I’m weird.  This is not new information.  There are times when I recognize why social norms are what they are and I ought to change my way of thinking.  However, this is not one of those times.

When one family is the company of an other, why do all the women of both families file into kitchen and clean it?  I understand when all parties involved clear the table.  That has to do with the removal of clutter.  Washing dishes, however, has to do with the removal of germs and should not be a task given to guests.  When I invite guests over to entertain them, I do not expect them to wash dishes any more than I would expect them to scrub my toilets.

A common rebuttal is, “But women are so helpful.”  When I hear this with the buzzing of ladies busily working in the background, I envision another emerging from my laundry room saying, “I noticed that your dryer had completed it’s cycle, so I took out your husband’s skivvies.  Let me fold these and put these away for you.”

Furthermore, if you put away leftovers, you might notice that I didn’t clean out the fridge yet.  You see, I was getting ready for company.  I cooked dinner and cleaned my bathrooms and kept my children from messing it up.  I was busy.

“Well, it’s just polite.”  Why?  I asked my mother why this is a social norm.  She said, “When I was a child, whenever we went to my grandmother’s house, all the women cleaned up after dinner.  That’s just what we did.  That’s what we were supposed to do.”  Her grandmother didn’t have a dishwasher.  I do.  Her grandmother spent all day every day cooking everything from scratch for her family and six farm hands.  If anyone intended to see her grandmother, they ought to go to the kitchen.  I have not spent my day in a kitchen.  I am either in a classroom or I do my normal house cleaning during the day.  If I am going to have a lot of company over, I start cooking at 3 if company’s coming at 6.  After dinner is over, I have hostess things to attend to.  I don’t want to be in a kitchen instructing my guests.  I want to be in the living room entertaining them.

I protest that the social norm is an antiquated ritual.

I feel about kitchen duty the way that Jesus spoke of fasting.  The Pharisees asked him why His disciples did not fast. 34And Jesus said to them, ”Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? 35 The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.” (Luke 5)  I will clean my kitchen when I’m not in party mode.

This works both ways too.  To pick one story (I have fistful of them), one Thanksgiving, my husband and I arrived at extended family’s house long after the meal was over.  We integrated into the collection of cousins and began telling stories and making merry.  After a few minutes, my husband’s mother leaned over between a cousin and me and informed us that we were so rude not to do the dishes.  She and I, assuming that the comment was directed at us because we were the closest, obliged politely. It was when the five male cousins were invited to watch football that re realized that we were selected because of the absence of Y chromosomes.  By the way, we were not going aid a slew of kitchen workers.  The rest of the slew was eating a second dessert and playing games.

In conclusion, if I invite you to my house, feel free to pile dishes in the sink if you must, but I’d rather serve you coffee and share stories than have you clean my kitchen. If I come to your house and you want me to wash dishes, invite me into your kitchen for such a purpose.  I probably won’t think to do it on my own. Maybe afterwards, you can have me clean your air conditioner ducts.  I did breathe your air, of course.