Wednesday, June 6, 2007

The Scariest Words in the English Language

I think that cleaning should count as working out, especially when cleaning means taking out the recycling and scrubbing both the stove and the floor. I'm sweating. I really am. And let me tell you: I hate cleaning. I really do. Yes, there are those two seconds of pride when I look at the bare white linoleum floor -- right before the cat or I track something on it.

Earnest English's Law of Counterirritants was in effect earlier, making it easy to read research and take notes on Diss Problem 1 when I knew I was procrastinating cleaning. But since the recycling people come on Thursday (I think they still do -- I haven't taken my recycling out in just about forever, which explains the ten bags on my porch waiting for me to take them to the curb), so I couldn't put it off any longer.

Why am I doing this, you might ask. Well, because a dear friend emailed me the scariest words in the English language: "can I stay over at your place?" Now, it's important to say that I love this friend. And I totally want to hang out with her. I also love my house. It's gorgeous and nesty, with antique-looking furniture and wood floors, wood French doors, wood, wood, wood. I love my house. It's the most beautiful apartment I've ever had. I even like having people over at my house. I have way too many chairs for a hermit. But I'm really really messy. Stacks of papers everywhere, videos all around the TV, boxes with flaps akimbo -- serious clutter. Now this level of clutter is sort of embarrassing for an adult person to still be living with. And I expect my dear friend can deal. When SO comes in from out of town, all I do is the dishes. Maybe change the sheets. (I don't feel that bad in front of messy people.) But here's the other thing: I have a high tolerance for dirt. Not like pizza box in the middle of the floor dirt, but like built up disgusto in the kitchen and, to a lesser extent, the bathroom (some things are too gross, even for me). Like little tiny pebbles on the bedroom floor dirt.

Now, I'm pretty sure that this friend would not strike most people as a clean freak, but she has three vacuum cleaners. Three! And she'll probably read this and say that I don't have to clean for her. And maybe I don't. Dissertating and preparing to move is a great excuse. But even though she'd be cool about my mess and even some of the ick (believe me, a really clean person knows a messy-dirty person, can spot the tell-tale grime stuck in the corners), I'd know she knew how disgusting I really am and that whenever she saw me, she'd realize that I was just barely put together against a whole background of disgusto. I just would never be able to live it down in my own mind. So there has to be some cleaning.

The reason why I am cleaning is because the woman who used to clean my house (and did a pretty decent job) has stopped cleaning houses (yes, probably from the prospect of having to face my house again). And a good housecleaner would not only cost money, but would not see the order behind my stacks of papers. So it's left to me.

In other news, day 3 of Professorial Life went fine. I had strange dreams that left me feeling like I'd been hit by a Mack truck, but other than that, I managed to drag myself out of bed and to work in pretty short order (probably just relieved to leave that dream!). I got some, not all, of the reading done -- and a sort of mock-up of how the discussion could progress. (I often find myself writing out the progression of the ideas and then filling in the quotes and such things later.) I'm in good shape, I think. I also went ahead and broke down all the work that I think needs to be done into two very overwhelming to-do lists (on the left). After writing all the details of the diss revision, I wanted to get started right away, but I knew that I was just trying to avoid cleaning. So I made a good start on the kitchen. Even if I just do the dishes now, I won't be totally embarrassed when my friend comes to stay. I plan to sort of clean the bathroom (though probably not scrub the bathtub) and massively straighten up the bedroom, since I think she'll sleep in there, because my antique-y couch is not comfortable, except that I know how to sleep on it from long practice.

Compared to my mad dash of diss drafting, I am still working in total slow motion. Another version of me would have cracked that list by now. Ain't gonna happen, because hell, I've got other things to do. Like watch the director's cut of The Thing Called Love all night and drool over a younger Dermot Mulroney (as opposed to drooling over an older and more suave Dermot Mulroney in my favorite guilty pleasure, The Wedding Date). I think it's very important that I have time to scream and rage and cry that Miranda (Samantha Mathis) chooses a dark and dangerous and emotionally immature James (River Phoenix) over Kyle (Dermot). No, NO, IT CAN'T BE SO! Kyle is totally right for her -- both Yankees in Nashville. Though Kyle loves how direct country music is, how devoid of sarcasm, while Miranda still uses a tough New York facade to distance herself from others as well as her emotions, her father having recently died. But I, dear Kyle, I am emotionally available and would love you and your lovely country songs forever. FOR-EVER.

Dermot Mulroney, if you ever break up with the fabulous Catherine Keener, please PLEASE
give me a call.


Sisyphus said...

What's an irb? Over on the left. Is it like an RBoC?

Earnest English said...

IRB is Institutional Review Board. If you do research with human subjects, you have to have your study approved by one of these. Most of the research universities have these. It doesn't always make sense for those of us in English, but basically if you want to study the effects of a specific piece of literature on students in more than an anecdotal way, you have to get IRB approval.

Abby said...

I wrenched my back a few days ago and in an attempt to unwrench it, I've been laying on the floor on my back, knees up, feet on the floor.

It is nearly impossible to ignore how absolutely disgusting I've become in my PhD-pursuit when in this position. The carpet? Filthy? The kitchen floor? Filthy? The kitchen cabinets? Disgusting. Layers of dust on everything.

In short, you are not alone. We are all, I suspect, in good filthy company.

A friend of mine just pointed out that I have three levels of friend-coming-overness. Some people get a big clean -- dishes, vacuum, (sometimes) dusting. These are usually people who haven't been over often. Others, those who have been here a half dozen times, get the disclaimer. "Sorry it's such a mess, but come on in." Then people who are like family, those who are at my apartment a few times a week, don't even really get that anymore. This friend is now at the third stage and is DELIGHTED by it. If you can make your continued messiness a sign of affection, you can really make it work for you. :)

Earnest English said...


I am so totally stealing that.

Sorry about your back. How awful. I hope it's making you take some time off. =)

gwoertendyke said...

yes, perhaps phd-dom and filth go hand in hand....i won't attempt to describe the piles (PILES) of clothes, folded and unfolded, clean and less clean, that cover several areas in my house.

but seriously, about this irb, are you serious?

Earnest English said...

I should stress, about IRB, that when I say "study," I mean like you want to publish something on it. That is, if you want to do research on human subjects, there has to be an overseeing body to your project that makes sure that no harm comes to this human subjects. So if you want to interview students on their experiences reading lit focusing on gender and study how their attitudes toward feminism change over time, you need IRB approval to conduct that research. You don't need IRB approval to conduct a survey to improve a program, for example.