Doing the Dishes

As I was doing the dishes the other day, one of my roommates walked in and tried to stop me. “Are you doing other people’s dishes?” she asked with indignation.

Guilty as charged, I smiled and said that it was no big deal, most of them were mine anyway. It’s moments like these that the people-pleaser in me crashes into itself, like a calculator trying to divide by zero. Should I stop doing the dishes? Do I finish what I started? I know, I’ll just leave the cups.

So that’s what I did. I did most of the dishes, leaving the cups. Though it seems like a completely asinine solution, I could feel satisfied with what I accomplished, while not making my roommate feel as if I was trying to guilt her into doing dishes too. 

But the more I thought about it, the more I agreed with myself, the self that decided to do the dishes in the first place, not the self who left the cups. Doing just the dishes that I make dirty is counter to everything I have ever learned about what it means to be a human being among other human beings.

I do dishes, but there are other things I don’t do. For example, when I do, I clean bathrooms very poorly. Also, I don’t throw things out. I am terrible at parting with trash, because I might be able to use it some day. And I know other people who are really good at those things. When I do the dishes and you clean the bathroom, everyone is happier and things are cleaner.

Besides, doing half a sink of dishes is inefficient. We are in a drought and a recession!

So, for the sake of effieciency and humanity, where everyone brings their strengths to the table, and as long as I am able and willing, I will continue to do the dishes, all of the dishes, not just my own.

Categories: Uncategorized | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “Doing the Dishes

  1. theoldman

    i agree … mostly. unfortuately there’s also a strain of perfectionism. one can’t simply do enough (i.e. your own dishes ) one must be perfect…do them all ! the danger i see is that perfection is a daunting standard, and can lead to despair. the problems of the world are so great that my puny efforts aren’t even a drop in the ocean so why bother.

    • thejoblesswonder

      It’s that Girl Scout ideal that was instilled in me from when I was a wee Brownie. Leave things nicer than when you found them– essentially, do more than you think is required of you– (and also sell as many cookies as you can so we can go to Disneyland, though that lesson doesn’t really apply here). And perhaps it is our difference in age that accounts for our difference in perspective on this way of being.

      It is not perfection that I seek in doing all of the dishes (though I understand the danger of it looming ahead). I am merely saying that I will do the things that I do best with all my heart. And, sure, the problems in the world are overwhelming and I’m certainly not going to solve them by doing all of the dishes in my apartment. But since I tend not to look at the entire ocean (for that very reason) and pay close attention to the puddle on the sidewalk in front of my house,I am able to maintain my sanity and my motivation to keep working, until it’s nicer than when I found it.

  2. Aunt Denise

    This is a very late comment, but I couldn’t resist (and I just read the entry.)

    I wholly agree with you on this one! Uncle Bill likes to say “What a man (or woman) can do, he/she should do.” In other words, if you are good at dishes, do the dishes. And it is important in any relationship, whether it be family or roommates, that we support and help each other (and pick up after each other.) If I am taking my dish into the kitchen, I should also take any other dish that is still on the table. If one of the kids is getting juice, they need to bring the juice containers and enough cups for everyone.

    We never know what small gesture will make a big imact on someone else. Maybe another roommate came home after a hard day and felt a little better when someone cared enough to do their dishes.

    Here’s my story to illustrate: Many years ago, when I was working in Beverly Hills, I would often walk at lunchtime. Near one particular corner (outside of Rite Aid), and older homeless man was there almost daily. Sometimes if I bought soup for lunch, I would buy an extra cup. On rare occassions, a few spare coins found their way into his hands. But on one day, all I could do is look at him and say “sorry, I don’t have anything for you today.” To my surprise, he looked at me and said “don’t ever say that again! Every time I see you, you look at me and smile. Many people walk by and never even acknowlege that I exist. You always give me something.”

    What a man can do, a man should do.

  3. theoldman

    theoldman’s old man ( shall we call him theolderman?) used to say “if everyone kept his own front stoop clean, the whole world would be clean.”

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