Tidy is a relative term

WHAT’S the point?

MY wife arrived back yesterday after a month in the UK.

So I made the bed.

She had warned me the place better be tidy when she got home. I looked around and it was tidy.

Why, then, was I nervous?

Because tidy is a relative term.

My desk is tidy inasmuch as I know where everything is.

It’s… on my desk.

To my wife, tidy is a surgical expression. She expects tidy to incorporate the glint of polished steel, the glow of burnished timber, the detritus from the washing up cleaned off the draining board.

How could I have known that?

Did she mean clean? If she meant clean she should have said clean. I mean, I made the bed. It was tidy, for god’s sake! If she’d said clean I would have changed the sheets. Even though they had only been on a month.

And who can say a bunch of flowers in a vase is untidy?

Dead, perhaps – but untidy?

She said the water was smelling, but there wasn’t any water. It evaporated three weeks ago. And anyway, can a smell be untidy?

It’s a constant battle in our house. She says I’m a slob. I say she’s manic.

She says I should be ashamed to live in such a mess. I say, “What mess?”

Newspapers are… cosy, if you ask me. They give a home an atmosphere of relaxed and well-informed wellbeing. Hamsters make nests out of them.

And I am not deliberately trying to trip her up with my shoes on the bottom tread of the stairs. They are just waiting there for my next trip upstairs and I will take them with me. Along with my briefcase and the dictionary I brought down from the study, which are on the second and third treads respectively.

All very tidily placed!

She says it’s not fair because I always leave everything for her to do.

Have you noticed how they do that? Not “it’s not fair because, now and then, you leave one or two things in a state that, according to my oversensitive brain, is untidy,” but “You always leave everything…”

Macquaries Dictionary gives the definition of tidy as “orderly”.

I tried to explain to my wife that this was a much better definition than hers, which is loosely, “the particular way I want it, at the time that I want it.”

My desk is orderly. Everything on it is lying in the order in which I left it there, and if I want any of it I can find it by going back through the last six month’s activities in the reverse order.

I was very hurt. I went to all the trouble of tidying up so the place would look nice for her and she walked through the door and groaned.

But dust is not, by definition, untidy. I think there’s a very good chance it’s not even dirty, necessarily. And “thick” is another matter entirely.

Besides, I couldn’t find the dustpan and brush.

“Why did you need a dustpan and brush! What’s wrong with the vacuum cleaner?”

“Er… we have a vacuum cleaner?”