September 03, 2010

On My Best Behavior

Since it's been so long since I've been or had a roommate, I've been on my best behavior this week.

Since moving in on Sunday, I've made my bed every day, even though I keep the door to my bedroom closed.

I wash my plate immediately after using it. (Partially because I only have two plates.)

I turn the lights off. (Partially because I can't afford electricity.)

I've supplemented the apartment with necessities like a paper towel holder, kitchen towels, a bathmat, a cutting board, and hooks that attach by magnet or suction so I don't destroy the walls.

I'm putting my girlie pink and purple hand towels with the hearts and butterflies on them in storage and am keeping new purchases to my roommate's manly color palette of brown, maroon, and brushed silver.

There isn't one piece of my dirty clothing on any floor in this apartment.

All of my shoes except for one pair are put away.

So why is it that I can live like a proper human being - not like a bachelor - for the sake of another person, but not for myself? What is it that made me, when living alone and unvisited in my Manhattan apartment, leave dishes in the sink for weeks, a hamper of overflowing dirty laundry, and the bed in a torrid tangle of blankets and sheets?

Shouldn't I have enough respect for myself to want to live in a nice, clean, tidy place? Why can't I care about myself enough to make things nice the way I do for others?

I know part of it is rebellion against my antiseptic childhood, the acrid burn of cleaning fluids in my nose and sinuses, exacerbating my already persistent viral and bacterial sore throats and hacking coughs. Growing up with my retentive mother made me somewhat explosive when I finally got away from her. Cleaning still feels like punishment to me, just like all those years ago when I was sent into the attic in the middle of summer to clean for hours in the searing heat, the sweat dripping off my chin onto the raw wood floorboards, immediately to be soaked in and disappear with no trace of moisture.

But getting into a bed that's been made isn't punishment; it's a treat. And since I don't live in a hotel, if I want that treat, I have to give it to myself.

I think after all this time, I deserve a treat every now and then.

And if having a roommate is what it takes to allow me to do nice things that we both benefit from, then I'm lucky to have a roommate.

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