Don’t ask me to change a lightbulb, it’s the one chore I won’t do


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I can’t even bring myself to write it down because the mere thought of it makes me feel slightly anxious and also a bit dizzy.

I should do it. I know I should do it. Everyone else in my house, past and present, could do it. But not me. I can break it down into its separate parts and imagine myself doing this for the first time ever, but imagination is far from reality.

And I bet you’re thinking that’s the most pathetic excuse for not doing housework ever.

Housework is the site of contentious politics in a relationship and it can take about 10 years before you get it sorted. If ever. I swear if I was still fighting about that stuff a decade in, I’d take to the hills.

But in every relationship, there are some tasks which are undertaken by one person or the other, for eternity. It may be gendered, or it may be due to ability. It might even be interest.

My husband is a far better cook than I am and is more interested in technique. I have a loony obsession with laundry (which includes handwashing. Seriously, it’s an illness. But I bet my lacy bras and my thick winter tights last longer than yours).

And on Sundays, we do our household tasks at the same time. Companionship through adversity.

Of course, it’s not all housework I avoid. It’s just one tiny task. Not one that needs to get done every day, or even every week. But without the completion of this task, I’d just be another Jewish* grandmother**.

How many Jewish grandmothers does it take to change a light bulb?

None. No one needs to change this light bulb. I don’t mind sitting here in the dark. Alone.

Literally. I have never climbed on to a ladder and changed a light bulb.

OK, let me rephrase that. I have never – successfully – climbed onto a ladder. And I have never – successfully – climbed onto a ladder and then changed a light bulb.

I’m not a fan of ladders in the first place. They don’t seem safe to me. And we know superstitions exist for a reason, right? The whole thing about walking under a ladder bringing you bad luck? That’s just a cover up. Actually standing on a ladder seems much more like tempting fate. They are contraptions waiting to totter then collapse.

Please don’t try to explain the geometry to me – I’ve seen those things in real life and their feet are never flat on the ground; plus those high steps, at least a metre off the ground? No way. I’m a land mammal, feet flat on the floor, knees bent, ready to attack.

So, avoiding the changing of light bulbs is for a good reason. There you are playing with electricity, light fitting swinging while you try to diagnose whether it needs a screw-in or a bayonet, all the while trying to maintain balance. It’s ridiculous. I’d seriously rather use candles and torches than ever try to do that.

But when I asked my friends which household chores they avoided, they came up with a whole series of tasks with absolutely no risk attached to either their physical or their mental wellbeing.

For instance, one friend refused to dust (and she doesn’t have asthma). One would not clean the lint catcher in the washing machine. Woman after woman said she had never operated a lawn mower (as well as one man who revealed he had been a lifetime apartment-dweller).

Bloke after bloke made the “joke” that he had avoided all housework tasks. (Unsurprisingly, they were all single. Or should be.) There were single parents who did almost everything but asked friends to fill in the gaps, particularly in ceilings.

I heard from people of all genders who had never wielded vacuum cleaners, cleaned windows or gutters, but outsourced those tasks. Ironing has fallen off everyone’s to-do list, yet the shops are filled with crisp white shirts in the windows.

There are some filthy ovens in this nation and many are owned by friends I adore, including one who wrote, about cleaning it: “Just never thought of it”.

Yet not one of these tasks is actually life-threatening. Unlike changing a light bulb.

Fortunately, I share my life with a person who leaps on to ladders like a gazelle. A hands-on kind of person. Except in the laundry.

*Jews get to make jokes about Jews. And yes, I am one.

**To be fair, I am not a grandmother. Sadly. My children are doing this to me on purpose. Instead, I’m just sitting here in the dark on my own. Waiting for someone to change the light bulb.

Twitter: @jennaprice


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