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but someone has to do it

 


 

“one’s
position determines one’s feelings. And yet
to walk on top of a thing is not to prevail over it—
it is more the opposite, a disguised dependency,
by which the slave completes the master.” Louise Gluck
from the poem 'Earthworm' in the book 'A Village Life.' (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux: New York, 2009.)
 
 

 

In which Barbara Ehrenreich goes undercover as a maid and writes an exposé of the horror of the working poor. She then returns to her real life.

I was jealous of J. when we were in our twenties because she had a “real” job and she used the money from her “real” job to pay someone else to clean her apartment. I did not have a real job and I did not have anyone cleaning my apartment. I did have a therapist, however, who saw me at the very bottom end of her sliding scale. $35 an hour.

I guess I had a “real” job, too, now that I think of it. But my job did not feel “real”, which is maybe why I gave piece of my small weekly salary to this therapist, who also read tarot cards. The same money could have gone toward housecleaning, though that probably did not occur to me at the time. I did like to feel jealous of J.

The therapist told me it was noble and moral for me to clean my own apartment. She also said that J was garnering bad karma by having someone else clean hers. We decided that there was something therapeutically Zen about cleaning up after myself.

Of course, my apartment was a real pigsty. Things improved vastly when my roommate moved out. She left three or four pieces of old chewing gum stuck to the floor. I still don’t understand that.

Where I live now, companies with working papers fill small station wagons with young women who lack the same. Many of these young women have long, straight black hair in ponytails.

Sometimes, when men live together, they don’t bother to clean the toilet bowls. The bathroom develops urinal overtones.

A house shall be as foul or as pure as ye can bear.
I made that up.

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