Nice Girl: Dirty Laundry

They never told us that laundry would be this complicated. Sure, when you're a kid, laundry is a piece of cake. You throw all your dirty clothes into the hamper (or on the floor, if you were a kid like me) and once a week your mom (or your dad, if your family was real liberated; or the maid, if your family was real lucky) sweeps into your room and, magically, the laundry gets done and your socks are folded and your t-shirts smell really good and everything's soft and all is right in the universe.And then, of course, comes that admittedly traumatic day where mom decides that the jig is up -- you're 12 years old, after all. It's time for you to do your own damn laundry. And she takes you downstairs to that moldy, sweaty room, the room you've never really had any occasion to be in before, and she starts talking to you about separating the darks from the lights and then she's talking about spin cycles and fabric softeners and your eyes begin to roll back in your head and you're completely baffled by the whole thing.So it takes a few attempts. There's the time that you wash your new red shirt with your new white jeans and you end up with these splotchy, kind of pinkish jeans -- a kind of accidental tie-dye effect. And there's the time that you wash a pair of pants with a Kleenex in the pocket and the Kleenex breaks into these little white fuzz balls that get stuck all over the rest of your clothing, and you spend an hour-and-a-half picking all the pieces off.But finally, what you end up with is your own, personal laundry system. Admittedly, it's not nearly as sophisticated as your mother's (can't decide if something's a dark or a light? just don't wash it), but it works for you. It's all part of growing up.In college, laundry went back to the easy bliss of childhood, and thank God for that, because you couldn't have handled sex, drugs, James Joyce and laundry. There was this service that all the kids used, even the ones on financial aid like you, and it was so worth the five bucks or whatever is was, because this woman would come stomping down the dormitory halls and in this incredibly loud voice she'd bellow, "LAUNDRY!" so loud that it would wake you up even if you were sleeping, which you usually were. And it was the same deal. You'd give her this big, misshapen mountain of clothes and it would come back the next day in this totally organized, neat, clean way. It was a miracle.So now you're an adult, or at least something that passes as an adult. But you're not so grown up as to have your own washer and dryer. You live in a one-bedroom apartment and you're forced to rely on the kindness of others. You're dating a guy, you see, and he has a house of his own. The house comes fully loaded: microwave, dishwasher, washer and dryer. You get ideas. He invites you over for dinner one night and you show up with this big, mysterious bag in your hands. He's appalled."What is that

?" he asks, staring at the offending lump."Laundry," you say casually. And it becomes clear that he does not think this is cool, not one bit. He may have some thoughts for after dinner activities, but laundry is not one of them.So sometimes you bring your laundry home, to your parents' house. But frankly, you don't always want your parents to see your laundry. There can be embarrassing, inexplicable stains that you'd rather not get into. Or some guy's pair of boxer shorts. So you decide to use your parents machines only as a last resort.That leaves you to the laundromat in your building. This really is a disaster in many ways. First off, there's never enough quarters. And you rifle through all your pants pockets and search between the cushions of the couch, but usually you're forced to go the neighborhood grocery store and buy something you don't need so you can get the change. It's a pain.Of course, the laundry room has been the cause of some ugly in-fighting among the neighbors. Like the time you went to put your stuff in the dryer and someone else's totally dry laundry was sitting there. And all the other dryers were taken. You had that moment's doubt, when you considered walking away and coming back later, but then you thought, "Screw that!" and you took the person's laundry out and piled it on top of the machine. To hell with them. And naturally, they walked in while you were doing the dirty deed and you've, like, got this guy's sock in your hand and it was really awkward.Then there's the nagging, on-going issue of your boyfriend's laundry. Not the guy who begrudged your use of the washer-dryer. He's history. Your new guy. You keep your laundry in a joint hamper (God -- next, it'll be a joint checking account). But even if he does your laundry from time to time (and he does), it still becomes a feminist issue for you: I'm doing his laundry, you keep thinking. Next, I will be barefoot and pregnant. I'll be one of those women in house dresses and hair nets. I'll start cutting coupons and reading Good Housekeeping and making tuna noodle casseroles. I'll achieve perfect hospital corners on the beds and I will insist upon cloth diapers for my children and it'll be up to five loads of laundry a day.You're over-reacting, yet again. You always did take laundry a little too seriously.

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