Spring has arrived. Do you feel guilty yet? If not, you apparently don't read women's magazines. Every March and April they're packed with "clean up and organize your life" articles. Stories with catchy titles like Spring Into Action -- Tidy Up Your House. Or Wash Away Winter Blues. Or Banish Clutter Now; Otherwise We'll Keep Torturing You With Articles Meant to Make you Feel Like A Slothful Bum. Personally, I'd rather read Why Clean? It Will Only Get Dirty Again Tomorrow.
Why do magazines publish these pieces? Because every spring millions of women have the same Pavlovian response: Guilt. Guilt quickly followed by a spending spree on periodicals and cleaning supplies. They grab every magazine in sight and, in a fit of post-New Year's resolution fervor, vow to Martha Stewartize their homes.
Do these articles help? Do they unlock the sacred secret of "eat off your basement floor" womanhood? Hahahahahahaha. Pardon me -- I'm sorry. I didn't realize you were serious.
The stories all share one fatal flaw ... aside from the fact that they relate to housework. The problem is (pause for drum roll) they are all the same article.
It's hard to believe, but true. While humor writers are expected to vary their humor at least slightly from piece to piece, authors specializing in the spring cleaning genre recycle the same 100 or so tips year after year after year. In fact, the "get your act together you slob" piece that you devoured while waiting for the supermarket patron in front of you to finish picking lint off $79.77 in pennies, dates all the way back to prehistoric times.
Just a month ago archaeologists, who were excavating a cave in southern France, discovered a minute remnant of what they believe to be the world's first spring cleaning piece. The few words they managed to unearth are as vital today as they were way back in the Mesozoic Era: "Hose down dinosaur dung." In fact, those exact words appeared in several magazines sold this very year. Sadly, though, the original author had a lousy lawyer and never got a nickel in royalties.
Moreover, Biblical historians are convinced that the Old Testament contained at least two chapters filled with spring cleaning counsel. Alas, only a small fragment remains: "Slaughter Red Sea stains with..." If only we knew what came next.
Throughout the years women have dominated the spring cleaning literature, and men didn't stand a chance of breaking in. In fact Shakespeare is said to have never recovered from the rejection of his "To Clean or Not To Clean. That is the Question."
While Shakespeare was forced to explore other writing avenues, women's writing has always bloomed with the cleaning rites of spring. Who can forget Louisa May Alcott's charming novel which begins "Springtime won't be springtime without cleaning supplies." Or Dorothy Parker's "Men rarely make whoopee with girls who look goopy."
Speaking of men, just once I'd like to see a spring cleaning piece in a men's magazine. Until I do, I refuse to let a magazine article induce me to scrub, mop, or sweep. And if I ever have the impulse to clean my house, I'll go to my book shelves and study the classics. In fact, I'm going to do just that ... just as soon as I finish dusting my books.