What A Man Loves He Cleans

You may have come across that old adage, what a man loves he cleans. Even if you haven’t you might resonate with its basic assertion. We see it in the young man whose bedroom is a disgrace but whose first car is spotless; the teenager whose life is chaotic but whose games or DVD collection is arranged in alphabetical order; the scruffy middle aged man who nonetheless keeps his iPad/iPhone in a special case which removes fingerprints from the touchscreen as it is extracted.

What a man loves he cleans. Except that this is not truthfully an old adage; I think I made it up last week.  But I think it ought to become an old adage because I think it’s true. It’s certainly true of me. It explains why I often have to resist the urge to hose down both my children in the back garden.

What a man loves he cleans. It explains why I tidy up around the house or wash my car.  It’s my home. I like living here and I feel a certain tranquillity when my home is an ordered space. I certainly don’t enjoy the process of tidying up, and often wish I didn’t have to do it, but I do appreciate the finished product.

It’s for similar reasons that I clean my shoes. It’s not because I enjoy cleaning them, rather it is because I like shoes to be clean and polished; and regrettably, no one else is going to do it for me.

It’s also why I take personal responsibility for laundering and ironing my formal shirts. Casual shirts I am happy to pop into the wash with the general population but with formal shirts I take extra care.  In particular, I dislike it if I am about to iron a shirt to discover there are still marks around the collar or cuff.

This is partly a result of my upbringing. As a teenager my mother taught me to wash my shirts the way she did it. It involves pre soaking them and then hand washing collars and cuffs before popping the shirts into the washer.

That way you know before the shirt goes into the washer that any stubborn stains have already been dealt with. White collars and cuffs come in for special attention and are hand washed with a laundry soap bar, Vanish makes a good one, which keeps the whites white. I even learned how to get the shirts the make the correct squelching sound (it’s a cultural thing) whilst being hand washed.

However, if the shirts aren’t especially dirty, having already hand washed the collars and cuffs it’s not much of a leap simply to hand wash the rest of the shirt. The shirts can then be popped into a rinse and spin dry cycle in the washer. These shirts are never put into a tumble dryer.

Oddly enough, as I tried to explain to my wife, when we were first married, that this was the way that formal shirts ought to be washed I could see her eyes glazing over. But then she doesn’t wear my shirts, I do.  So I take responsibility for them.

As for ironing, I was taught to iron well before my teens.  I soon worked out that my mother made sure that we kids were made responsible for the household tasks she didn’t particularly enjoy. To this day she finds ironing especially boring so we were taught to iron for ourselves at a very early age.

We had no idea this was unusual. As a consequence, I remember my kid brother complaining that he was the only child not allowed to iron for himself.  His older siblings all did, so why was he not allowed?  He was not a baby! He was promptly taught how to do it and then given responsibility for ironing his school uniforms, whilst still in infant school.

So I accept with this kind of upbringing that my take on this subject might be ever so slightly jaundiced.  Nonetheless, I remain happy to stand by this assertion, which I think might well be universal.  Whether cars or guns, shoes or iPad screens, gadgets or sacred bulls, what a man loves he cleans.

Now, go find someone you love and give them a good washing….

PS: This week I am in Antigua, regrettably attending a funeral.  There may be some Caribbean flavoured posts in the next few days.


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