Editor’s Notebook: The hidden joy of vacuuming
So here’s the thing about men and housework: we don’t particularly like to do it.
Cleaning the shower or mopping the kitchen floor is not my idea of a good time. The notion of dusting the window shades or wiping down the oven fills me with a soul-deep sense of ennui.
And yet, in an informal survey of employees at work, there is one cleaning activity men will happily leap up and volunteer for – vacuuming.
It’s true. The three men surveyed in this utterly unscientific and morally vacant poll all agreed that not only didn’t we mind vacuuming the house, apartment or flophouse where we dwell, but in fact, we actually liked it.
We like to vacuum because vacuums make lots of noise and vibrations, therefore convincing our small animal brains that it is fun, like race car driving or making scrap wood forts or blowing up pine cones with firecrackers.
Sure, we’re cleaning, but look at all the noise we’re making!
We males of the species are easily fooled like this.
We also like to mow lawns, because this task, too, makes lots of noise and vibrations.
Give us a task to do that involves lots of clanging and banging, and we men will boldly sojourn forth to the deed. Tell us to paint the house or pull weeds (unless we can use a weed-whacker that buzzes and spins like the devil), and we’ll feign sudden deafness or a really important thing that we have to do that just came up, you know, the thing that absolutely must be done now, sorry we have to go…
One of the things I miss most about my old house is having a lawn to mow. In my last house, a post-WWII era cottage in Mississippi, we had a grand, sloping lawn to mow, front and back. My roommate and I would actually argue over who got to mow the lawn, such was the effervescent joy we felt when mowing. I almost always won because it was, in point of fact, my dad’s old lawn mower that we were using.
Ah, mowing the lawn on a hazy, humid Southern Sunday morning -is there any finer pleasure in this life than pushing a little red mower back and forth, mopping sweat from your brow and taking gigantic swallows of iced tea with every lap around the lawn?
Mowing was no drudgery for me. I mowed as often as I could, while I’d only clean the refrigerator out if the mold within it began talking back to me. If one-sixteenth of an inch of new growth showed on our lawn, I would immediately drag the mower from storage and fire ‘er up.
I found the clatter of the blades a soothing tonic that led my mind to wander and thoughts to clear.
Our back yard in Mississippi was a long flat shape that eventually sloped down into a huge mass of bracken and bushes. The sloping hill at the back of this lawn was a grand challenge to mowing prowess, because you actually had to hold the mower back and keep it from roaring down the hill into the wild growth.
One time, I went mad with a mowing frenzy and decided to try and clear some of this bush from the bottom of the slope. A lawn mower, I learned, is not the best tool for this sort of thing. I pushed the mower into the foliage and huge splintery chunks of tree branch, old tin cans and damp leaves began shooting out shrapnel in every direction, until the mower made this WHAKAWHAKA-WHAKAcrunk noise, let out a wheeze and puff of acrid black smoke and ceased to operate.
My roommate suggested I temper my mowing enthusiasm in the future, as we worked to untangle several cubic feet of undergrowth from the battered lawn mower blades.
So, wives, girlfriends, significant others, we will continue to mow your lawns and vacuum your carpets, but please, we ask one favor of you -just don’t tell us that it’s work.
Our illusions are easily spoiled, after all. Anything that makes this much racket can’t be a chore.
Sierra Sun Editor Nik Dirga grew up in Nevada County.
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