Friday, January 18, 2008

Maid in Manhattan


I never noticed before that they're actually cleaning the bathroom with their mustaches, which is pretty unsanitary when you think about it.

I’ve never thought of house cleaning as women’s work. I just consider it other people’s work. It’s a combination of laziness, general self-entitlement and being raised by a Type A mother who was so particular about the cleanliness of the house that she wouldn’t entrust the task to anyone else in the family. I was not so discriminating. My little sister was born when I was 15 and while I certainly liked her from the start, I can’t say I fully took her into my heart until she reached age 3 and could be trained to put my belongings away.

One thing I always do is make the bed every day. Mind you, I still hate the process: the leaning over, the pulling, the sheet tucking, but I also can’t stand the look of an unmade bed. I’ve finally devised a morning strategy where I wake up and make the bed around me while I’m still lying comfortably in it. Once everything is adequately in place, I just carefully slither out of it. (They ain’t no hospital corners, honey, but I ain’t sick.)

My lack of cleaning skills became problematic when I moved to New York -- the dirtiest city in the Union -- and was living alone for the first time. My first year out of college I was making $25,000 a year. There were days I could only afford to eat apples and soup but bet your ass I still managed to set aside enough money to hire a cleaning person.

Her name was Maria and all of my friends used her services. I really didn’t need a maid once a week -- there’s only so much mess that a single person can make in an alcove studio -- but she really needed the money so she insisted on coming weekly. She would call the day before and kind of moan into the phone, “Meez Noelle! I come to clean your apartment tomorrow!” After awhile it started to sound more like a threat than a heads-up.

It got to the point where I was making messes just to give her something to clean up. That’s not to say that my apartment was spotless. She was only about 4’11” and was scared to use a step ladder so while the bottom half of my apartment was pristine, anything in my studio above 65 inches had to fend for itself. We tacitly fell into a routine where I took the top and she cleaned the bottom. It worked for awhile, but soon she began taking me for granted and started to slack on her half.

Sometimes she mentally abused me, making me feel ashamed of my taste in cleaning products. “You WASTE your money on these products!” she roared. “Need Tilex Mildew ROOT! Not regular Tilex!” She once shamed me so bad that I rushed out and bought all new products at 8 in the morning and was subsequently late for work. By the end my self-esteem was shot, as is usually the case with dysfunctional relationships. I mean, I was paying someone else so I could make my own messes and help clean them up. How messed up is that?

Yet it’s hard to break up with a cleaning person, especially one as fiery as her. I was scared that if I broke it off with her I would wake up to find the head of a Swiffer mop in my bed. She still had my keys, after all. And how awkward would it be if I ran into her at my friends' apartments? Finally I went the mature route and started avoiding her calls and stopped returning her voicemails.

On the recommendation of New York magazine, I began using a professional cleaning service that sends a different person every time (they’re actually coming tomorrow, which is what prompted this rambling post). It was domestic service’s equivalent of a one-night stand: Quick and dirty. After they came I never had to see them again, which was great because I wasn’t ready for another relationship.

And that, friends, is how I solved a problem called Maria.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

"My lack of cleaning skills became problematic I moved to New York"

When.

BCA said...

I have yet to meet someone who has a regular cleaning person, that doesn't eventually take their boss for granting. I think a union may be needed here..

BCA said...

I changed 'persons' there mid sentence, sorry, it's how i think :)

AGSB said...

Augusten Burrough's could feel your pain...

Anonymous said...

Maria...could there be some historical component involvd here...?

dobee said...

Great story, and lucky for you her name wasn't Linda.

Anonymous said...

Ok, Augusten...I was thinking this story sounded familiar...are you writing under yet another pseudonym, you crazy man? Otherwise, *ahem*.

Jules said...

Glad I'm not the only one who thought Augusten Burroughs.

bingo said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Noelle Hancock said...

Huh, really? I'm embarrassed to admit I've never gotten around to reading Augusten Burroughs. I'll check it out though.

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Gail said...

Wow. That's a nice story. I would never want Maria to clean my apartment. Haha! We have building maintenance (Minneapolis) in our place, though. I definitely think that it's better that you considered professional cleaning services 'coz it's like a no strings attached kind of relationship with the person.