Why Real Men Don't Clean and What Happens When They Try

08/15/2010 05:04 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017


Despite race, creed, color, or financial situation, every man in the world shares one trait--I mean besides having to be heavily sedated and dragged kicking and screaming to see Eat, Pray, Love. The universal male trait in question is the aversion to keeping things clean. If ever there was one flag representing all men, there could be no image more appropriate than a pair of dirty socks on the floor. Long may they stink.

Not that this is any excuse, but we men do have historical precedent for being slobs. This dates back to the Garden of Eden, where Eve was irked to find Adam's apple cores everywhere, despite the Thou Shalt Not Litter signs in plain view. In the Middle Ages, kings themselves would toss their just-eaten beef ribs on the floor for their dogs. This would really irritate their queens, who were already quite steamed about the king's refusal to take out the garbage.

Incredibly, there was even litter on man's first journey to the moon: a Nestles Crunch Bar wrapper, a sock, one of Neil Armstrong's early, rejected versions of his now famous saying: "That's one small step for man; one giant cramp from sitting so long inside that tiny space capsule." The point is, men have littered through time, everywhere. Check any roadside--the trash is all men's stuff: beer cans, condom wrappers, horse racing forms, menus for Hooters, Woody Allen's letters to Soon Yi begging her not to make him look like too much of a jerk in the tell-all book she threatens to write every time they argue.

What's behind this male aversion to keeping things clean? Laziness? Stupidity? Insensitivity? Too easy--those are reasons for everything else men do or don't do. There are, in fact, three basic reasons why men hate cleaning. Actually, there are four, but I wrote the fourth one down on the back of a Fudgcicle wrapper, and now it's somewhere in this pile of papers and half-eaten sandwiches on my desk and I can't find it.

The first reason men hate cleaning is that they somehow believe that cleaning is women's work and so by doing it, they'll be perceived as less masculine. Unfortunately, this too has historical precedent. At the high point of his career, Alexander the Great was spotted dusting his shield. For the remainder of his life, no matter how impressive his accomplishments, whenever he passed by, onlookers would snicker and refer to him as, first, Alexander the Duster; then, Dusty, Dustine, and finally, Dust. Eventually, this drove him insane. At his funeral, mourners could not help but scoff and toss feather dusters on top of his coffin.

The second reason men hate cleaning is that they are convinced it is a low-priority activity, when they don't even have time to complete their abundance of high-priority activities. Among the high-priority activities men believe take precedence over cleaning are: napping, watching sports games on TV, drinking beer while discussing women's physical and sexual attributes, bowling, flirting with their sister-in-law while their wife is doing the dishes, and attending Why Marriages Fail seminars.

The third reason men hate cleaning is that they see this hate as a rebellion against authority. Think of it as the Revolutionary War, without issues or intelligence. As young boys, their mothers were constantly badgering them to pick up their clothes from the floor, wash their hands, clean up their rooms. The universal male dream was always When I Grow Up And Have My Own Place, I'll Be As Sloppy As I Want And No One Will Be Able To Tell Me What To Do. The irony, of course, is that if a man has a girlfriend or wife, he'll still be told what to do. And if he's single, he realizes that before he brings a woman over to his place, he damn well better clean it up so that, at least for the first couple of dates, she won't think he's a pig.

Of course, sometimes men do make a sincere effort to clean. They do this in an attempt to 1) Impress a date, 2) Placate a wife, 3) Tidy up before the parole officer arrives to inspect. When men try to clean, they generally do a half-assed job of it, and you can pretty much count on their either breaking something, ruining something, or burning something down. Before asking a man to clean, always be sure the place is insured for full replacement value.

Getting men to clean, though, need not be seen as a hopeless cause. Have macho role models do public service announcements promoting men cleaning: "This is Arnold Schwarzenegger. You know me as the Terminator or the Governator, and when I'm at home, I just love terminating the dust and mildew that make my Austrian blood boil." And, of course, Maria Shriver would be fawning all over him as he dusts. "Oh, Arnold, I get so excited when I see you do housework!" Immediately, men throughout America would pick up sponges, mops, and vacuums. And then immediately put them down 'cause the commercials are over and the game's back on. Hey, it's a start.