My parents have been on a mission to make me interested in housework, so far without much success. Mom gave up when she said: “we have to accept her as she is. She doesn’t fit into a box. She’s not the type to bake with mom.” Honestly, every time I baked with her as a child I burnt things. So, for the sake of saving the world from flat, burnt cakes, I stopped.
My father, being more direct, refers to me as a “strange creature.”
Dad recently came to the states for a quick business related trip. He stayed with my brother. Naturally I went to visit him. Before his trip, mom called to warn me about how shy dad can be when she is not around. “He taarofs, even with his kids.” Taarof is the verbal pleasantries Iranians are notorious for, where even if you want something, you say no to your host at first. By the third time they offer, you accept (let’s hope they offer three times).
Mom went on: “So, make sure you offer him food and tea. Also, let him know when you are doing laundry. I don’t want him feeing uncomfortable to ask for that either.”
Fearing that dad may perish from hunger and thirst before I get there, I passed on the word to my brother. “Offer. Don’t forget to offer.”
They must have followed the instructions because dad seemed to be doing pretty well by the time I arrived.
One day when only dad, my little niece and I were home, he said: “Bahar, we need to do laundry.”
Growing up, my father taught me this: “A sentence must be said only once. You have two ears and one mouth. Therefore, you should hear twice as much as you say.” If you don’t get what is said that first time, you are stupid. He is a chemical engineer and has always been in management positions. As a result he is an exact individual with high expectations.
So, not wanting to be stupid, I have trained myself to hear things the first time they are spoken. I actually can’t stand repetitions and won’t do them to others either. They are insulting. If I don’t react, it is not that I didn’t hear. I’m just not interested.
About half an hour later: “We need to do laundry after I shower.”
“Ok, dad.” I heard the first time.
An hour later: “I’m going to shower now so we can do laundry.”
Blood pressure rising. Easy girl.
Once he showered and dressed, I went to my brother’s laundry room. Doing laundry in my world has rules. You separate colors, darks and whites. You separate towels and sheets. Don’t forget to adjust the temperature. I also have issues with germs and retain any information I learn about the buggers. For instance I know that the laundry basket is a haven for fungal growth (so is the gym bag, but that’s for another day).
I opened the washing machine to find unwashed clothes mixed with towels. Now imagine the theme music from psycho playing as one part of my OCD wanted to retrieve the towels (because rules are rules) while the other visualized the invisible germs. Rules won. I reached inside to dig out the towels. In the midst of this excavation, after having successfully removed towel one, now getting ready to take a dive for towel two, in walked dad.
“Well, there’s my pile then.” He announced.
Holding towel number two between my thumb and index finger, I looked at where he was pointing to. A small mountain of dirty clothes rested in the corner of the laundry room with one underwear proudly marking its summit. The towel dropped to the floor.
I glanced at the pile, then at him. “It’s right here.” He pointed again in case I didn’t get it the first time.
You don’t say. What happened to shy and taarof?
“Well, sooner or later you have to do this stuff,” referring to an imaginary husband he is grooming me for. He must still hold out hope in making a good housewife out of this strange creature.
And you wonder why I avoid housework?