On Privilege and House Keeping

That’s right y’all, we’re gonna talk about the privilege of cleaning houses for a living!

Okay, not really.

I actually have a story that brought up a lot of questions for me, especially regarding why it is that cleaning houses for a living has always seemed so odd to me.

Disclaimer: Occassionally, I clean houses with my mom, who has been making a living doing this ever since I can remember. I have nothing against it, and I know that a lot of the opportunities I had and continue to have are because of the labor intensive work my parents both do. This is not meant to disparage this profession. If I’m being totally honest, this is me taking an opportunity to rant 😉

So, the story. Sometimes when I go clean houses with my mom, my aunt, and a couple other lovely ladies (we’ll call them Becca and Rory), we have to split up in an effort to finish faster. When this happens, someone has to go back and pick up the ladies who were left to clean a different house. Recently, my mom was picking up Becca and Rory and letting the owner we were leaving when the owner made the following complaint to my mom: “Please tell them to dump the water from the mop in the sink, not outside. Maybe in Mexico that’s how it’s done, but not here.” [sic] Now, I don’t actually know that this is word for word what was said because I wasn’t there, but I trust my mother so I know it was pretty darn close.

I was livid when she told me this. I couldn’t believe that this was how the woman had decided to voice her complaint. She could have asked in any other way. She could have just asked us to not dump water outside. Instead, she made it seem that dumping water outside was somehow a terribly negative thing; and somehow, the fact that we do so is tied to where we come from? No other house owner has ever made this complaint.

I started to think about other people we clean for (or have cleaned for), and came up with a few categories that they tend to fit into. I know, I know, I just tried to make a point about how generalizations are bad, but still. This is how it breaks down most of the time:

  1. People who think of us as “the help”: This is where most infuriating stories come from. These are the type of people who are upset when we want to take a vacation because who will clean their house next week??

2. People who treat us like employees: I have no problem with this because that is what we are. They’re paying for a service, and we’re providing it. That is that. Though sometimes there are annoying complaints, or slights, it’s not nearly the same as the previous group.

3. People who treat us like people: These are the people who offer us smoothies when we arrive because it’s hot outside and they know we still have a lot of work to do. Or the ones who ask about our families, who say “have a safe trip!” when we tell them we’re going somewhere. Sometimes they give everyone a Christmas bonus, a present, cookies, or something during the holidays. They tell us they appreciate us, and that we do a great job.

Cleaning houses is bizarre. I think it’s way more personal than most people will really admit. You’re essentially going into someone’s home and making it… more homey. I hated cleaning houses with my mom when I was younger, but I chalk this up to my laziness. It’s still not my favorite thing in the world, but now that I have my degree and will be teaching soon (knowing that this is only for a little bit longer), I feel like all I do is critique the privilege that people so openly and unabashedly display when we go into their homes to do our job; sometimes they treat us like they’re doing us a huge favor. But at the same time, I can now see the huge hearts of the people who openly reject their socioeconomic privilege, simply by treating us like people.

Does anyone else have any thoughts on this, or experience? I would love to hear about it!

P.S. The hardest thing about cleaning is going to a house with cute puppies because you need to be a professional and not stop every five minutes to pet them. *Sigh*

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Life is too Short to Paint all Your Toenails

Things I have done out of sheer laziness/time mismanagement:

  1. Curled (or straightened) half of my hair, only to realize that I’m running late. This results in a half-up do or top bun that I totally planned.
  2. The walk-of-shame out of my room with an armful of empty water bottles because the kitchen is too far away to walk each one there on its own.
  3. Covered up smeared mascara/eyeliner with extra cover-up in order not to waste makeup wipes (those things are hella expensive). Also because I refused to redo any of my makeup.
  4. Shaved my legs only up to my knees, if that was all that would be exposed (IN MY DEFENSE, I knew a girl who would only shave the patches of her legs that would show through her ripped jeans; I think she outdid me).
  5. I tuck my sheets in VERY tightly after washing them so I can’t “unmake” the bed as much, which makes it way easier to make the bed.

And my crowning moment of laziness:

6. Once, I was going to wear open-toed shoes that showed only two toenails on each foot. In an effort to minimize my work, and being the clever little thing that I am, I decided to only paint the toenails that people would actually see. My cousin laughed, but I only had to paint 40% of my nails 😊

Books Are Better Than People

A boy is lonely.

The boy is slowly losing all he cares about.

The boy is fighting.

I am deeply invested in this story as I sit on campus, reading Patrick Ness’ A Monster Calls, when a guy walks up to me and says, “Hey, you look like you enjoy books!”

Yes, sir. As a matter of fact I do enjoy books. I was enjoying this particular book very much, and you have interrupted my reading flow!

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I don’t mean to be rude, but really. This guy interrupted me to preach about meditation or something, and I was not interested. I wanted this man to not talk to me, so I could keep reading. But was I going to ignore him? No, of course not. Was I going to tell him to go away? No, I don’t have the ability to be purposefully rude.

So I listened for all of two seconds, tuned him out, and slowly tried to turn my attention back to the heartbreaking story that also made weep minutes later.

I just like books more than people sometimes.

Eighth Grade Me Would Hate Me So Much

Walking by the bathroom today, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. My immediate thought? “Shit, is that really me?”

This is what I looked like:

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(Can we pretty please pretend that mirror isn’t so filthy? 😏)

I started to really look at my reflection, and I couldn’t help but laugh a bit.

When I was a kid, I despised braids. My mom was a superstar braider, and she always tried to hold me down “JUST FOR FIVE MINUTES” while she braided my hair; but I was relentless, and I usually got away. On the rare occasions that she managed to keep me still long enough to tame my hair, the hair ties would “accidentally” come off the second she turned her back.

Around 8th grade, I had to get glasses. Before I did, my dad insisted that I didn’t need glasses, that I only wanted some because my cousin (who I desperately wanted to be like) had just gotten her first pair. When I mentioned one day that I’d had to move up to the front row in each and every one of my classes, and that it was still hard to see, he took me to the optometrist. Two minutes into the appointment the doctor said, “Yeah. She definitely needs glasses, badly.”

I chose some small purple frames, excited to be able to see more than three feet in front of me once again.

I really didn’t mind having to wear glasses, until the first day I wore them to school. Because the second people saw me, they would say, “You look weird” or “You look different.” And what 8th grader wants to hear that? So from that day on, I started counting down the days (one year, the doctor said) until I could get contacts and stop looking weird or different.

Finally, that shirt. I had shirts just like this one growing up. Every single one of them ended up at the bottom of my closet, hiding in a drawer, or in a donation box; I used to think shirts with this style were so ugly.

Today, I saw myself, with my French braid (which I now know how to do myself), my giant frames (that I bought specifically because I wanted bigger frames, and despite the fact that I have contacts) and my ugly shirt (which was four dollars, and I think is pretty damn cute).

Tastes change, trends change, and we change. I like the way I look, and I have no shame in the fact that I now choose to wear things I used to openly deny.

Still, when I saw myself in the mirror today, all I could think was, “Damn, Ari. 8th grade you would think you look like shit.”

I Don’t Know How to Say Hi to People

Alright, so maybe this time my title is pushing it. Yes, I do know how to say “hi” to people. Growing up as a Mexican-American though, my mind was constantly like:

  • Do I have to kiss and hug EVERYONE here?? There’s too many people!
  • Can we not hug to say hello at school? I know that’s how we were raised but can we all just agree school is our haven where we can just say “hello”?
  • Everyone goes left to kiss someone’s cheek, WHY DID YOU JUST GO THE WRONG WAY AND MAKE THIS SO AWKWARD FOR US?

I love my background, and I love having such a big and crazy family. Family gatherings were never boring growing up, but I always felt like I was the only one made uncomfortable by having to go person by person, hugging everyone, to say hello.

Oh, and if mom ever saw you miss someone while you were doing the rounds: “Saludaste a todos? No, no saludaste a tu tia, ve a saludar, correle!”

y-tho

Is Everyone Out to Get Me? Yes, They Are

A few weeks ago, I stood at a counter frantically preparing a cup of coffee in a small gas station. This particular gas station had recently become my haven for a few reasons. It was on the way to school, suspiciously empty on weekdays at 7 am, and best of all: the coffee there wasn’t disgusting.

I’m certainly not what one would call a “coffee snob.” I will drink whatever coffee someone places in front of me because by the time I’m finished adding seven pounds of sugar and creamer into the cup, it vaguely resembles coffee. Still, a gas station is generally not my first choice when thinking, “where can I get the right cup of coffee to start the day off?”

Despite my negativity towards gas station coffee, this place has good coffee. So every Wednesday and Thursday for a few months, I would burst into this place, and head straight for the counter with its limited coffee supplies.

I am so not a morning person; if the world could just agree to start every day around 9 or 10 am, I really believe I could be a much better person (I’ll have to figure out soon who I can speak to about this). On this particular morning, I was already on edge because I was running late. As I’m dumping whatever unhealthy chemicals come in those pink sugar packets into my coffee, I feel someone standing behind me. I quickly glance over my shoulder, and I see a fairly tall guy.

It could be the lack of sleep, the creepy smirk he gives, or maybe just the fact that I’m a bit paranoid all the time, but this man looks scary. So of course, I start pouring out those pink packets faster, but now I’m panicking and spilling things. I keep looking back, and the guy isn’t moving, he’s just standing close by, watching. I start to process my options:

  • Finish preparing the stupid coffee, go pay, and leave.
  • Leave the coffee. It’s not worth it, just go and be tired all day.
  • Say something that will make the guy feel really uncomfortable. It’s only fair, since he made me feel uncomfortable first.
  • Be loud to get the attention of the other guy at the cash register? Why make one guy uncomfortable when I could make EVERYONE uncomfortable at the same time, right?

I opt for the first thing since it seems like the most sane way to go. I dump some more creamer into my cup (honestly, I shouldn’t even be allowed to have coffee if I’m just going to turn into liquid sugar and creamer) and make my way over to pay.

The second I step away from the counter, I notice something. The guy who was standing so close to me, steps forward, to the counter. To pour himself some coffee. He was waiting because this tiny gas station has a tiny space for their tiny selection of coffee. He literally had no other choice than to casually wait while I finished making my sugary concoction because there isn’t even enough room for two people to get their coffee at the same time. I hadn’t realized this because I always seemed to be the only person getting coffee at this place. Except for that day, when this guy showed up.

So, no, the entire world is not out to get me. Just a good portion of it, probably.

Flying Doesn’t Have to Be Frustrating

For the past two years, I started doing more flying than ever before in my life. Because of this, I learned airport and airplane etiquette really well, or so I like to think. If you haven’t flown before, or haven’t had a pleasant experience flying, here’s some of the things I’ve learned that have helped me stress less:

  • Keep to yourself:
    • I don’t know why, but almost no one in American airports wants to talk. This is actually fine by me because I’m very shy, but it’s bizarre to me that people in a place with so much movement and stories want nothing to do with each other.
  • Be as tidy as possible:
    • People get so frustrated if you don’t have all your crap in order. Every time I pack I’m reminded of the brilliant scene in Up in the Air, featuring George Clooney and Anna Kendrick; an expert flyer who has everything organized to perfection, and a new flyer who stumbles with her luggage. Another brilliant scene in the film (Clooney packing and maneuvering through the airport): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gj_5Pgy-eVQ
  • If you’re traveling with a child, everyone automatically dislikes you:
    • This sounds awful, I know. Kids are great, but due to levels of tolerance already being way below where they should be, no one has any patience for children running/speaking/existing in airports. Don’t worry, your kids are still adorable, but please, for all our sake’s try to make sure they behave.
  • Don’t argue:
    • You can’t argue with any employees at the airport. Not TSA, not flight attendants, not the Jamba Juice employees, no one. Because no matter how many times you try to convince the guy that you’ve “used this same bag as a carry-on bag with this same airline before,” he’ll tell you to check it.

These are the things that come to mind immediately, though I’m sure there’s tons more to be said about airports. If you have any experiences you’re willing to share, or some more flying wisdom to put forth, please leave a comment below 🙂

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My favorite part about flying!