I have a confession to make. I suffer from a completely debilitating and utterly incurable fixation—with my kitchen counters. More specifically, with keeping them clean day and night. Maybe it stems from my well documented germ phobia, perhaps from my fanatical loathing of clutter or quite possibly it could somehow be traced to my never-ending desire to control my environment. There’s always the off chance I do it to mark territory, too—to send a clear message to those who would dare smear peanut butter, dribble jelly or toss junk mail upon that which is sacred.
Or maybe it’s simply because this particular space represents the last bastion of order that exists in my entire world (aside from my sock drawer) and I feel compelled to protect and preserve it with every ounce of my being. A bit theatrical, I agree. Dysfunctional, no doubt. But wouldn’t life be dreadfully dull without a touch of drama and dysfunction sprinkled here or there? That’s my motto. Welcome to my world.
What’s funny is that my obsession with cleaning pretty much ends there. In the kitchen. On the counters. And nowhere else. I just don’t seem to experience those overwhelming urges to dust and scrub and disinfect anywhere else. Not in the living room. Not in the den. Not even in the car or bathrooms. Nope. Genuine motivation (like knowing that guests will soon make landfall) must strike in those instances. Relentless nagging works too.
But my kitchen is a different story. I’m sure most would take one look and classify me as “thoroughly possessed” when it comes to the counter arena. It has that pristine no-one-really-lives-here look, like it had been snatched from the pages of Good Housekeeping under the featured article: Fabulous Kitchen Spaces for the Cleaning Fanatic in Your Home. Admittedly, I qualify as the fanatic in this family—at least as far as the kitchen counters go.
Once the cooking is finished I am literally driven to remove every trace of food, drip of water or dirtied dish instantaneously. To restore everything to its proper place in the universe in what many would deem record time; like it’s an Olympic event or something. Albeit an odd one. Beyond the basics of tidying up, the canisters and pasta jars have to be angled just so, fake fruit arranged perfectly in its bowl and the larger-than-necessary cluster of wooden spoons must somehow resemble a bouquet of freshly picked daisies. Maybe the term “odd” doesn’t adequately describe my dysfunction here.
I probably need therapy.
Strangely enough, those powerful impulses to clean and clear often hit me WHILE I’m actually cooking (not to worry, I don’t cook all that much). So in effect, the two rather diverse tasks become nearly simultaneous events—which for some reason drives my husband absolutely berserk. Perhaps it’s because he has a different approach to the fine art of preparing meals. I have affectionately termed his primary objective, “put-every-blasted-ingredient-dish-and-utensil-under-the-sun-on-the-countertops-and-leave-them-there-indefinitely-so-as-to-annoy-the-wife.” I find his habit of sprinkling flour hither and yon to be equally irksome. Maybe he’s the one marking territory. Not surprisingly, this master chef also subscribes to the theory: The bigger the mess, the better the meal. Needless to say, he has prepared a number of very fine meals over the years.
I suppose, though, I’ll continue to endure, as the payoff is decidedly delicious; and besides it’s not nearly as distressing as I found the insufferable Baby Bottle Era. Oy. At that time, our counters served as a veritable purgatory for plastic whateverness (i.e. drip-drying fucking forever). Sippy cups, teething rings, pacifiers, bottles, lids and those dastardly little valve-like components I never quite mastered blanketed our countertops night and day. I distinctly recall fantasizing about the disappearance of said ugliness.
Like I said, I have this fixation….
Planet Mom: It’s where I live.
Copyright 2005 Melinda L. Wentzel