A year into the covid-19 pandemic has made those of us living with our significant others see just how bearable their worst quirks can be. But when does a failure to rinse out a bowl of cereal make the transition from an annoying habit to A Problem That Needs To Be Dealt With? One woman is finding out the hard way.
On Wednesday, a woman who goes by Miss Potkin on Twitter decided to document her cleaning strike.
“Two days ago, I decided to stop doing the dishes,” she wrote. I make all the dinners and I am tired of having to do all the cleaning too.”
She has since let the dishes pile up, transforming her kitchen countertops into a display table of unwashed cups, plates, bowls, and eating utensils.
“Who will blink first?” she added. “Not me.”
But here’s the thing about a cleaning strike: It only works if the other party doesn’t want to live in filth and disarray. That doesn’t seem to be the case in Miss Potkin’s scenario, as the dishes continued to pile up and her husband continues about his days, unbothered.
Still, she kept at it. By Thursday it was day three, and her family had “used the last of the big bowls” and “run out of spoons.”
“No one is saying anything about the big pile but I can hear their brains ticking,” she wrote. “No, family, I will not be loading the dishwasher today.”
She expanded her strike to laundry as well, as well as maintenance of the bathrooms: She’s not replacing toilet paper rolls or empty bottles of shampoo and conditioner.
But perhaps one of the most exciting sagas in all of this is that of “the sausage of death.”
“There is a pan on the cooker with a single sausage in it,” she noted in one tweet. “It’s been there for two days. I can’t look at it because it’s turned the colour of the man that washes up in Cast Away.”
“It’s tormenting me,” she says in a video, highlighting the messy kitchen. “Look at it. It looks like a little poo.”
She then noticed a box of cereal nestled just beside the sausage pan.
“Someone obviously ran out of cereal this morning and decided to just leave that there as a fire hazard, so we can all just burn in our beds,” she quipped.
Eventually, Miss Potkin films a man—who we can only assume is her husband—attempting to scrape out bits of cereal from a bowl, a herculean feat for those inexperienced in the subtle art of excising hardened carbs from ceramic surfaces. (“27 seconds of trying to scape [sic] that bowl, now multiply that by 6, and then multiply that by 7, then subtract the number of fucks I have left to give,” she tweeted.) He even loaded the dishwasher! But don’t get too excited, lads.
He loaded the dishwasher but didn’t turn it on, and on top of that, he still left behind a sea of unwashed dishes and a clogged sink. It’s the kind of low lift that men who rarely do household chores pat themselves on the back for anyway: Look at me helping! Sure, it was half-assed, and I decided to stop when I got bored, but at least I did something.
Hubby didn’t turn on the dishwasher until four hours later, although he managed to replace the toilet paper rolls in time. Little victories.
Still, Miss Potkin’s suffering continued: “Dinner is happening. I have used two pans and one knife. The last knife. I’ve got 3 more pans and then it’s baking sheets :(”
At that point, dinner just wouldn’t be happening in my house, but Miss Potskins clearly believed cooking dinner with limited tools was the best way to prove her point.
Reaction on Twitter has ranged from calls for divorce to condemnation of her mothering abilities. One commenter even accused her of enabling her husband’s behavior, but the sneers have been overwhelmed by women relating to the familiarity of it all.
Of course, gender has long played a massive role in the division of labor in the home, but covid-19 has led to women taking on an even larger share of household chores and childcare than they did before the global pandemic. Whatever gender parities were more equitable or simply more manageable before the pandemic have receded, uncovering a regressiveness for many couples that they’re forced to reckon with as covid shutdowns, joblessness, and social distancing measures linger on. It’s a lot harder to ignore some of your partner’s worst habits and tendencies when your means to escape them are limited.
So you notice how much your boyfriend doesn’t rinse his dish when he’s done with it, or how your partner never replaces the toilet paper rolls, or how you can’t remember the last time your husband ever dusted something on their own volition. No one has to have a 1950s attitude about women and work to fall into the behaviors that mirror those attitudes. It can take effort to unlearn, from both parties.
Still... not turning on a full dishwasher after loading it? I’m not sure patriarchy can take the full blame for that one.
Miss Potkin, however, is hesitant to take any of this too seriously. She tweeted, “For me, the past two days have been funnier than anything else. I think we’re all entitled to run our own experiments, be amused, push a situation to its limit if we so choose. No one needs to be lectured by those that have failed to see the silly joy in what’s happening here.”
Fair enough: Some dirty dishes don’t tell the full story here, and doing household chores doesn’t automatically make someone husband of the year. However, at some point the “silly joy” isn’t so joyous. It’s one thing to commiserate with other women about their husbands and boyfriends—who hasn’t?—but the story is a little different once you’re logged off, and staring down a mountain of dirty dishes in one corner and a pile of dirty clothes in another.