I went over to anold friend’s house for coffee yesterday. I hadn’t seen her in ages. We were once very close, when we were chained together for years in a pit, but then we drifted, once we found ourselves on separate ice floes.
It was eerie that my old friend called me. Just before she called, I was telling my boyfriend how glad I was to be rid of this stultifyingly boring friend, how every minute in her presence was akin to having to listen to the Bell voicemail lady enumerate her own pubes. How, if she were to die, nobody would go to her funeral, except for her brain-damaged mother who would be laughing and saying, “I bore a bore!” over and over and peeing in her jumper.
When I first knew my friend, she was incredibly fastidious about hygiene and housekeeping. She used to look around our home and exclaim, “This place is the pit!” Like her mother, she was simply making a literal, head-injured observation, because our pit was actually neat as a pin.
But her house as it was yesterday was utterly filthy. Cat hair everywhere. Bits of old meat on the floor. She seemed almost proud of the dirt and mess, as she told me about her life of late: “I haven’t bathed in 18 months! My vagina has sealed shut. I’m so happy! I feel like Melanie Safka. What about you?”
What about me? I used to revel in stench and candida, through my late teens and early 20s. I remember watching my lip ring get so badly infected that it would bloom with pus every time I smiled. I was certain that a raging facial infection lent me some kind of CanLit cachet, like Farley Mowat’s pipe or Margaret Atwood’s addiction to Pepsi. (I learned so much from eating out of Annex garbage cans – Jane Siberry subscribes to Black Hair Monthly.)
I rode the grunge movement into the ground. Long after Kurt Cobain had shot himself in the face and his wife had begun surgically whittling away at her nose as if it was some nervous Appalachian housewife’s worry stick, I was still blaming my skid marks and cockroach-laden hair on the flannel youthquake, even as my peers started calling each other “nigga” and trying to find a way of getting shot at while in Future Bakery.
But then… a change. A turn. A mystic folkdance performed around an ugly lamp. Bibi Andersson in profile. A tide. A Cascade. A Sani Flush. That eating surface looks slightly dingy I’m going to scrub and scrub and scrub until it’s clean, I’m responsible for the Holocaust, I’m horrible, someone please just cut off my balls right now!
In the last year or so, for whatever reason, I’ve become a neat freak. Perhaps the icy thrill of hysterical hygiene is just another inevitable epiphany, along the lines of “love is a lot of work” and “it’s important to make the single mum next door feel like the trash that she is whenever she brings home a man or uses Grocery Gateway.”
In any case, I love to keep a clean house, to apply coat after coat of deodorant to my neatly trimmed armpits until they shimmer like a November lawn, to spend time in nature and admire indigenous plastic and Styrofoam, maybe catch the fibreglass eye of one of those things with a tail and legs. Breathtaking.
Happily, I’m also finding that the more anal I get, the more anal I get. There seem to be a lot of gay men like me: debased raunch pigs who also need to use anti-bacterial hand sanitizer to wipe down their antibacterial hand sanitizer dispenser before use. When Eros’ arrows strike, there’s nothing I like more than to be hosed down with piss, explosive diarrhea and vomit, even if it is hell to get out of dense pile broadloom. If guests ask, I just blame the stains on the wacky vicissitudes of my boyfriend’s seasonal affective disorder.
I must stipulate that I only like this kind of disgusting sex when it spontaneously occurs as a kind of aberrant gust, in an otherwise pristine home inhabited by otherwise pristine people – not unlike Mary Tyler Moore’s surprising, emotive shiver fit at the very end of Ordinary People. I can’t stand “lifestyle” raunch pigs, with their abiding fondness for “man smells” and the inevitable bowl of stale Nuts ‘N Bolts on their dusty coffee table. Such ease-of-being – yuck! Damage yourself up a little! God loves AIDS! A toddler gets leukemia every time you pull off some stinky fuckwad’s Birkenstock for a shrimping sesh.
When all is said and done – and that won’t be for a long time because there is always so much to do – I do hope to find a middle ground between glean and grime. I don’t want to become some Arm And Hammer android. I like to think that I’ll end up like my grandmother, as she was in a picture I had of her: in a lawn chair in her living room, perfectly coiffed but also at peace with the heaping ashtray on the ottoman.
I loved that tattered, musty old photograph. What compelled me to put it in the dishwasher?