do associate washing machines with women, which is odd, since it was my father who did the laundry when I was growing up.  

When my parents married, my father was a real traditional sort of husband, which meant, of course, letting my mother do all the household chores.  At some point, when I was around six years old, my father decided to do the laundry.   Did the feminist movement finally reach him?  Did my mother have a “serious” talk with him while I was over at my friend Rob’s house playing “Operation?”  Or was it because he was able to go downstairs to the apartment building “laundry room” and be the only adult male in a sea of horny housewives?

My father loved going to the laundry room and talking and joking with the women.  I would sometimes accompany him downstairs and help him fold the towels, embarrassed that others could see my Fruit of the Loom underwear as he place it into the dryer.  Most of the women would ignore me as they spoke with my father, hanging their enormous cupped bras right in my face, not realizing how this would affect me in my later years. 

My father took on his laundry-chore as a job, doing it for the rest of his life, even though he never got the hang of doing it correctly.  He was stubborn and refused to follow “the rules.”  He mixed the whites and colors, and always dried everything on high heat.  My underwear always came out pink and too tight, proving once and for all that you are born gay.  Tight, pink underwear can make you look like ABBA, but it can’t really change your sexual orientation. 

I went to college at Columbia in Manhattan.  I stayed in the dorms, despite my parents living in nearby Queens.  During my freshman year, I was so bad at doing my laundry that I would pack it in a suitcase and take it home with me on the subway to my parents.

During my sophomore year, while watching the McNeil-Lehrer Report on PBS in Nanette’s room, Nanette unbuttoned my pants and gave me a hand job.  It was a tremendously good experience, but when I came all over her duvet cover, she immediately insisted that I  go downstairs to the dorm laundry room and wash the duvet cover with hot water and bleach.  But from that day on, I did my own laundry.

When I moved to LA, a roommate found a girlfriend in a laundromat in Hollywood.  I started doing my laundry at the neighborhood laundromat, even though there was already a decent machine in my own apartment building.  Rumor had it that the laundromat was a good place to pick up girls, so that was the big draw.  I was pretty bad at it.  I felt phony acting like a dumb guy and asking questions that I already knew the answer to — like, “How much Tide do I put in the double load machine?”

I never did meet any women in a laundromat, but I enjoyed the experience.  Women would come in looking disheveled; their hair in buns, wearing sweats and flip-flops.  It was very easy to imagine that this is what a woman would look like in the morning after we had sex all night.  Women became less of a mystery.  Years before meeting Sophia, I began to understand how women used their makeup, hair, and clothes to enhance what God gave them.   In the laundromat, I could see the “real” woman, and when it came down to it, even the most gorgeous woman had dirty laundry, just like everybody else.  I consider my single male “laundromat days” as an important part of my education.

After Sophia and I got married, one of our first purchases was a Kenmore washer/dryer from Sears.  I think it was the first time I had ever actually walked into a Sears.  Sophia insisted that we buy a “frontload washer” for reasons that, years later, I still don’t understand. 

Buying a washing machine was symbolic for me.  What could be more iconic of domestic life?  Gone were my days of hanging out in public laundromats, watching women drying their delicates.  We were now a family unit – husband, wife, and washing machine.

Sophia and I have not had an easy marriage, but throughout the years, one constant has been our reliable Kenmore washing machine.  It cleaned our clothes and didn’t ask for anything in return.

Last week, I was packing up some books from my office.  Sophia and I are “separating” again.  I’m supposed to be moving out by next month, but I am moving very slowly. 

“Neil!” yelled Sophia from the garage.  “The water won’t go down.  Something is wrong with the washing machine!”

(continued)

30 Comments

  1. Not Fainthearted

    proving once and for all that you are born gay. Tight, pink underwear can make you look like ABBA, but it can’t really change your sexual orientation.

    Awesome line!

    Neil, I love your stories like this.

    I was going to say they “suck me into the meat of the story” but then I reconsidered, given that Nanette vignette….so I’ll say they draw me into the drama immediately.

    can’t wait for the next installment.

  2. deezee

    My father loved going to the laundry room and talking and joking with the women.

    So your blog is your laundry room?

  3. psychomom

    Now I wonder if he met any cute girls while he did his laundry last night?

    My Freshman son, “Mom, can you dry all the clothes together in one big load?”

  4. sizzle

    i wasn’t offended by the washing machine analogy. i find it to be pretty true.

  5. Ren Kat

    Frankly, glad I missed the woman as washing machine post. But loved this one. Do you remember My Beautiful Laundrette?
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0091578/

  6. Neil

    Ren Kat — I loved that movie!

  7. Scarlet

    I kind of never want to buy a washing machine. I would rather spend that money on something fun.

    (Move slower than slow, Neil. Take your time!)

  8. wendy

    The comparison betweeen your father chatting up women in the basement…and you chatting them up on the net was very touching to me. Your dad must have raised you right…

    Did “the baby” in your family unit survive?? Hope so…

  9. Jennifer

    We just bought a new washing machine. It was the biggest one they had, top of the line, and it does everything but fold the laundry. I love it!! No one else in my family will touch the laundry but me. I am kind of like your dad; I never clean out the pockets, so I am always washing ballpoint pens. It’s a good thing polka dots are fashionable right now!

  10. melanie

    I love the images of the two men in the laundromat, one your dad, confident in doing his laundry HIS way, and you actually picturing the laundry do’ers, naked.

    ah the laundromat. watching life through the cycles. liquid softner or sheets?

  11. Neil

    Scarlet — I used to think the same, but you end up saving money in the long run. Think how many quarters you use every time you go to the laundromat.

  12. Lisa

    Really, I think your comparison is dead on. 🙂 Sorry to hear you’re “packing” again. Hang in there!

  13. danielle

    sorry to read about your washine machine and relationship issues. hope you’re doing okay, and not having to wear smelly clothes.

  14. sassy

    Silly me, and I always fell for the Tide line at the laundromat…

  15. Ash

    Great story Neil. Can’t wait to hear the next bit…

  16. V-Grrrl

    Nanette must have been quite a woman if she could get bring you to orgasm during McNeil-Lehr. That’s nicer than saying you must have been a helluva geek, right?

  17. Elisabeth

    I will never watch the Newshour with Jim Lehrer the same way again.

    I am not overly fond of laundromats – there is something a bit “unsanitary” about them. I really don’t care about other people seeing my unmentionables, but I have colleagues who literally freak out about going to the laundromat because their students may see their underwear.

    And, I am writing this, I am actually doing my daughter’s laundry. She dropped it off before stealing my car to go visit her boyfriend in eastern PA (hopefully, she won’t return with a duvet cover for me to wash – aarrgghh!)

  18. churlita

    maybe that’s why I’ve never liked going to the laundromat – there were hardly any men there.

  19. scarlet hip

    I’ve never read such an exciting story about laundry before.

  20. Dagny

    The laundromat I went to a couple of weeks ago doesn’t take quarters. You have to purchase a card and put money on it.

  21. Panda

    Neil, I recently found your blog and love it. I have never been so riveted by laundry!

  22. Alice

    i hate doing laundry, and i don’t even have to go the quarter route any more. it should be all convenient for me. and yet i have gone out to buy underwear rather than do laundry on more than one occasion.

  23. Kristin

    My partner and I just bought our first washer and dryer together after four years of laundry mats and friends’ houses. The ability to do laundry in the buff has changed my life.

    If you need any tips on how to move slower than a snail, let me know.

  24. Bryna

    I loathe doing laundry. Maybe once I have a place with a unit in my house, I won’t mind so much. I don’t like the pressure of having to take it out before ‘the cigar guy’ in my condo complex makes my laundry all smelly.

    I don’t like the idea of someone taking my laundry out of the machine… creepy.

  25. CGHill

    Not many women will deign to give you a handjob while watching the news on PBS.

  26. gorillabuns

    the last time i went to a laundromat, a guy stood outside of the big side window while looking in and jacked-off.

    i guess he was hard-pressed for a date.

  27. helen

    hahaha in my country, nobody does their laundry in the laundromat. Everybody did theirs at home.
    Damn, all the encounters I could’ve had if only I’ve bring my laundry to the laundromat. You’re making me regret it so much. For all I know, my life could’ve been so much more ‘exciting’ … instead of just sitting in front of my PC reading blogs…
    lol

  28. Mitch McDad

    When I lived in Manhattan Beach,the laundry mat might as well have been called the vagina store.

    I, too, look foundly on laundromats.

    Great story, anxiously awaiting part 2. Sorry to hear about the separation.

  29. Ally

    You’re such a wonderful writer. I’m glad I stumbled across your blog, and I hope you and Sophia are able to work things out.

    p.s. Front load seems like it would suck b/c you can’t add the sock you dropped once the door is closed.

  30. teahouseblossom

    Yeah, I used to get my rocks off watching McNeil Lehrer, too. But after McNeil left it just wasn’t the same.

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