As I mentioned before, I spent the past 14 weeks living out in Nowhere, USA for the purpose of advancing my education and bankroll in one efficient summer. Well, I think all single stay-at-home maidels ought to take a summer or two on their own. Because it also advances one’s housekeeping skills, giving one an extra entry or two for the ol’ shidduch resume. Why, I had to purchase half a trousseau to keep house out there. Now I can advertise myself as “Has can opener. Knows how to use it.” Or as an answer to “Is she geshikt?” I can smugly reply, “I’ve got my own thick-bottomed pot… which doubles as a frying pan, a mixing bowl, a storage space, and a deadly weapon in a pinch.”
Speaking of pots – those things are blasted expensive. There’s another thing you learn a bit about – the price of living. I experienced severe sticker shock the first time I set out to buy breakfast cereal. But more on that later.
Really I’ve learned the joys of housekeeping. Not just the pleasant surprise of cooking something and having it taste like what you were hoping, but even of cleaning. There is nothing, in my opinion, which can match the sheer beauty of a newly vacuumed carpet. You know – when it’s got that all-brushed-in-one-direction look and you know that it’s clean and vacuumed and wonderful? I can sit and stare at it all afternoon – at least until I drip some cookie crumbs on the surface or have to track across it for a bathroom break. (This should not be taken as representative of how I spent my evenings.)
But seriously, I think my next venture is going to be getting a large piece of carpet, vacuuming it, and selling it to the MoMA. Housewives will come from around the world to gaze upon its immaculate beauty and come away inspired to new heights in homemaking.
Ma, if you’re reading this, don’t get the wrong idea.
I confess that after 14 weeks alone, I still haven’t got the hang of laundry. It’s a good thing I started out with a relatively large wardrobe, that’s all I can say. The one thing I have learned is that if you want to get stuff clean, you shouldn’t try to do it in a laundromat. I only tried it once, but everything I put through that stainless steel piece of rubbish came out in exactly the same condition I put it in, only wetter. And I even remembered to add detergent that time! I suppose it’s a blessing nothing came out the worse for wear – that seems to only happen when I try to take out a stain. I can’t seem to remove the unwanted color without also removing a good deal of wanted color with it. In the end I decided to just be more careful about getting dirty.
There were more basic revelations about housekeeping as well. In the beginning of the summer, I bought a jar of mayonnaise, thinking there was no way I would possibly finish even half of it, and a bottle of dish liquid, wondering if it could possibly last out the summer. And by the end of three and a half months there was only a little left in the Hellmans, and only a little gone from the Dawn. Granted, the Dawn was a family-sized triple concentrated bottle, and granted my sponges were kind of small, and granted I was only dirtying dishes for one, but still. It’s inexplicable. Where did all the mayonnaise go?
My parents certainly got a good deal of mileage out of that conundrum. I think I’m going to have to put off dating for a few weeks until they can stop looking at the big bottle of soap I brought home and snickering. I can just see them greeting my Gentleman Caller at the door and asking, “Are you quite sure you want to go out with her? She might do windows, but she doesn’t do dishes. Or maybe she does them with mayonnaise. We’re not sure.”
But the real surprise, to me, was the cost of keeping my engine running. My personal engine, I mean, not my car’s. I kept track of all expenses throughout the summer (ProfK and Ezzie should be shepping), and as you can see from the pie chart, the cost of feeding me and the cost of feeding my compact is just about equal. And the stuff I get at the gas station has already been highly processed at considerable cost to make it most palatable for my dear little jalopy, whereas the stuff I got for me still required quite a bit of work to make it interesting. There’s something wrong with that equation.
Of course, when you add tolls and maintenance to the gas, you discover that actually, I’ve spent a pretty penny more on shuttling myself from place to place than in actually ensuring that I’m perky and productive once I get there. And there, you see, is the hidden price of living out of town.
OOTs will emphasize that real estate outside the five boroughs delivers more bang for your buck. This I can’t deny. But unless you’ve got at least two wheels attached to an engine, scientists estimate you’ll have only about 6 weeks with that real estate – unless you take to nibbling the grass on your expansive lawn. Because you can’t get anywhere by foot. And those cars are expensive. Even the cheap ones. I had to leave my little beauty’s purchase price off the chart or it would have swallowed more than half the pie. No kidding.
I could say a thing or two about the shopping experience as well, but that’s for a different post. My point was that it was all very educational and rather than count toward enough badforshidduchim points to earn me a bucket of rocky road, it ought be a gold star on my chart. Young, eligible, Brooklyn ladies ought to be popping open suitcases to follow suit as a way of proving their accomplishments in the home arena and increase their chances at landing a man. For that matter, the Washington Heights crowd ought to be in high demand just for their well-developed skills.
Life just doesn’t make sense.
Especially that mayo business. I just don’t get it.