I have a confession to make: for the most part, I have stopped cleaning my own house. I’ll still keep the kitchen from getting unsightly and straighten up here and there (clutter, in particular, makes me feel unhinged), but I have since outsourced* the heavy lifting to a fastidious housekeeper named Edwina.
*Side note: Can I just take a moment and say how much I love using the word “outsourced”? I got the word slash concept from a book I read recently, 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, and have since begun to implement its ingenious time management tactics in my life. To say I am outsourcing my cleaning duties makes me feel disproportionately important, like I’m some high-tech corporation who has decided their bottom line is better off having workers in a small village in Beijing deal with their wretched complain-y customers. Though in my case, I have determined it is a better use of my time to have a lovely woman who is a much more skilled cleaner than I deal with my dust and grime.
In the beginning, Edwina used to scare me. A short, yet sturdy, militant woman with a scowl that can melt faces, I always tried to stay out of her way and made sure I didn’t do anything to piss her off. She works part-time for the resort we live at and was born and raised in the Caribbean. She grew up on one of the rougher islands – the kind that has yet to be refined for tourism and where people, until very recently, used to get hacked with machetes at the bus stop (or so I’ve been told).
Our first real encounter, or “meet cute” as they say in show business, really set the tone for the rest of our relationship. She was cleaning our louvered windows and had been going in and out of the front door to dust them from both sides. I was doing the dishes when I suddenly felt her presence directly behind me as she yelled, “Pussy Lady!”. I dropped the pot I was scrubbing and turned to face her with trepidation, shaking when I saw her finger pointed at my face.
“Why you need so much pussy?!” she growled and abruptly stalked off.
As I stood in my kitchen, frozen with soap suds dripping off my hands, I racked my brain for what she could possibly be referring to. Were there rumors being spread at the resort about me having lesbian tendencies? Was she under the impression that I was not only a lesbian, but a slutty one at that? Seeing as how I reside with my boyfriend/her boss, it seemed unlikely that she would draw this conclusion. I later cornered her niece for an explanation and it turns out Edwina was admonishing me not for my supposed sexual escapades, but for my contemptible life choice in having not just one, but two cats. Either way, I was hooked. Anyone who can scream borderline offensive decrees laced with sexual innuendos at a relative stranger is a friend of mine.
Edwina now comes to clean every other week or so. David and I aren’t super messy, we just need the detritus of everyday life smoothed over from time to time. It’s really a win-win for everyone: I have more time to spend on the work that is really important to me without feeling guilty or lazy for neglecting our house and Edwina gets to make some extra cash and do what she loves most – cleaning. Early on, she told me her favorite things are cleaning, ironing, and cooking; so much so that even after working as a housekeeper all day she still doesn’t mind going home and cleaning her own house. And because I hate those things, I knew we would complement each other immensely. Yin and yang.
I cherish the days Edwina comes; not only is my house magically clean at the end of the day thanks to zero effort on my part, but she is also fantastic company. Always ready to dispense her own personal brand of wisdom, I sit at the computer working and she goes about her cleaning, interjecting from time to time as though we were already in the midst of a conversation. Some of her most recent gems include:
Edwina on Dust
When Edwina first began cleaning our house, she was appalled at the state of my screens, blinds, and ceiling fan blades. I agree that they had a fair amount of dust coating their surfaces, but I didn’t feel it was out of control. And in my defense, I tried to clean them all once and it ended up being a 3-day tedious affair so, of course, I never did it again. To her, this was a potentially lethal mistake:
“You know wha’ happen when all ‘dis dust get in you lungs? You get sick. An’ ‘den you die. D’is dust, it kills.”
Edwina on Diseases
I enjoy a house with a jungle-y feel and tend to decorate with a lot of houseplants. While I am proud of my ability to keep them alive and green, Edwina has nothing but disdain for my reckless decision to keep them in my home. Each time she mops the floors, she moves the plants around and warns me of their inherent danger:
“D’ese plants – you water ‘dem – that’s when de mosquitoes come. You know wha’ mosquitoes do? D’ey lay egg in de water. Dem baby hatch. D’en they bite you and you get dengue fever. And you die.”
Edwina on Children
In the Caribbean, for a woman my age to not have her own gaggle of children is a bit of an anomaly. Edwina frequently inquires about my future child-bearing plans and when I remind her that I don’t like kids and have never wanted any, she tries to change my mind with a numbers game:
“You tink you don’ like dem kids? No matter. Jus’ have one anyway. You never know if you like dem til you try. Me – I have 5 chil’ren. I only hate one.”
On her her most recent visit, she asked if she could warm her lunch in my microwave before she left. I ran over to the kitchen, embarrassed for her to open it, remembering the cupcake frosting meltdown that David and I were too tired to clean up the previous night. I began apologizing in advance for the bright red, sugary state of affairs that was my microwave when she grabbed my arm to stop me.
“Listen,” she said, “don’ try to impress me. Don’ try to be perfect. D’ere no such ting.”
So wise. And my fan blades are so shiny, I can see myself in them. Yup, she’s a keeper.