Dirty Little Secret
Cleanliness is next to Godliness. Many of us grew up hearing that and living in homes that while may have been modest were probably spotless. Having a kitchen floor that was so clean that one could eat off of it was worn as a badge of pride.
When I was growing up, having and maintaining a clean house was important. It said that you cared about your family, it said that you had pride in your surroundings and it said that even though you might not have a lot what you did have was well loved and well cared for. For many of us of a certain age regardless of geography, class, persuasion, etc. – there is a common story about the Saturday cleaning the house routines. I was surprised as I grew up and went out in the world, how many of my black friends had similar stories about their moms and the Saturday morning house cleaning routine usually with great music on as the soundtrack (I was also shocked to learn that many of my white friends DIDN’T have that experience).
While many of our moms were fantastic housekeepers and house managers, many of us don’t serve in that role today. Part of it is because we’re busy, part of it may be the abundance of accessible and affordable cleaning services and a little part of it may be that since it was so important to our parents it became another one of those things we put aside solely for that reason to show that we’re different. Part of it may also be that we didn’t learn to clean. I don’t mean we didn’t clean – I mean that we didn’t learn how to clean. I’m a witness. I’m not a cooker or a cleaner, mainly because I didn’t sit at my mother’s feet to learn those skills. Now, I do share her love of reading, the theatre and arts because that is a knowledge transfer that she fostered. Come sit with me and let me tell you about this book I’m reading. I’m going to pick you up from school early so we can go see a Broadway play or visit a museum. Very rarely did my mother say, come in here and watch me make this liver and onions. If/when I did show interest in that kind of stuff she would say “Oh, I’m fine. Go on out there with your dad and brother and watch football (I know hella lot about football) or go watch the news with your dad.
Maybe since many of our moms had moms or grandmothers or aunts who cleaned people’s homes for a living, there was a little of that my child won’t have to clean anyone’s house. Save for the Saturday sessions and the keeping your room picked up – there was very little tub scrubbing, window washing that went on a daily basis by most of us – if we admit it.
The curious thing to me now though is the number of my black female contemporaries of a certain age that are paying people to clean their homes and the way we view that. I started using Molly Maids years ago when we had a 3 bedroom house, two cats, two full time jobs and a kindergartner. A clean house was important to me but I didn’t have the inclination or time to clean it myself. I used Molly Maids in quiet – not mentioning it to my friends. I got outed one day when a girlfriend stopped by and saw the “cleaned by” card on my counter. We never spoke of it, but I remember thinking that she probably thought I thought I was bougie and too good to clean my own house. I didn’t and I don’t, but while I had no problems talking about getting my house cleaned with white girlfriends or colleagues there was only a select few of sisters that knew.
So, imagine how I felt recently when a beautiful friend of mine posted on FB asking for a cleaning service referral – she prefaced her request with “I’m not bougie” and asked her friends for names – many of her friends who were also black women gave her names of services they were using and we all had some clarifier in our response about how we were’nt bougie by having a cleaning service.
One of her friends – a man – commented on that – he was like why is that being bougie. It’s a service, you have a need you hire someone to meet that need. No judgment.
He was right. I think for many of us especially middle (and not so middle) class, not rich, not ladies who lunch there is a bit of a struggle – at least there is for me. I’m very grateful for the ladies that come clean my house every two weeks and am slowly looking at that as other stuff that I pay for and assign no judgment to - like gas, utilities, etc.
Part of the beauty of living your life well is assessing what is important, what do you need to spend your time on, what do you want to spend your time on and then doing out. Where we struggle is trying to live up to other's expectations about us and for us. So, for me it's my cleaned by somebody else house, for you it might be something else - and that's ok. The gift is owning our authentic selves, dirty little secrets and all.