, , ,

Before I married R, I dated a young man from a fairly wealthy family. His great grandfather was one of the first to settle our area and owned hundreds of acres of this beautiful land. He utilized it well and built a small empire for himself. He taught his children to do the same with the gift he was giving them.

I broke up with this guy because he was selfish and arrogant. I did not end the relationship because of the money, but it had bothered me.

I ADORED his family. I’ve never been treated so kindly by a boy or man’s family. I was divorced with three young children and was six years older than this particular young man. I lived in a single wide trailer with my mother. We were the picture of dysfunctional relationships. But, his family welcomed us warmly. His grandparents even referred to themselves as “grandma and grandpa” to my children. There was no looking down on us. There was no trying to talk him out of the relationship. In fact, the only conversations that came from them regarding it were to him about how poorly he was treating me!

However, no matter how sweet these people were, I felt uncomfortable in their homes.  One of his cousins lived up on the north end of town in an exclusive neighborhood.  The place was exquisite, but sitting in her living room was like wearing an itchy old wool suit over bare skin.  I squirmed and just wanted out of it.

I nearly instinctively knew that I didn’t belong there.  I was undeserving of enjoying such surroundings.

I was also briefly engaged to a man who was destined to be well off, climbing the ladder in the banking business.  His family treated me HORRIBLY.  His mother waged a war against me at church, throwing a huge fit and garnering support for her cause until the pastor’s wife reluctantly told me that I could no longer teach Sunday School.  Those women did not want a divorced woman teaching their children.  This man’s mother cried whenever he went out with me, refused to speak to me or my children, and declared that by marrying him I would be “forcing him to commit adultery.”

Construction on his new home was completed during our brief engagement.  Though it was presumed I would be managing that home, he did not involve me in choosing decorations or even kitchen gadgets.  He hired a woman from a local furniture store and asked for his sister’s help.  I was left out completely.  He, as well as his mother, made it clear to me that I was beneath them and undeserving of what he was offering me.

When I first started my little cleaning business two years ago I still felt very nervous in nice homes.  I couldn’t sleep nights, worrying that I would mar a finish or destroy something beautiful and precious. I wrung my hands over the knowledge that it was likely I would displease its owners, as they must certainly have some supernatural ability to take care of such lovely things.  I, being of lowly birth and station, was not gifted with that foreknowledge.  And, I must also naturally be at a handicap to learn it.  Therefore, I spent hours on the internet, reading up on the best way to clean cultured marble, stainless steel, and wood floors.  I was out of my element in these palatial domiciles, and I knew it.

It’s a funny thing though, cleaning these high class toilets.  I don’t feel even more lowly wiping, scrubbing, and sanitizing the baser things.  I’ve come to learn that a house is a house.  Cleaning is cleaning.  And, as Cinderella said in Shrek the Third, “Everyone poops, Beauty.”  People are just people living in different sizes and styles of houses.

And, not all of these well coiffed ladies do instinctively know how to keep up these cultured marble mini mansions.

Some of my clients regularly ask me how to treat certain problems because they were never trained as young women on how to manage the more lowly elements of keeping a house.  They are well educated and can certainly decorate, hostess, and budget and invest.  They grow beautiful gardens and take gourmet cooking classes.  They paint and create beautiful works of art.  They are successful career women.  And, these particular clients grew up with a housekeeper.  Their mothers didn’t clean their own homes either, so it wasn’t something they learned.

Lo and behold, my lifelong assumptions were wrong.  Keeping and maintaining a large, exquisite monument of a house is not a knowledge monied girls are born with.  It’s a learned skill.  And, it’s a skill I have learned and feel quite comfortable with now.

At one point in my life I sat on those leather couches and wanted nothing more than to run back to a cramped, dank house with dated surroundings, where I felt I belonged.  Now, I stand in these places, perusing them, and think to myself that I would really enjoy a home like that.  I dream of the way I could decorate a room that size.  I imagine how well I could organize with all of that extra storage.  Most importantly, finally, I feel just as deserving of these surroundings as the women who live there.