It’s a Mars/Venus Thing

No-one, I think, would describe me as tidy-minded. One look at my home office would prove the point. (The French, incidentally, have a word for the kind of chaos in which I generally work: bordelique. It is derived from their word for a brothel – though why a brothel should be particularly known for untidiness I am not sure. Still, never having been in one, what would I know?)

When it comes to the washing up, however, I am a different person altogether – bordering, I suspect, on the obsessive/compulsive. I should add, by the way, that we do have a dishwasher, but two elderly people do not, in my view, generate enough at one meal to justify switching it on (or is that just the old Puritan coming out?) Anyway, when we are not entertaining, we still wash up the old-fashioned way – in the sink, with a draining rack so that the dishes can dry themselves.

Now, when I wash up, I have to start with a completely empty rack, so that things fresh from the sink do not wet those that are already dry. I arrange the dirty crocks to the right of the sink, in order of size, gather all the cutlery together, and leave the pans on the stove until everything else is done. As each item is washed it is placed in the drying rack according to a predetermined plan – and I get quite upset if there is no place for that last saucer. This ensures that everything is evenly spaced from its neighbour and, as the boffins would say, “the drying process is optimised”. Saucepans, for which the rack is not really designed, are dried by hand,

My wife, however, has a different approach. Things are washed in whatever order they come to hand and are shoved into the rack wherever a bit of space can be found. The result, each time, is a unique creation: an irregular mountain of crocks and pots, plates and pans all jumbled together and delicately poised in a less-than-stable equilibrium.

When I was a boy, we used to play a game called Spillikins. This involved letting a lot of slender coloured sticks fall in a tangled heap, and then trying to extract one stick at a time without any of the others moving. Emptying the drying-rack, after my wife has washed up, is somewhat similar. Can I ease that jug out, without that bowl crashing down on the wine glasses? Is that the plate I want, hiding under the steamer? It can be  quite exciting – or nerve-racking, depending on my state of mind.

I am not for a moment suggesting that her method is inferior to mine. While I am hide-bound by my own self-imposed rules, her mind is free to think of other things – her embroidery, for instance, or where she has left her glasses. My routine probably takes longer, and both techniques achieve the same result in the end. But the two approaches do, it seems to me, illustrate the differences between the male and female minds.

But then, never having been a woman, what do I know?

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1 Response to “It’s a Mars/Venus Thing”


  1. 1 cb May 30, 2008 at 4:55 am

    This made me laugh because my partner, is completely undomesticated (!) but the one thing he is a stickler for is that he won’t let me do the washing up because thinks I don’t do it properly! (Not that I complain to be honest!). Maybe there is something to the male/female thing..


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