By Jerry Zezima
McClatchy-Tribune News Service.
The late, great humorist Erma Bombeck once said, “Housework, if you do it right, can kill you.”
Since I am still alive, thanks to my wife, Sue, who does most of the housework in our house, I guess I am not doing it right.
This does not come as a surprise to either me or Sue because of a startling statistic I read in the latest edition of the Old Farmer’s Almanac, which states: “The average American woman will spend 6 years of her life doing housework; the average American man, 3 years, 8 months.”
Looking on the bright side, men die sooner. According to the Almanac, the average American man lives for 76.19 years; the average American woman, 81.17 years.
This means, I figured out when I should have been doing housework, that women live about five years longer than men but do housework only 2 years, 4 months longer. So men, according to my calculations, actually do housework for a greater percentage of their lives.
“That’s a stupid statistic,” Sue said when she heard this, resisting the urge to end my life about 16 years short of the average.
“I’ve been doing housework for 36 years. I started the day we got married.”
“No, you didn’t, because we went on our honeymoon, remember?” I pointed out helpfully.
“OK, so I got a week off,” Sue said. “But I’ve been doing housework ever since.”
“You can’t say I haven’t helped,” I said.
“Yes, you have,” Sue acknowledged. “You do clean our bathroom, but I do the other two. So that means I clean twice as many bathrooms as you do.”
“One and a half,” I noted, reminding her that we have a half-bathroom downstairs.
Sue also acknowledged that I clean the litter boxes (for our two cats, not me, because I use the bathroom that I clean) and that I vacuum (the carpets, not the litter boxes).
“And I iron,” I said, “because I’m a member of the press.”
Sue ignored the remark, even though she was steamed, and added, “And you do fold clothes.”
This gave her a chance to air my dirty laundry. For the first 25 years of our marriage, I didn’t do the laundry. Then, finally, I learned how. But we recently got rid of our old washer and bought a new one, which Sue won’t let me use.
“I’m afraid you’ll break it,” she said.
“Does this mean I don’t have to do the laundry for the next 25 years?” I asked.
Sue looked at me as if to say, “If we’re still married 25 years from now, I’m going to stick my head in the oven.”
Speaking of which, she said, “You don’t cook. And you don’t empty the dishwasher. And you don’t dust.”
“You’re not supposed to dust dishes, are you?” I inquired.
“And,” Sue continued, “you don’t do windows.”
“That’s because they’re a pane,” I reasoned.
Sue reminded me that I don’t do yard work anymore because we hired a landscaper this year. “So you should have more time to do housework,” she said.
She was right, of course, so I said, “What do you want me to do?”
“The windows,” Sue responded. “They’re filthy.”
“Should I use ammonia and water?” I asked.
“You sound like you’re stuck in the 1950s,” Sue said. “Nobody uses ammonia and water anymore. Use Windex.”
“I use that on the bathroom mirror,” I said, though I was afraid to mention that I also use it to clean stains from the carpet when one of the cats coughs up a hairball.
I got a roll of paper towels and a bottle of Windex and proceeded to do the windows in the family room. I also cleaned the glass in the front storm door. For the first time in ages, sunshine streamed in.
“Nice job,” Sue said.
“Anything to help,” I replied. “Do you want me to make dinner?”
“No!” Sue shrieked. “You might burn the house down.”
“At least then,” I said, “we wouldn’t have to clean it.”
(Stamford Advocate columnist Jerry Zezima is the author of two books, “Leave It to Boomer” and “The Empty Nest Chronicles.”)