Lest you think the Paris trip was nothing but horrible, let me tell you about getting Gomez to do household chores.
He is very quick to warn me the first time he washes the dishes and sets the table that he does not do this at home. “I hire people to do zis for me. At home, I do not leeft a finger. Do not get a wrong picture of me,” he says.
He persists all week in telling me this until I finally ask, exasperated, exactly how he thinks this makes him any different from other men. Having maids who clean up after him keeps his house from being a pigsty. But not cleaning up after himself does not make him different from most men.*
After lunch the second day, I say I hope Salima has a vacuum cleaner because those crusty French baguettes are leaving crumbs on the carpet. A few minutes later, when I emerge from the bathroom, he is vacuuming. I am impressed. I praise him profusely, as this is the way to get men to continue to doing housework, even though it’s unfair that we women do this sort of stuff every day and never get a word of thanks, no we don’t, do we, but this is just the way life is, so we deal with it. [Yes, I am in my indignant feminist phase, if it's not obvious. Now I am in my living the life of Riley eating bon bons on the couch phase and it is much more pleasant.]
“If my mother could see me,” he sighs as he shakes his head.
We do a full cleaning of the apartment before we leave. Actually, by midweek, I have started doing some real cleaning just because I can't stand it. Yes, I know it is a grave insult to clean another woman’s house without her invitation. What you are really doing is saying, “You are a lousy housekeeper,” but really, such is the case. The apartment is a pigsty. Salima is a rich brat who is obviously accustomed to life with maids. She has apparently never heard of the concept of "cleaning the tub"** or "cleaning the shower curtain" or "cleaning out the shower drain" so I have shuddered and thought of England every time I have bathed.***
I do a thorough cleaning of the kitchen and the bathroom, using flavored vinegar for the mirrors, sinks and fixtures because I can't find proper cleaning supplies. The apartment smells like salad but looks great. When Gomez walks into the bathroom, he gasps and exclaims, “Eet sparkles!”
When Gomez loses his shoehorn (yes, this is a man who packs a shoehorn and shoe polish and three suits but no blue jeans for his trip to Paris), I find it under the bed. When I tell him that’s where it is – I refuse to reach under there for it because the dust is so thick – he looks and says, “That’s what eet gets like when someone doesn’t live in an apartment for a few months, n'est pas? I’ll vacuum eet later.”
I just nod and say, “Uh huh” even though I am thinking, “No, that’s what it gets like when someone doesn’t off her lazy butt and clean under the bed for a year.”
When we are doing the final cleaning – washing towels and sheets by hand -- Gomez gets out the vacuum cleaner again. That’s when I learn this is the first time in his life he has ever used a vacuum cleaner. His cousin Ayisha and I had talked about the dishes and other chores. “Oh, he’s totally spoiled,” she told me. But I didn’t realize he had never in his life held a vacuum cleaner in his hands.
Then he impresses me even further. He grabs a rag and starts to dust. And not half-hearted dusting, either. He dusts the piano,**** the TV, the coffee table – he is a man with a mission. He looks at the candle holder on the table and says with dismay, “I just cleaned this yesterday and now eet’s dirty again!” He is shocked, shocked at real life. It must be hard to face reality. At least he gets to return to The Bubble.
* I generalize, I know. Unfair. And Primo does clean up after himself. Primo is so superior to Gomez in every way.
** My cousin tells a hilarious story about her husband's relative, bless her heart, who grew up in a household with maids. The girl married and moved into an apartment. After about two months, the young woman was horrified to see something on the tub. She called the apartment manager to come repair it. It was dirt.
*** You all know about my bathing thing -- I will betray my country rather than stand in a filthy, mildewy, standing water tub, even though I have showered my way through the F and G hotels in South and Central America. Maybe that's why I have this aversion. After you have stayed in a pay by the hour hotel in Panama City, you either develop a lifetime immunity or you swear that with God as your witness you will never shower in a filthy tub again.
**** She has a piano but no Ajax. Honestly.