"Do you and Josh do each other's laundry?"
As she asks this, I am folding a pair of boxer shorts, so I guess the question is answered. She and her boyfriend are planning to move in together. They are looking for a house, which I guess is the fun part, and talking about laundry, which is probably not. He told her already that he thinks they should each do only their own laundry.
"Well, when laundry needs to be done, it gets done," is my response. She looks shocked, and I don't know why. I can't figure out if I sounded like a whip-cracker or a doormat.
We don't have any official division of labor. There's no chart with our names and a list of chores. We are both capable of recognizing when something needs to be done and we are equally capable of taking care of it. We are also both slobs, and so some things are allowed to slide for a while. Since our toleration for mess is similar, this doesn't create a problem. My sister, the other slobby one, married a man who had a very tidy mother. While he wants things to be clean, he doesn't necessarily want to spend his time scrubbing baseboards. They must have made their peace over this. Their house is not particularly clean. Equality is awesome, y'all.
I remember when I lived with roommates, the division of chores was an issue. One roommate wanted us to each be responsible for ourselves. In her system, each person would buy their own food and wash their own dishes. I didn't like this system. For one thing, it seemed reasonable that we could share some staple items, provided we each contributed in restocking. I mean, were we each supposed to buy our own toilet paper? This did not extend to specialty items, like fancy foods or alcohol. But by all means, have some of my milk, it's fine. I also thought that washing each individual dish as it was used was inefficient. However, my more communal system does require everyone to chip in of their own accord.
It didn't quite work out to anyone's ideas. But we were all pretty non-confrontational, so while there was grumbling, there were few actual fights. Still, there was enough tension about it that when I moved out, that was one of the things I relished most about living alone. Only then do both systems work together. All restocking and cleaning acts are communal, because there is a commune of one. I could wash the dishes or leave them, and the only person who cared was me.
But there has never been that kind of tension between me and Josh. I already wanted a team system with my roommates, so it seemed even more obvious that a romantic couple living together would be that way. Even the census forms we filled out indicated as much; we registered as "partners." These dishes need to be washed, so wash them. This laundry needs to be done, so do it. And it seems to have worked out fine. I have never felt resentful about the things I do, and I feel grateful for the things he does.
Every once in a while, I will wish that he did a little something more, or rather, something differently. Sometimes when I come home from work, the dog's water bowl is empty. Now, I always feed the dog. But he is home during the day because of his schedule, so he usually walks her. We didn't sit down and discuss this, it just worked out that way. But the water is something that needs to be monitored, rather than something that can be done on a schedule. So I just asked him to please check on her water before he goes to work, because sometimes it was empty. He said absolutely, sorry for not doing it before. And that was it. I mentioned before that he would do laundry when he needed clean work clothes (which is more often than I would need to do laundry), but I was resentful that none of my clothes ever made it from the hamper into that load of black pants and black shirts. I mentioned it to him, and the next time I folded a pile of clothes that he had washed, I found several of my things in there.
I'm not trying to say that our relationship is superior to anyone's, nor that we will never have squabbles over household contributions (we had quite a fantastic blow-out during the cleaning frenzy leading up to Christmas - crying and name-calling). Lord knows how well this will hold up when there are children, who are walking mess-machines. We just have a system that works for us right now because we both want it to work.
The snooty part of me thinks that if you're arguing about laundry before you even move in together, it's a bad sign. However, I did not voice this thought to her, because I have made a lot of improvements on the filter between my head and my mouth. Plus, there's no reason they wouldn't be able to work something out that makes them both happy. Maybe they'll be celebrating their 50th anniversary, each still washing their own clothes.