Maggie Robinson

Oct 21
Retro Fit

The other day I was dressing the shelves in the library. Doesn’t that sound odd? You’re picturing crinolines and cravats, aren’t you. It means I was straightening all the books, pulling them right toward the edge of the shelf, checking that Melvil Dewey would be satisfied that everything was in numerical and alphabetical order. This is a supremely boring job, but must be done or the library police will come after me for dereliction of duty.

But I was rewarded when I discovered Retro Housewife, A Salute to the Suburban Superwoman by Kristin Tillotson. Loaded with authentic illustrations and photographs from the forties and fifties, it features housewives in a near-orgasmic state as they inspect the contents of their gleaming refrigerators and suds-filled sinks. Every single woman is smiling maniacally as she greets her husband or ruffles the hair of little Johnny or Susie. Wearing high heels and an apron, of course. In one ad, a housewife is on her knees at the side of the bed, having served her husband his breakfast on a tray. Hubby is incongruously wearing a white shirt, a tie and a rather smug smile. Maybe it’s my 21st century sensibility, but I think he’s gotten more than his eggs sunny-side up.

There is a picture of a thrilled woman who has just gotten a new vacuum cleaner from her husband for Christmas. Long ago I told my husband if he ever gave me an electrical appliance as a “gift,” he’d be in for a shock. Once he gave me a laundry-folding table for Valentine’s Day. I was not amused.

The book made me never want to clean or cook ever again, and very grateful I don’t have to aspire to be June Cleaver, although I do have those strands of pearls.

Do you do your housework with a smile? What is your least favorite domestic chore? What’s the worst present you’ve ever gotten from a loved one?

19 comments to “Retro Fit”

  1. Keira Soleore
     · October 21st, 2007 at 11:34 am · Link

    I hate house cleaning so much, I now pay someone twice a month to come and dean. The house never looked as fabulous as it does now. When I used to clean, I hated cleaning the toilets the worst.

  2. BernardL
     · October 21st, 2007 at 3:43 pm · Link

    I’ve noticed over the years it’s okay if men get tools and lawn mowers to fix the house or care for the landscape; but it’s a mortal sin if a wife gets an appliance. The sad part is we like the tools and lawn mowers. 🙂 Since my wife makes more money than I do, I’ve supplemented my usefulness by doing the cleaning. Having spent four years in the service in my youth, and starting my work career in cleaning shops, I can clean a house faster than Mr. Clean. I want a new mop for Christmas, and my wife better come through for me. 🙂

  3. terrio
     · October 21st, 2007 at 11:07 pm · Link

    I don’t mind cleaning. I don’t like the time it takes away from doing something else but I don’t mind the actual work. Except scrubbing baths/showers. And I hate to wash dishes. I’ll dry all day. Hate to wash.

    The good thing about cleaning is how proud I feel when it’s done. And my daughter is old enough to help now. She loves to clean. Not sure where that gene came from.

    In the area of presents, my ex-MIL used to think I would like the same things her daughters did so she would get us all the same presents for Christmas. The daughters are five and ten years younger than I respectively. Because of this I own a Backstreet Boys CD. I could have done without that one…

  4. Maggie Robinson
     · October 22nd, 2007 at 7:26 am · Link

    Terrio, I’ll spring for the bus ticket and you and Isabelle can clean here to your heart’s content. I just agreed to do Thanksgiving again and I think it’ll take all month to attack the stuff that’s living here.

    Bernard, I know. Men and women are just different. My husband loved this portable work table I got him, and the tool set. He’s practical—I’m just frivolous and shallow. 🙂

    Keira, I used to have a housekeeper too when the kids were little and I was teaching, but I had to clean up before she came!

  5. irisheyes
     · October 22nd, 2007 at 11:21 am · Link

    I don’t mind cleaning. I HATE cooking. I hate making the decisions as to what to eat before I have to do the actual cooking.

    I also never mind getting an appliance as a gift, especially if the DH has been watching and notices that I’d really like a new… whatever. It shows he’s been paying attention. I think he’d rather just go out and buy me jewelry and not have to pay so much attention. LOL

    Keira, I’m jealous. I’d love a cleaning lady, but I’d have to clean the crap for her to get to the dirt!:(

    Bernard – you go guy!!!

    Terri – I’ve received more really bad gifts from my MIL. Picture the reindeer sweater Colin Firth was wearing in Bridget Jones’s Diary! And I’ve had to go out in public wearing them cause it was the holidays and I couldn’t not wear the gift she brought for me for just such an occasion! She passed away last year (bless her heart) and my FIL just gives cash! I think I’m getting rewarded for paying my dues! (Aren’t I nasty!)

  6. terrio
     · October 22nd, 2007 at 12:50 pm · Link

    Maggie – I’ll send Isabelle as soon as she turns 13. You can send her back after college graduation.

    Irish – you reminded me of the year I got divorced. The ex married his *other woman* only to have her bale after 5 weeks. That put it about a week before Christmas. They actually invited me to the family gathering on Xmas Eve, scratched out her name on all her presents and gave them to me. LOL! I think I got a pretty nice ring off QVC that year…

  7. MsHellion
     · October 22nd, 2007 at 4:54 pm · Link

    I never smile when forced to succumb to household chores.

    They are all my least favorite.

    Worst present…I got a pair of deer hooves and a can of mushroom soup. I’ve never been with a guy long enough to get electronics….

  8. Janga
     · October 22nd, 2007 at 4:55 pm · Link

    I hate cleaning and I hate cooking. I am convinced that I was meant to be independently wealthy so that I never had to do either Unfortunately, someone else is living the life that should have been mine.

    As for gifts, my family and friends generally do a great job of giving me things I love. The one big exception is a piece of art that one of my best friends gave me. Every one who sees it asks what it is, and I am never sure how to answer the question. It is three carved wooden figures intertwined in a circle. I’m embarrassed to examine too closely what they are doing. I have moved the piece several times, but I have yet to discover a way to make it unobtrusive.

  9. Ladytink_534
     · October 22nd, 2007 at 6:59 pm · Link

    Who in their right mind actually likes cleaning?! I’ve got clothes in the washer and the dryer, dishes in the sink, and floors that need to be vacuumed and I keep putting it off!

    I’ve always gotten good gifts. I’m not very hard to buy for and my husband knows what I like. I’ve gotten baking stuff before because I like to bake (and not cook) though but I really wanted it.

  10. Maggie Robinson
     · October 22nd, 2007 at 7:01 pm · Link

    Janga, someone else is living my life too. I’m so hard up I might have to eat Hellion’s soup (without the hooves). Sorry, terrio…I can’t afford to send Isabelle to college, so you’ll have to keep her.

  11. Maggie Robinson
     · October 22nd, 2007 at 8:31 pm · Link

    Ladytink, laundry has always been my undoing, but now that it’s just my husband and me, I can go a week without washing clothes, then do two loads on the weekend. I just remember the mounds I had when the kids were growing up (hence the laundry-folding table!).

  12. Santa
     · October 22nd, 2007 at 10:11 pm · Link

    I am not a fan of housecleaning. There I’ve said it! Like Kiera, toilet cleaning is at the top of my most hated tasks.

    Worst gift received from a relative: An all velour track suit from my mil. I guess she thought that since my last name used end in a vowel, I’d want one.

    Early in our marriage my DH gave me a mini-chopper – in a torn box – with the clearance sticker still on it. THAT went back right away. I mean, jeez, not only was it on clearance – it’d already been bought and returned already!!

  13. terrio
     · October 23rd, 2007 at 1:15 am · Link

    Maggie – I would pay for college, I’m not that terrible. I was more looking to avoid the dreaded teenage years. LOL!

  14. TiffinaC
     · October 23rd, 2007 at 8:32 am · Link

    My house suffers in bouts of writing.

    Damn I wish I could clean the house faster than mr. clean…lol!

    I hate the bathrooms and the cat litter. Hell I just hate cleaning. I like cooking, I’m a good cook. But again, since this writing thing has kicked in, I rarely do that, thank god the hubby can cook, and fairly good too.

    Worst present: pepper grinder. What makes it bad, is one it was from my mother and two I hate pepper in that form! LOL

    And Terri [shakes head] I don’t want to know how that is a ‘gift’ lol!

  15. Maggie Robinson
     · October 23rd, 2007 at 8:51 am · Link

    Santa, my husband has “gifted” me with 2 electric choppers. He’s such a sucker for kitchen gadgets. Just give me a damn knife and a cutting board. But that velour—I don’t know. I’m thinking soft and toasty.

    Tiff, I think I officially lost my domesticity during the Avon contest and I haven’t found it…nor do I really want to! My husband cooks too—he’s a big fan of TV cooking shows and I’m eating all sorts of things I never heard of.

    Terrio. You’re tough. You can raise a teenager. You have a while to flex those mom muscles. But I’m glad I’ve been there and done that. I don’t have enough zip left to do it again!

  16. irisheyes
     · October 23rd, 2007 at 9:52 am · Link

    Terri – ROTFLMAO!!! Sometimes your life sounds like a sitcom. I’m thinking sort of Everyone Loves Raymond!

  17. RevMelinda
     · October 24th, 2007 at 12:28 am · Link

    A couple of years ago when my parents were here for Christmas they put a package under the tree with great pomp and circumstance. “That’s a special one,” my mother said, “We ordered that especially for you and it was VERY expensive. You have to open it last!”

    I wondered what it could be. Something special and expensive? Could it be jewelry? It was shaped kind of like a necklace box, long and thin. Heavy, though.

    So I saved it till last. Then I opened it and inside was–a pair of scissors! OK, they were fancy kitchen scissors with mighty sharp blades, but they were SCISSORS!

    My mother beamed at me like this was the best gift ever. “You will love those!” she declared. “We special ordered them!”

    I was–flabbergasted. I think that was the moment I realized that my parents don’t have ANY IDEA who I am, that I’m really a stranger to them now. I was really sad and really angry at the same time, and I hated myself because scissors are a nice present, really, and I wanted to throw up every time I looked at them.

    After my parents left, my in laws came to visit and I offered the scissors to my Mother in law, just to get the scissors out of my house. “Oh, I would LOVE to have those!” she said. “Those are NICE!”

  18. Maggie Robinson
     · October 24th, 2007 at 6:33 am · Link

    Oh, Rev M—save us from practical people. My parents gave me a sewing machine under similar circumstances and you can only imagine the lumpy, hideous things I tried to make before I sold it at a yard sale.

  19. Ericka Scott
     · October 28th, 2007 at 2:46 pm · Link

    I just love your blog and don’t know why I don’t stop in more often. I hate to clean…my floors are in the worst shape and they HAVE to be done today (I promised myself when I finished the first draft of Chalice, I’d do them…argh, WHAT WAS I THINKING???)

    I often tell my husband, I may be a “housewife” but I certainly didn’t marry my house (and the house is VERY grateful for that!)