Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Cleaning, Judgement, Language, and Bras.

I love it when there is freaky synchronicity between things other people post and it provides me with all the inspiration I need to write something and get a whole bunch of little tiny thoughts connected that wouldn't otherwise. So, this blog is a network of cleaning, judgement, language, and bras.

Beginning at the beginning then, a friend mentioned how she can "read" a lot about a person from their home. It's so true. Both very dirty and very clean people both have issues, and then there are more subtle things like choices of decor that can be read like a personality test. I think this is far more interesting than the clean/dirty options. I have visited homes that were pretty much sterile showpieces, but lacked any sign of personality. Bland colour schemes, unimaginative furnishings, almost insitutional. And it bothered me. The owners were welcoming, and cheerful enough but pretty much void of any sense of fun. Soulless. Dull. Oh yes, our homes reflect us.

I have the same reaction to very dirty and very clean homes, they make me want to clean mine. And this time of year the outdoors is such a mess after the snow goes, no flowers, brown grass, etc, and I can't do much about it, so every time I look out the window it makes me want to clean inside. I am old-fashioned enough to turn this into full scale spring cleaning. Quite often this time of year I give up with trying to clean to the level I seek, and redecorate instead. This year I don't have time to paint, but I may anyway.

Before I had any kids I was very house proud. I had to let my standards drop or I'd have driven myself mad. I understood and accepted that you cannot have children AND a clean home, unless you have staff, or no life. I had this crazy idea that once they were older it would all be easier.

What I did do, that I'm very glad I did, was start as I meant to go on with my kids having expectations that they HELP. It's often not the best help, and I get plenty of whining and shirking, but the idea has always been firmly in their heads that it's a team effort and not "Mom's job". It's not negotiable, they live here, they help out.

What seems to be a normal situation in my house, on an ongoing basis, is that it's mostly clean and tidy but one aspect or one area is neglected. And I seem to be forever cleaning up animal hair/fur. In addition, this a farm. Stuff walks in. It is never unusual to see hay inside the entrance doors. But if you drop food on the floor, the 10 second rule applies, and you'll survive. Overall, I would like it to be better, but it's adequate and I just. Don't. Have. Time.

I don't worry about what visitors think. Especially if they arrive unannounced. My dining table gets used for grandchildren's crafts, sorting laundry, bringing groceries in, baking, and all sorts of other things. It is not in a rarely used room spread with a lovely cloth and a vase of flowers. This is a busy household, stuff happens. My kitchen never looks like nobody has been using it. At the same time, you'll never have a nasty shock if you grab the towel hanging on the oven handle; that gets changed several times a day, and I do use bleach in my cloth wash. Like everything else, balance is the key.

No, I keep it to my own standards, for me. Not from public pressure, that's just how I am.

The question, I suppose, is whether it's judgemental to notice other people's standards. I do ask myself "WHY?" if their home is really messy or needs a spring clean. Time is the obvious factor. If they have young children, or work two jobs, or whatever, it's easy to understand. If they are home all day with no interference, not so much. If I know somebody sits and watches TV while weird stuff grows behind the sink, yeah, I'll judge.

But the real topic here was how it relates to other things in their lives. It's fairly typical for  people to clean up a bit if expecting visitors. I've done it myself if I felt it necessary. There are so many ways of looking at that behaviour. Are we giving the message "I care about you enough to make that effort" OR "I want you to think more highly of me".

Now, the thing is, this is where I stand with writing, so I totally relate. If somebody writes "could of" in a blog post, yes, I judge. Again, I take certain things into account. I'm tolerant of dyslexia, poor educations, ESL, and so on. But if the writer has a good education, I see it as just not caring.

Some people will admit they don't care. They say life is too short to worry about whether it's "to" or "too" and they are probably right. If somebody makes a huge fuss over it, then they are the person with the problem, not the writer. At the end of the day, I choose to write text messages in full words, with punctuation, and capital letters as necessary. I keep it to my own standards, for me. Not from public pressure, that's just how I am. I am well aware most other people don't bother in informal stuff like that, and I honestly don't judge them for that. Small potatoes.

Even so, just as a bit of mess in a busy person's house is no big deal, there's a limit. There comes a point when excuses just don't work, and it's obvious they just have low standards.

Is that a sign of overall character defects? Well, to decide that you really need to ask, are the sloppy writers the same folk as the sloppy housekeepers.

Sometimes, yes. But not always and I've come across examples of both extremes, the ultra houseproud who don't give a damn about how they write, and vice versa. What's more, the critics are often different too. If a person was turning her nose up at the dust on your blinds and you pointed out that she writes loose when she means lose, she'd tell you these things are not the same. Are they? Or is it all about priorities?

So let's bring in the bra issue. This is where we start to see what's behind it all, because personal appearance is so much more public than your kitchen or your spelling.

This all goes back to a discussion from several years ago. I was told that the reason women don't like going braless is less about support (because after all, many are young women with small boobs and no sagging) and more about nipples not showing. Yes, the idea, apparently is to pretend we don't have nipples.

This makes sense because, as you cannot have failed to notice, Barbie has no nipples, and exotic dancers will often be topless but with tiny stickers over their nipples, which not only hides them but FLATTENS them, which apparently is crucial. The nipple is, apparently, the thing you absolutely must not see. The rest of the boob, no problem. ANY amount of skin is OK, but not even the SHAPE of nipples is acceptable. This is incredibly illogical, but of course, that's not new.

Furthermore, I was told, that if I don't hide my nipples it showed I had no pride in my appearance. What if I'm proud of my nipples?

Of course the reality is that it's more about adhering to these unwritten rules of what can and can't be seen in public. It's all about what's agreed upon as to what is socially acceptable. Even for those of us who weren't part of the agreement.

If a spotless house and a filthy house are both extreme, and if it's not strictly necessary to write perfectly so long as it makes sense, we have found a balance.

Where is the balance with what people wear?

You could argue that somewhere between a dinner suit and cut-off jeans and flip flops, there is a mode of dress that is balanced. Except both of these extremes are right for certain occasions. Some people may never wear either, but that doesn't make them balanced, it just means they never need to.

Perhaps we could look at the modesty scale, between a string bikini and a burqua. But where is the happy medium there? You'll find plenty of opinions on what equates to reasonable modesty, everyone has their own ideas, it's all relative. There is no obvious happy medium any more than there is with homes or language. After all, there are plenty who think a string bikini is fine, but naked is not, and there's not much between them.

If I am, therefore, wearing clothes that cover most of my body, but my nipples show, then I suppose what I'm doing is confusing people. One part of their brain says I'm dressed more than average, while another part says I'm "naked". It sort of short-circuits their expectation/judgement area. That's not balance, that's culture/taboos. Fear of nipples is a learned thing.

And pride in my appearance? Is that really anyone else's concern? Does it harm them? I think that is the ultimate question. If my home is dirty there is real, scientific, risk of harm. If I write badly, there is a chance of a misunderstanding, which, while unlikely to cause physical harm, could waste time and lead to arguments. If I show the shape of my nipples through my clothing? Oh it probably causes earthquakes or something.

But I guarantee this, when everyone has got over the fingerprints on the lightswitches, and the correct form of "there", they will still be gaping open-mouthed over nipples. No, trust me. Remember Janet Jackson at the football game? That was 10 years ago and ONE NIPPLE has remained in the public memory ever since.

What really drives our standards and our judgements? Much of it really is the expectations of others. So what we do is, more or less, follow or fight that.

Interim conclusion? People are complicated and often contradictory. Judgement is easy; balance is hard. Do whatever thou wilt, but hide your nipples.


  1. An interesting and entertaining segue. And truthful. But yes, if you're careful, there are a variety of things one can tell from inductive reasoning. More often than not, there are common, valid relationships one can make between housekeeping and other personality traits. My wife will wear (or not wear) a bra depending on whom we are visiting. Many of our friends are either naturists or just people who don't have "body issues." And then there are those with particular sticks up their butts.

  2. I've been to naturist resorts and I prefer to swim nude. Ron and I go to a Korean spa where people of the same gender soak in hot tubs together - it's very nice, actually. I like nipples, too. Male or female - doesn't matter. But I do have favorite types. I've never experienced a nipple-caused earthquake. Can you cause one for me? :)

    My house is reasonably clean, but I do have 2 long haired animals, so the floor is always a source of ick for me. But if you touch the rim of my glass, I won't be able to drink from it again and I'll get a fresh one or pour the drink out, wash it and refill it. I text in full sentences and other times misspell words on purpose - just for fun. Somewhere in all of that, I find balance.

    I agree that extremes in either direction are signs of a lack of balance. Those people seem uncomfortable living in their own skin.

    1. But any two people will never quite agree on where the line of reason is, this is the thing. How clean is clean enough. How correct is correct enough. How decent is decent enough. It is TOTALLY subjective. And yet they all think their idea of enough is sensible. Which is where the problems start.

  3. I wish I could keep house to my standards. You can judge my priorities by looking at how I keep house, but you should not judge my standards. This is why I tend to clean before company arrives. I don't want them to think my standards are so much lower than they are. If it meets my standards, then I don't care what other people think.

    As for writing, I put a lot of priority on that. I don't write very often because it takes me too long. When I put something in writing, it has permanence so my perfectionist nature rears its ugly head.

    This taboo about showing the shape of your nipples seems rather new to me. At least one of my daughters has commented how she can often see nipples on TV shows such as Friends which aired 1995-2004. And this seems very wrong to her because it's so taboo nowadays.

    When I was a teen, I don't remember nipples being an issue. It was taboo, however, to have your bra strap show. Now, the situation seems to be the opposite. T-shirt bras have thick lining so nipples won't show. Yet, showing off your bra straps seems to be very much in style.

    I had a friend talk me into buying a bra and she took me out shopping. She told me that if I wore a quality, properly-fitted bra, I wouldn't even know I was wearing it. She was wrong. I'll admit it was the most comfortable bra I have ever worn, but it was still not as comfortable as no bra at all.

    Most of the time I wear styles and fabrics that don't show off my nipples (much to my husband's chagrin). Thankfully, I work from home and don't have to abide by any dress codes. On the rare occasions where I will be wearing a clingy fabric in certain social settings, I will put on my very expensive t-shirt bra and conform. But I would be much happier dancing skyclad around the bonfire.