Hello, fiancee; goodbye, clutter
© St. Petersburg Times, published November 13, 2000
There's nothing like having women return to your life after a period of bachelorhood to remind you of the meaning of the word "change."
There have been women in my life at other times since I was widowed 31/2 years ago, but until now my living quarters always remained inviolable.
Okay, maybe inviolable is the wrong word.
For the past three years, only women completely oblivious to clutter and those who enjoy the aroma of infrequently emptied litter boxes were even remotely tempted to spend more than a few (usually tearful and fearful) seconds in my house.
Over the years, I gradually ceded more and more space to the cats and the clutter until I was, essentially, living in the master bedroom and bath and the portion of the kitchen immediately adjacent to the refrigerator and the microwave.
The rest of the house sort of became a repository for things such as dirty clothes (I discovered that large bags of dirty laundry are more compact than clean clothes, folded or on hangers) out-of-date newspapers and piles of junk mail from which I would occasionally, after a less-than-gentle reminder from a creditor, unearth and pay an overdue bill -- after a two- or three-day search for my checkbook.
The guest room had been turned over to two problem cats, one senile and one psychotic, who expressed, respectively, their lack of concern or total rage scatologically -- and everywhere. I ventured in only to feed and water them.
The guest bathroom went from bad, with tiles popping off the walls at odd intervals, to worse after I hired a woman friend whose talents ran more toward the literary than the manual to re-tile it.
Suffice it to say, I discovered that inviting amorously inclined women back to my house, if they had been there before, was a good way to get invited to their houses, which were always cleaner and usually had food in them.
After I got engaged, my fiancee, Betty, looked around carefully for a spot on the floor not occupied by broken glass, cat droppings or things that crawled and scurried, and put her foot down.
Betty, by the way, is how I will be referring to the new woman in my life. This column used to feature a character named Wife, which started off as a composite and then became closely identified with my late wife, Lee, and which was laid to rest with her.
Suggestions for a gag name for Betty (including Cinco, because she will be my fifth wife) have been plentiful, but I'm tired of wrestling feminists (and losing) every time I use a gag name and have decided on just Betty.
We are still negotiating on the last name. I told her -- rather expansively, I thought -- that I didn't care if she took my name or kept hers or chose to hyphenate.
After an uncomfortable silence, she reminded me that there was another alternative -- taking her last name, which is Kennedy.
Yeah, me a Kennedy. Parts of me may resemble Teddy, but liver isn't everything.
Anyhow, Betty said that she refused to spend any significant amount of time in a space that was an eyesore, incredibly jumbled and probably a health hazard, and set about cleaning the dump up.
The two unwell cats went off to cat heaven (humanely and not inexpensively), and I hired a for-real tile guy to do the guest bathroom.
Somewhere around a ton (I'm only slightly exaggerating) of clutter was hauled away, and enough clothes were washed to make the folks at my laundry independently wealthy.
It's amazing how many clothes you wind up with when you buy new ones instead of washing the old ones. I own a lot of Hawaiian shirts.
Things are now properly stacked and organized, and the place has been brightened by a beautiful watercolor painting done by my daughter-in-waiting, whose female presence has also made itself known in the house.
True, some of the decorating changes have been things I wouldn't have done, but I am willing to concede that not everything has to be brown or dark green and that a pile of books doesn't really make a good end table.
The bathrooms smell better, and jars and bottles containing stuff I can only guess at (if I were so inclined, and I'm not) are sprouting on the windowsills and in the medicine cabinets.
I have learned to carefully guard my razor against leg use. I have also learned that assuming anything blue is mouthwash is unwise in a world in which there are blue shampoos and nail polish removers.
For the most part, the change has been relatively painless and a vast improvement over what had been for the past three years -- and only one unanswerable question remains:
Why can't they learn the importance of leaving the seat up?
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