…A Clean Leah is a What Now Leah?
They tell you cleanliness is next to godliness. They being those people who write those books of guidelines explaining how you’re supposed to behave. They give rules about eating candy in church and putting the toilet paper either under or over the roll.
In this case, I’m not sure they’re wrong.
I have my own demons with cleanliness. I am not a tidy person. I have always existed in chaos. My family moved into a new house when I was ten. The first thing I did when everything was in the house was dump a giant box of toys on the floor of my vast new room. It looked like my bed rose from a sea of toys.
I felt at home.
Later on, when I wasn’t subject to the tidiness of my mother (who enjoyed a weekend home alone recently, because â€“ in her own words â€“ she "cleaned and it stayed that way"), the chaotic nature of "organizing" took over. I was living in residence with a roommate, so I had to do some picking up… but my closet, my desk, and that space under my bed existed in total chaos â€“ piles of books, papers, CDs, stacks of cups… clean cups. Even with the chaos, my mother’s tendency towards cleanliness had stuck. I did my dishes on a regular basis. And when the cleaning people came by our room once a week (I lived in a state of luxury, I admit), I cleared the floor so they could vacuum, and tucked away my dresser debris so they could dust.
My roommate, on the other hand… Her side of the room was neat. But she never dusted. Worse, she used my microwave more than I did, nuking popcorn and various other smelly treats. I didn’t use the microwave for nearly two months (its original purpose was to warm heating pads for my wisdom teeth-extraction-ravaged face). I opened it one day, appalled. It reeked. Four months of cheese popcorn, warmed goat cheese, and god knows what else had left MY MICROWAVE a disaster.
I asked her to clean it.
She wiped it out.
With what I think might have been her face cloth.
I stole vinegar from the dining hall in my water bottle and got to it, cleaning up months of pnd on crap.
I learned to never trust the cleaning to anyone else.
I have relearned my lesson several times since then. Just recently, in the midst of my move, I discovered people forget about places that should be cleaned. The deep recesses of cupboards. The vents in bathrooms. The blades of ceiling fans.
That last one was me. That’s right – I missed something. My meticulous scrubbing behind the toilet and the dusting behind the bookcases almost doesn’t make up for my crime. I have a cat, a giant longhaired cat that sheds like cheap angora. Half of what he has shed these past few months is trailing from the ceiling fan. Whoops. I never looked up.
But my need to be clean is party to my other obsession â€“ not embarrassing myself. I can blame my mom for that one, too. I can think of nothing more horrifying than borrowing a book and getting crumbs in it. I never leave fingerprints on other people’s photos (and seethe when other people touch mine). I wash my hands before I handle comic books, especially borrowed ones. I never touch a computer screen, and should I defile it, I have anti-static cleaner and a static-free cloth. If I laugh so hard at Sluggy that I spray the screen, no one else is going to know about it.
Illustration by Bill Duncan.