Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Dear diary

Dear diary,

Sorry it’s been so long since I last wrote. Years! Please don’t take offence that I recently started a journal: it means nothing to me and I only share with it things like how many prunes I gave my toddler at snacktime and how dearly I paid for it later. Things you might share with a stranger on the bus. Yes, there were those travelogues in Samoa and Vietnam, but they were short-lived and relatively superficial and I’ve hardly looked back on them since. But you and I, we’re so much more than that.

I like to remember when we first met, in seventh grade. We were both such '80s fashion victims back then, you trying to look professional and wise with your old-fashioned rose-print cover, and me trying to blend in with the crowd with those yellow florescent socks. In those days I confided so much in you, especially after Jennifer and Crystal snubbed me. To this day I can still replicate Jennifer’s trendsetting walk, which I had down to a tee in my own pair of pink All Stars, proof that you don’t have to take ballet to waddle like a duck. I vividly remember Crystal Francis’ birthmark on her scalp that naturally gave her that Wham! splash of blonde in the midst of her dark feathered hair, a genetic gift that instils me even today with a wild desire to crack open a bottle of hydrogen peroxide. In my mind’s eye, those two girls are still almost as unattainably beautiful, cool and mysterious as Wonder Woman, despite the fact that they retracted their friendship just as soon as I delivered them the last instalment of my Depression-era saga. Oh, how they used me! (You’ll remember, dear diary, that first novel of mine, hand-written, hole-punched and lovingly bound with red yarn? I can’t for the life of me understand why I never tried to publish that masterpiece!)

But that was ages ago. Where should I pick up now? I’ll start with the mundane.

Do you know what I did today? I cleaned the vestibule. Yes, the vestibule. The area where you enter the house, wipe your feet, hang your coat and pour yourself a glass of milk from the fridge. (However, it is my understanding that most people keep their refrigerator in the kitchen.) You may think it’s of no consequence that I cleaned the vestibule of its cobwebs, rearranged the coats, wiped the fridge door and scoured the microwave above it. But I have such an aversion to certain types of chores that I almost had it written into my marriage vows: “I love you and will always love you, in sickness and in health; I will do the cooking, the dishes and straightening to a reasonable standard but I do not and will not iron clothes or clean windows, toilet bowls or vestibules.”

So, you must be asking yourself, dear diary, why on earth did I clean the vestibule? It’s all because I hired a virtual cleaner. Let me try and explain. My friend Michelle, a working mom, has decided to treat herself by getting in a house cleaner once a week, at the bargain price of thirty dollars. Not just thirty dollars, but thirty New Zealand dollars. Practically worthless. I could spend thirty dollars at the supermarket today and walk out with literally nothing more than a small package of diapers and a wedge of parmesan.

So I started to think how easy it would be to renounce parmesan and hire Michelle’s cleaner. No more scrubbing sinks, dusting the mantelpiece or watching my husband clean the toilet! I was thinking this powerful and liberating thought as I was reaching for the fridge door, situated in the aforementioned vestibule, when I noticed that there was an unsightly layer of black mould across its white surface, festering around the verb conjugations spelled in Italian Magnetic Poetry. I attacked it with a baby wipe, thinking, “I can’t possibly let the cleaner see that our fridge door hosts a breeding ground for E.coli between mangiare and dormire!” I imagined her self-satisfied smirk as she mumbled to herself, “These slobs really do need a cleaner,” and then her appalled look when she realized there are children in the household! It was humiliating.

But I couldn’t stop there. The fridge door was connected to the leaking fridge, which was connected to the spattered microwave, which grazed the filthy curtain, which came to rest on the blackened windowsill…There was no end to my embarrassment. Or to the amount of baby wipes I was willing to sacrifice. And before I even knew what I was doing, the vestibule was clean. No, not just clean. It sparkled. I could just see the cleaner nod approvingly as she entered the house. “Why, there’s nothing in this vestibule for me to clean!” she’d no doubt be thinking.

This, I believe, is proof of the fact that I actually do not need a cleaner to have a clean house. But I do very much need a virtual cleaner. She is the one who is about to come over with her hair tied back in a kerchief, wielding her magical bucket of cleaning products with awe-inspiring names like Powerzest and Bam!3. The one who is about to witness my true standard of sanitation and, therefore, the truth about me. She can see straight inside me, through me, in fact. So I get on my hands and knees and clean for her. I clean to seek her approval. I fear her. I admire her. I need her.

This leads me, dear diary, to the next logical question. Please don’t take this personally, but who are you anyway? Who am I writing to when no one but myself is probably ever going to read this? The most commonplace answer would be that I am writing to myself, to my consciousness, or to my future eighty-two-year-old self rereading these musty pages through an endearing pair of spectacles. Or perhaps a more environmentally-friendly version would have me writing to the next race of humans to give them a glimpse of our level of sophistication before we killed all the trees for paper and brought on our own extinction.

But, dear diary, I choose not to believe any of these explanations. Don’t take this the wrong way, but you clearly are not me. I’ve never written a diary entry to myself any more than I wrote that first epic novel for myself. I wrote it, chapter by chapter, for Jennifer and Crystal and though they may have been a small audience, they were the only audience in Wingate Junior High worth winning over. For a few implausible months, the most popular girls in the school were begging me to put them out of their misery by handing over the next chapter. The discerning, picky, beautiful people that I could otherwise never reach.

So now, my dearest beloved diary, because you know me so well you’ll be able to understand me when I say that, whoever you are, wherever you are, you are my virtual cleaner. I’ve never met you but I write for you. I look up to you. I trust your judgement. I write only to be read by you, to impress you, to move you. I need you. Without you, I’m a mess!

But if I am mistaken and no human being at all is actually going to set eyes on these lines until the year 6010, I just hope they have the technology to be able to analyze the fatty stains dotting this diary entry and confirm that, even if I did write myself to extinction, at least I was eating parmesan while I did it.