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The Domesticity of Desire

PUBLISHED February 10, 2021

The biggest issue in my relationship currently is a set of keys sitting on the corner of the counter.

The set of keys belongs to my fiancé. There’s the key to our apartment, the key to the storage unit, and likely a key to his childhood home in Philadelphia, though I’m not entirely sure. There’s the sleekly minimalist multi-function tool I gave him once as a gift, and a Nike shoe keychain. Because he likes shoes.

Being living, breathing human beings in a metropolis, we do in fact leave and re-enter our home multiple times a day. Keys are required in this simple, mundane act. And being that we live in a New York apartment, space is limited. So the counter that these keys happen to be sitting on is not an entryway counter or a credenza of any sort. It is in fact the kitchen counter, because you enter directly into the kitchen from the front door.

To me (and hey, maybe I’m too literal) a kitchen counter is for, well, cooking. A kitchen counter holds kitchen items because its express purpose and exact title illustrates as much. And being a kitchen counter meant for cooking it’s no oversimplification to bring your attention to the obvious fact that food is prepared there daily.

So in my view a kitchen counter is not a place for dirty Amazon boxes brought in from the diseased outdoors, nor sweaty face masks, nor unread direct mailers that are destined for the trash, nor a set of keys. And this being a New York apartment, as I have previously stated, and this New York apartment being of modest size, as you may recall, the kitchen counter takes up a large majority of the apartment. It is, shall we say, a center piece. So when this kitchen counter, a furniture piece expressly intended for kitchen related activities, becomes cluttered with the minutiae of daily life, well, I hope I’m not being over dramatic by stating that the whole apartment then feels cluttered.

And maybe it’s just me, and maybe it’s just this silly, disgusting, deadly and highly contagious disease that’s ravaging the entire world, but when items (such as gloves) or odds and ends (such as hats, sunglasses, and wallets) that have traversed the outdoors and passed through germy fingers end up on my kitchen counter (a place for preparing food) I am unable to move past the sheer horror of the whole thing.

I am NOT a neat freak by any means, but I grew up in a home that was always messy and that mess made me feel unsettled. It made me feel unhappy. And now as an adult I have the capacity and the power to control my own environment. I can make it feel just how I want. And being a space where I now spend both my work and my leisure time; where I spend weekdays and weekends; where my entire life unfolds, it feels more urgent than ever to construct an environment that I feel good to be in.

The keys are robbing me of that peace of mind.

Yes, so small an item, so innocent a purpose. And while you may be asking…why hold so much hostility to the keys on the counter? I am screaming inside my skull…BECAUSE WE HAVE A FUCKING KEY HOLDER!

That is the truth, dear readers. I have buried the lead. I have. There is in fact a small home accessory designed, purchased and installed for the EXPRESS purpose of holding said keys. It is nailed directly next to the door. The same door, in fact, that the keys unlock. The same door that you must unlock and then enter to gain access to the apartment. The same door that you cannot enter the apartment without passing. Though you may at this point find this hard to believe, you must pass the the key holder BEFORE you actually arrive at the counter. Which makes it ever so hard for one to imagine how anyone could conceive of a more simple, easy, and mindless place to dangle one’s keys than the very key holder all but smacking them in the face when they walk through the door.

Is this an allegory of sorts to illustrate a larger issue? Why yes it is. I find it difficult to reconcile my feminism with my true wish for a tidy home. I often feel that I must decide between picking up after a grown adult and living with clutter that, while hardly overwhelming, is simply annoying.

As an adult I can only control my own behavior. I can build the habit of cleaning up after myself. I can determine the standard with which I want to keep my home and I can pursue actions that enable me to achieve that standard. But I cannot control where my fiancé puts his keys. Or his hats. Or his shoes or his coats or his shaving cream or his empty packaging or his FedEx slips or his dirty laundry.

I’ve tried gentle coaxing, I’ve tried pointed demands, I’ve tried cold shoulders, I’ve tried honest “I need…” statements. And now I will try public shaming.

If the lack of male support around the home weren’t a literal national epidemic (read: Women’s Unpaid Labor is Worth $10,900,000,000) that is costing women years of their lives (read: Why Did It Take a Pandemic to Show How Much Unpaid Work Women Do?) and often times inevitably their relationships (read: The Man Who Coaches Husbands on How to Avoid Divorce) not to mention the untold emotional and mental strain (read: The Gender Wars of Household Chores) then maybe this wouldn’t be a hill I was so willing to die on.

But I have already started digging my grave, people, because this is a hill I will happily call my final resting place. I refuse to accept this idea that because these men did not grow up doing household chores that they are in some way excused from the activity for the rest of their natural born lives. I refuse to accept that because anyone makes more money that he or she is therefore exempt from the elementary task of putting his or her own shit back in his or her own shit’s rightful place. I don’t care if they “contribute in other ways.” As far as I’m concerned that’s like saying “I wash my hands so why do I have to wipe my ass?” Doing one thing does not excuse you from doing the other.

Home has taken on such a different meaning now. It’s draining to be stuck in one place and it requires concerted effort to keep yourself in decent spirits. Why make it any harder on ourselves or our loved ones.

Messy roommates if you are reading this…hang up the damn keys.

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