Zen and the Art of Guilty Pleasure

Heating UpThe chicken is in the oven, the floors are drying and the washing machine is rumbling like my stomach after a double order of Rogan Josh from Ali Baba’s. All is right with the world.

We all have guilty pleasures. I know childless carpenters who watch Disney cartoons every weekend and PhD academics who, after three Gimlets, can name every Days of our Lives character. I know rugby players who dress as women for Halloween and then spend the entire evening alone on the couch watching movies in a dress and garter belt.

Domestic Sunday is my weekly guilty pleasure.

I am strangely comforted by cooking and cleaning at the same time. If I wear an apron while I do these things, it’s like playing kickball in Heaven with Mark Twain. Few things are more soothing than an oven’s ding or the sight of a well-organized drying rack.

On Sundays I prance (yes, prance) around the house cleaning, cooking and organizing like a chubby, bearded Martha Stewart.

This situation has been a long time in the making. I moved out of my parents’ house when I was seventeen, so it was either sink or swim in the pond of domestic aptitude. And as any roommate I’ve ever had can tell you, I sank to the bottom of the pond of domestic aptitude and spent many years there covered in toilet grime and flaky macaroni and cheese. It was only when I started living alone that I found the joy in cleaning and cooking.

Now, I find a Zen-like meditation in the routine movements. When I spend the whole day doing domestic duties it distracts my mind from otherwise stressful subjects in my life.

Domestic work is my Buddhist kōan.

The meditation of Domestic Sundays does have a limited half-life and this Sunday is no different. This is for two reasons. First, the evening is almost over and now Monday morning is hanging over my head. The stressful issues in my life are a few, measly hours away. Second, at 8 p.m. every Sunday I have to iron my shirts.

If you read between the lines, history dictates that ironing was invented in a Nazi laboratory to torture British perfectionists. It’s an impossible activity, like trying to hold a handful of water or enjoy Andy Warhol paintings.

The moment I kick the iron’s legs open I transform from the Zen master of the apron into an Orangutan wielding a hot piece of metal.

I toss a pile of shirts on my bed and glare at the cat, who can’t resist the lure of a clean shirt. I start in on the first shirt, which soon looks like discarded wrapping paper. I flip the shirt to reveal more wrinkles on the back. My frustration grows; the cat goes to hide my glasses under the bed.

I do have tricks, but they don’t work. I drink a spiced rum drink to quell the shame. I put on a light-hearted sitcom (another guilty pleasure) to deflect my attention from my poor job.

In the end, the shirts look just as bad as when I pulled them out of the washer and I prepare yet another ‘I can’t iron’ speech (with adjoining anecdote) for my students.

In bed, as I drift off and visualize the next morning’s lesson, I am treated to one final kōan of the day: The ironing board has been sent to rein in my complete confidence, thereby keeping me from arrogance. This justification allows me to sleep and I doze off to memories of perfectly baked chicken and a drying rack full of clean shirts.

The cat sleeps on the poorly ironed shirt I have laid out for Monday.

  1. #1 by Allison on April 3, 2012 - 6:40 am

    This makes me crack up… I can give you instructions on how to iron a shirt of you want…

  2. #2 by Allison on April 3, 2012 - 6:42 am

    of = if

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