Diabolical Narcissism: “Go Clean Up the Kitchen, You Stupid, Stupid Woman”

Written by Ann Barnhardt for The Remnant:

clip-art-washing-up-927659I have had this piece in the back of my mind for some time, and have even run the title and general gist of it past a few people, all of whose eyes sparkled like the transporter beam of the Enterprise-A upon hearing it. I am pleased to publish it here, as my first, of hopefully many columns (depending on the litigation and settlement deal this piece generates) for The Remnant.

Long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away, I lived in a large, shared house built in the 1920s with a male friend.  I had the master bedroom suite, and thus my own private bathroom, and everything was completely on the up-and-up.  Fear not, gentle readers.  I shall not be scandalizing you with tales of ribaldry – no “accompanying body-to-body” going on, to use one of FrancisChurch’s creepier turns of phrase.  It was an excellent use of the property, and very frugal and affordable.  And, yes, I certainly preferred to live with males, from both the security as well as a domestic tranquility standpoint.

In this particular case, I did, in fact, greatly admire and count as a treasured friend the male housemate, and no matter what great adventure I had been on in those heady days of my youth, when my learning curve was near-vertical, and every day seemed an adventure, it was always a pleasure to simply go home.I have always been a bit of a “foodie”, and would often eat out, arriving home after the “rush hour” in the relatively large and well-equipped house kitchen was over for the evening.  In fact, four out of five dentists surveyed would have guessed that my shelf in the refrigerator, packed with condiments, pickles, recycled glass jars of bacon drippings, and as many bottles of Corona Extra as would fit in the remaining void, was the “man shelf”. And they would have been wrong.  But I digress.

My evening ritual before turning in for the night was, in order, to go into the kitchen, wash and dry any and all dishes and cookware used that day, including the coffee pot, lift the grates off of the gas stovetop and thoroughly clean and polish the stainless steel stovetop, clean the countertops, kitchen table, and stainless steel double basin sink, and finally replace the stove grates and then set upon the perfectly clean stove the small saucepan for my friend to heat his milk for the next morning’s coffee.

Bear in mind, rarely were any of the dishes dirtied by me, as I ate out more often than not.  Further, I was almost never the first in the kitchen in the morning, and was not a ritual morning coffee drinker.  I cleaned the kitchen and set out the next morning’s accouterment not for myself, but for my friend and housemate.  I wanted him to start his day off not with a dirty kitchen, dishes stacked in the sink, and a grease-covered stove, the thought in the back of his mind, “Oh, I’m going to have to clean this kitchen after I get home from work today….”

No. I wanted to give him the smallest of gifts – a little help around the house. And God forgive me, that twenty minutes of quiet, nightly kitchen clean-up, in particular the polishing of the stove and setting out of the saucepan, was the best part of my day. If I were dishonest I would say that something liturgical or some formal prayer was the best part of my day, but it wasn’t.  The silent, spontaneous prayer of thanksgiving that flowed out of my soul as I recalled that day’s events, and how happy I was to be where I was, surrounded by friends, recalling past adventures and making plans for future adventures, and praying for my friend and housemate and his intentions, as I scrubbed grease splatter off of the stove with Ajax grease cutting spray and paper towels – that was the best part of my day.

To this day, if asked to pinpoint my zenith of personal happiness, it has nothing to do with my personal accomplishments in business – my first cattle marketing school, the opening of my brokerage firm, or even my first six-figure month. Nor does it have to do with my reception into the Church, which was more a feeling of relief than anything else.  If you ask me when I felt happy – truly, truly happy – it was when I was cleaning up for a man.  So roll that up real tight in your Virginia Slim and smoke it, Betty Friedan. It’s almost as if there is some sort of hard-wiring given to us by God – factory-loaded software if you will – nudging us toward our gender-specific vocations that will make us truly happy.

One evening as I was doing the evening tidy-up, my friend and housemate, having eaten his dinner in his room, brought his dishes into the kitchen after I had started cleaning up.  I happily reached out to take his dishes to wash, as I was already standing at the sink washing dishes.  He said, “No, I’ll do it.” And I happily replied, “No, I’m happy to do it.”  Which, as we just covered above, was the understatement of the evening.  At this, he angrily handed me the dishes, growled contemptuously, “You’re SO annoying,” and walked out.

Being human, I was certainly wounded at the revelation that the best part of my day, this small yet concrete act of charity, was a source of annoyance for my friend.  But, I also remembered a book I had read about the life of St. Joseph by the mystic Maria Cecilia Baij.

Baij claimed that the events of the life of St. Joseph were told to her by Our Lord Himself, and I found the book to be most informative and credible.  In it, the Blessed Virgin is described as a meticulous housekeeper, not out of the slightest hint of personal pride, obviously, but out of pure love for Our Lord and St. Joseph.

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8 Responses to Diabolical Narcissism: “Go Clean Up the Kitchen, You Stupid, Stupid Woman”

  1. Anne Archer says:

    At the risk of being considered some where on the Neanderthal side of life – I can definitely relate to your experience. The height of my ambition was to be a wife and mother and I found taking care of others and doing for them of great pleasure. In time I had to go to work outside my home and I was fully capable of earning a living and all those Betty Freidan freeing things but none of them ever gave the same satisfaction. A favorite bible passage for me is the second half of Proverbs 31. Long before women’s lib which was most destroy families the gal in Proverbs was a pretty put together woman.

    When you are able to create a “home” and an environment for family to return to after dealing with an impersonal world and sometimes hostile world then it is possible to generate peace outside the home. It isn’t really possible to have “quality time” without “quantity” time. You can’t dash in from work after picking up the kids from after-school day care, prepare a meal (even if you bought it at a good take home place), start the wash, get children settled for homework, figure out what your going to wear tomorrow for work and if your husbands socks are washed, make sure you have made arrangements to have the oil in the car changed, clean the kitchen, bath the kids and find time to read a story to them and get everybody settled for the night. Where in that is there time for “quality” time.

    The old saying – “the hand that rocks the cradle, rocks the world” has lots of truth in it. The woman who is able to invest most of her time and energy in the family is able to pass on all sorts of worthwhile values and family heritage as well as knowledge.

    Oh, well the ravings of a woman who raised 9 children who due to necessity wound up having to go to work after having had the privilege of being home the first 20 years, so has the benefit of making the comparisons.

  2. Michael says:

    I know that this piece isn’t actually about motherhood, or family, but it did bring to mind a passage by Chesterton (which I quote with some trepidation, knowing the strange amount of ire that name generates in some quarters!):

    Babies need not to be taught a trade, but to be introduced to a world. To put the matter shortly, woman is generally shut up in a house with a human being at the time when he asks all the questions that there are, and some that there aren’t. It would be odd if she retained any of the narrowness of a specialist. Now if anyone says that this duty of general enlightenment (even when freed from modern rules and hours, and exercised more spontaneously by a more protected person) is in itself too exacting and oppressive, I can understand the view. I can only answer that our race has thought it worth while to cast this burden on women in order to keep common-sense in the world. But when people begin to talk about this domestic duty as not merely difficult but trivial and dreary, I simply give up the question. For I cannot with the utmost energy of imagination conceive what they mean.

    When domesticity, for instance, is called drudgery, all the difficulty arises from a double meaning in the word. If drudgery only means dreadfully hard work, I admit the woman drudges in the home, as a man might drudge at the Cathedral of Amiens or drudge behind a gun at Trafalgar. But if it means that the hard work is more heavy because it is trifling, colorless and of small import to the soul, then as I say, I give it up; I do not know what the words mean. To be Queen Elizabeth within a definite area, deciding sales, banquets, labors and holidays; to be Whiteley within a certain area, providing toys, boots, sheets, cakes. and books, to be Aristotle within a certain area, teaching morals, manners, theology, and hygiene; I can understand how this might exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow it. How can it be a large career to tell other people’s children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one’s own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman’s function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness.

  3. johnhenrycn says:

    A friend😉 sent me this e-mail today, which I thought might be of interest to some:

    Baronius Press is pleased to announce the launch of a new, mobile-friendly website with the full texts of the Clementina Vulgata, the Douay-Rheims Bible and the Knox Bible.
    http://www.CatholicBible.online
    Compare the translations side by side or view each Bible independently. Also included are all notes by Bishop Challoner in the Douay Rheims version and all notes by Msgr. Ronald Knox in the Knox Bible. This is an ideal tool for anybody who needs to quickly search or refer to the Bible or compare its traditional Latin and English translations.

    We will now resume normal programming.

  4. Crow says:

    I think it is funny that she was unaware that she was so annoying! I find her annoying too…..

  5. Tom Fisher says:

    I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness

    knowing the strange amount of ire that name generates in some quarters

    Michael, even George Orwell & (even more surprisingly) Christopher Hitchens enjoyed Chesterton. But clearly at about the age of 20, he developed the Chestertonian paradox and thought to himself I will not let another paragraph go by as long as I live without using this rhetorical technique

  6. Michael says:

    Tom,

    That is a fair point, and though I love Chesterton, even I find his style a little trying at times. But I have found on occasion that there are quite a few people out there (not meaning yourself) whose reactions to his writing (style and content) do display an unwarranted amount of ire, and who often use the Chestertonian style as an excuse for misrepresenting or rejecting the underlying arguments he makes (or sometimes for not even engaging with them at all). Not all his detractors respond to him in this way of course, but there are those that do, and they exist in not insignificant numbers…

  7. Tom Fisher says:

    Michael, you might be interested in Hitchens last article, which was a review of a bio of GKC. Hitchens has an interesting take on him — because his feelings were so thoroughly mixed; he enjoyed his poetry, respected his abilities as a writer, suspected his politics, and was baffled by his religion. But it’s an interesting piece for any GKC fan. — I include myself in that group, even though he often irritates me:

    http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/03/the-reactionary/308889/

  8. Michael says:

    Thanks for that Tom, it really is an interesting article!

    As usual with Christopher Hitchens, I find myself agreeing with him on a few points, and then becoming confused when he goes on to either make conclusions I find implausible and/or make other points that I find myself wildly disagreeing with*. In particular, his accusation that Chesterton was ‘morally frivolous’ about National Socialism seems hard to support, and he mistakes GKC’s assertion that ‘Hitlerism’ bears similar characteristics to Protestantism (and thus may well be in some distant sense of the same philosophical lineage) with his blaming the former on the latter.

    I also found Hitchens’ treatment of Chestertonian paradox (summed up by the concluding statement that ‘The verdict one must pass on GKC, then, is that when he was charming, he was also deeply unserious and frivolous’) to be symptomatic of a lot of such overall negative assessments – the flippancy of the style too easily obscures the serious point(s) being made. This is no doubt in part Chesterton’s fault, but I do think the style precludes people from looking a little deeper into the point he’s making, and thus coming up with the conclusion that he is exaggerating a half-truth, rather than holding two important but seemingly incompatible truths in creative tension.

    Anyway, I very much enjoyed the article, and am always glad to hear of Chesterton’s poetry being given due credit! Thanks very much again.

    *Or, as in a debate he had with his brother Peter, on the question of moral decline in contemporary Britain (plus other things, including its relationship with the EU) I again found myself agreeing strongly with him on a couple of points – notably the Irish Question – and yet found his overall argument to drift from one thing to another, lacking a coherent narrative or overall point.

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