Friday, July 23, 2010

Folded Tissues

I have a cleaning agency come to my home every couple of weeks and spiff up the place. They do nice little touches, like fold the tissues and the toilet paper as part of their process.

When my sister from Utah came to visit she noticed these little touches throughout my home. This triggered a reaction I had long forgotten since I left Utah; competition! Her mind started to race with how I was showing off my domestic abilities and craftiness with these folded tissues that could be construed as art.

When she finally got up the nerve to discuss this, a flood of Utah memories came back to me. I remember that stress of trying to conform to hidden expectations with other women. It was just part of the female culture of the time. I was living in married student housing and was part of a women's organization presidency. Each week we spent hours and hours making little handouts by carefully writing caligraphic messages on something like a paper doilee then pasting the doilee on beautiful paper. Sometimes we would decorate or even make an exquisite envelope and place the message in the envelope. Occasionally we made special pastries and would do things like weave the dough into exotic shapes and then place tiny messages on the pastries.

When it was my turn to be in charge of the upcoming meeting, I did nothing; no handout; nada. I was a young mother working the evening shifts at the hospital while my husband went to school. The handouts were often lovely and a nice touch, but I just couldn't do it.

That flash of awareness of my former feelings and those mighty expectations had long been buried. Witnessing my sister's reaction to the folded toilet paper, I could see she carried those struggles of conformity and expectations even now. Those feelings were still active in her life.

We laughed when she became aware I was a Martha Stuart drop-out and the little touches in my home were not mine but a hired gun. She relaxed and now felt she could freely use toilet paper without guilt. After all, the tissues will magically get folded again in a couple of weeks.