Another transcript of a conversation with my husband on an unknown day.
Husband: “Wow, what are you doing?”
Me: “What does it look like I’m doing?”
Husband: “I know, I just . . . I’ve never seen you do that before.”
Me: “You’ve never seen me clean a toilet before?”
Husband: (pauses for deep thoughts) “No, I don’t think I have. I didn’t know you did that.”
Me: “Really, in 24 years of living here, you’ve never seen me clean a toilet?”
Husband: “I don’t think so.”
Me: (pauses for deep thoughts) “Maybe you’re right.”
Husband: (slowly walks away, mumbling to himself) “Wow, how about that.”
For the record, I’ve cleaned lots of toilets in my lifetime. People who know me will be extremely surprised to learn that I actually did a stint as a housekeeper during high school. However, for most of my adulthood, I’ve been fortunate enough to employ someone to clean my home. Ana arrives every other week and I’m always grateful to see her. She’s worked for us for 21 years and we are continuing to pay her throughout the shutdown. This made me feel slightly better when I texted her last week to ask her how to clean my kitchen appliances. When I clean the damn things, they look worse. Her answer: “soap and water Mrs. Susan, soap and water”. The simplest solution is almost always the best, so the theory goes.
These are not simple times though. Armed men yelling at nurses (nurses!). Women demanding “choice” over their bodies, holding “Trump 2020” signs, completely missing the irony in this. A president battling his own science advisors and encouraging protesters with his inflammatory tweets: “Liberate!”. Indeed, please someone liberate us from this madness. I tell you, it’s enough to make this elitist-snowflake’s head explode. And this was all before the President’s comments on disinfectant.
Fortunately for me, I get to live in a place saturated with like-minded thinkers. A veritable bastion of liberal optimism. Raining oat-milk lattes and bleeding hearts in equal measure. I imagine it is frustrating to live here if you’re on the “other” side though. I volunteered at our local polling station during the most recent election. It wasn’t hard to notice how some people would avoid looking me in the eye while they whispered “republican” when asked which ballot they wanted.
Despite being raised by their parents, it seems my kids are better able to manage relationships across the partisan divide. Visiting our daughter at college last year, we attended a party with a few of her friends and their parents. The hosts were of a different political bent than us. Before we entered the house, my daughter and her friend pulled us aside to lecture us: “We all hate Trump. Say it, get it out of your system. We can’t talk about it tonight, ok? Ok, we’re going in”.
While I’m not as mature as my daughters, I actually do have a few close friends who lean a bit more conservative. People who feel differently than I do about abortion and guns and religion, though we tend to agree on our opinion of the President. Before I post something on social media, I try to view it through their eyes, and temper my message. I rarely succeed though. My posts are the typical panoply of left-wing angst meant to tap into the outrage felt by the majority of my friends. I truly appreciate it when my conservative pals are brave enough to wade into these waters and question me on something I’ve said. It doesn’t always feel great, but it forces me to own my words, which is a good thing. The conversations that have turned really ugly? Those people have mostly unfriended me – virtually and in real life. As it should be, I guess.
It’s hard to know when to engage with some people though. Is it worth responding to the acquaintance who seems to think that JFK is alive and secretly attending Trump’s rallies, and that 9/11 was an inside job? Do I bother to debate the distant family member floating conspiracy theories by an anti-vaxxer “scientist” (yes, HIV is the virus that causes AIDS, pretty sure we’ve determined that)? Do I attempt dispassionate discourse when these folks claim other alternative facts (no, abortions do not cause breast cancer)? I don’t have it in me to debate these people just for sport. They would make for fun anthropological case studies, however.
To end on a corny positive note. My neighborhood feels like a living thing at the moment. Different from how it usually feels. Lots of young families, walking around en masse with toddler bikes and strollers. People are sitting outside, chatting from a socially acceptable distance. Basketball is being played in driveways. Lots of dogs are being walked that I hadn’t noticed before. We’ve passed the same guy and his pup for the past few weeks and for the first time today, neither of our dogs barked at each other.
And, best of all, we now have a Little Free Library in our ‘hood, compliments of a really good neighbor. This makes me ridiculously happy. Bookstores were my happy place, my escape. I miss them terribly. I have a book fetish that I’m not ashamed of. I read a lot of stuff online, but I refuse to read my books this way. You will have to pry a book out of my cold dead hands before I cave and use a Kindle. Not that the little book box makes up for a bookstore, but it will remain a permanent fixture long after the COVID crisis. And, it gives me hope that actual physical books might just remain viable in the future. As a sign of the times, there is also hand sanitizer in the book box. No Clorox though.