Deep inside the reptilian center of my brain there lurks a housewife with an eye for the Martha Stewart touch. She's the paragon whose bathtubs invite long meditative soaks, and whose every tabletop reflects on its well-oiled surface a simple pottery vase filled with flowers.
The first thing this person does upon arising is to make her bed. As the sun rises in the east and the birds twitter in the trees she straightens the pillows, gives the duvet a good shake and lays it down smoothly, and arranges a flock of throw pillows aesthetically on the bed. Then she casts a look around the room and smiles, secure in the knowledge that her sanctuary, with its scented sheets, its orderly dresser tops, its bouquet of cheerful zinnias on the bedside table, will be waiting for her when she returns to it at the end of another happy and productive day.
Of course, this woman lives alone.
When I was growing up my mother was not obsessed with orderliness. The living room and the music room where my father gave violin lessons were reasonably neat, but the rest of the place was another story.
As a teenager, I was dismayed by the clutter in my parents' bedroom: piles of clothes on chairs, books and sewing projects scattered everywhere. I thought that the mess revealed a disregard on my mother's part for the little touches that keep a marriage alive, and I promised myself that my conjugal bedroom, should I ever have one, would be a haven of order, serenity, and sensuous charm.
I should mention that, messy bedroom notwithstanding, my parents had an enviably happy marriage. And I'm sure that, if my mother wasn't bothered by the clutter, neither was my father, because in my experience men, straight men at least, don't care about neat bedrooms or beds.
I've heard stand-up comics deliver diatribes about their girlfriends' neurotic need to pile decorative pillows against the headboard. I've heard happily married guys deride bed-making as an absurd and time-wasting ritual because, obviously, you're just going to mess it up when you get in it again.
Which is why my fantasy housewife lives alone.
Whereas I (fortunately, in most respects) don't. And so I go through periods when, feeling like Sisyphus pushing his rock up the mountain, I make the bed in the morning, straightening up the duvet and placing the occasional pillows with care. But after several days of having it callously disarranged by my (in most respects, adorable) spouse, I give up and leave the duvet in turmoil and the throw pillows unthrown.
And my inner Martha shudders with horror, and retreats even deeper into my reptilian brain.