Rhonda was fully prepared to be struck by a bolt of lightning on Monday, but the day was sunny throughout, so she went to sleep that night dreading Tuesday.
When she awoke the following morning, she hesitated before getting out of bed, afraid that the floor would collapse under the weight of her guilt, but the joists held steady. Tuesday then rolled into Wednesday, which came and went without the deluge of frogs she expected to pour forth from the sky. Thursday passed minus a public shaming, and Friday chugged right along without any disasters as well.
“It will happen for sure, now that it’s the weekend,” Rhonda said on her way to the shower Saturday morning. “The universe knows what I’ve done and will seek its vengeance one way or the other.”
What had Rhonda done to cause her such angst? Had she committed murder? Knocked a Girl Scout down and run off with her cookies? Kicked a puppy? No, but she still saw what she had done – or in her case, hadn’t done, as a sin.
Rhonda didn’t clean her house last week. She didn’t even so much as gather up the newspapers for the recycling bin. Now, to the average person, slacking off in the housework department might not seem like a big deal, but to Miss O.C.D., it was a big deal.
When she was little, Rhonda noticed that other children her age got to spend their Saturday mornings watching cartoons or playing with their friends. Rhonda’s mother, however, had her up and cleaning the family home. Baseboards and furniture had to be dusted, pillow cases and sheets needed to be ironed, and bathrooms required scrubbing. Once a month she was also tasked with scouring the fridge and stove both inside and out.
“An unkempt home is a disorganized home,” her mother used to say. “Disorganization leads to chaos, and chaos means a lack of control. We must always be in control Rhonda – of our lives, of our emotions, and of our actions. A lack of control is a sin.”
So Rhonda grew up to become the seemingly shining example of someone who has their act together. It was straight A’s for her all through school, the upward career trajectory and, at her mother’s insistence, boyfriends who carried a briefcase to work instead of a lunch pail. Every outfit she has ever worn has been crisply ironed, her bills have always been paid – not on time, but in advance, and then there was the spotless house. You could walk around her place with nothing but white socks on your feet and they’d be just as white when you left. Furthermore, her place was so well kept, she’d noticed if you moved one of her knick knacks even just a tenth of an inch.
But then last weekend she watched Misery, the movie based on the Stephen King novel. The character played by Kathy Bates was just as particular about her knick knacks, and when Rhonda recognized herself in that role, a sense of embarrassment fell over her.
“Oh my God, I’m just as wacko as Annie Wilkes,” she said to herself. “I have got to lighten up.”
That’s when she made the decision not to do a stitch of housework that weekend. It was difficult for her not to clean, the way giving up drugs or alcohol cold turkey might be hard on an addict. What if her mother stopped by? What if someone from work paid a surprise visit? What if the government immediately passed a law allowing the Board of Health to inspect private residences? They would all pass judgment on her and they would not be kind.
But no one came over, and when she went to work on Monday, no one noticed that she was wearing the same outfit that she wore the previous Monday or that it hadn’t been ironed. There were creases here and there, but just the kind you’d expect from someone who had to sit in traffic for an hour on their morning commute.
The world didn’t come to a sudden halt because Rhonda forwent cleaning one week, but the way Rhonda went through the world came to an end. She decided to ditch her weekly dusting ritual and sign up for dance lessons. Henceforth, she would also buy wrinkle-free clothes instead of the ridiculously difficult to maintain linens outfits she had always favoured. She was even going to let her produce sit in the fridge longer than a few days.
She didn’t exactly become a slob, but she did become more carefree – and that’s what people noticed, and they liked it very much.