(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!”