Women and the washing up

I HAVE said in the past that there are two things a woman can’t do.

Naturally, I have been accused of sexual stereotyping, insensitivity, boorishness, stupidity, being overweight and hating women.

This is by my wife, but others have since joined in.

And, because I know you’re busting to know – the two things women can’t do are: squeezethe toothpaste tube at the right end, and cuta straight slice of bread.

In 2007 I am not only wrong, but also obsolete, because with modern toothpaste tubes it doesn’t matter which end you squeeze, and bread — sadly — is pre-sliced as well as tasteless.

Not that is matters. I am prepared to admit I have made a mistake. I am sorry. I got it wrong. I am prepared to retract it.

There are not two things women can’t do.

There are three.

The third one is stack the washing up on the draining board. Maybe this is obsolete, too, in the age of dishwashers, but in my house I am the dishwasher.

This is because, when it comes to stacking, my wife has the architectural skills of a wrecking ball.

Across the room, as I write, I can see a tower of cups, plates, saucepans, cookie trays, wooden spoon, knives, forks, jugs, recycled plastic ice cream containers (any respectable washer upper hates plastic containers!) and jam jars.

It is taller than I am. Even when I stand up. I suppose this is a skill in itself, creating a tower like this. But it’s not enough. It must also be created to withstand the forces applied when someone tries very, very gently to thread a teaspoon out of one side.

This is impossible, of course. In fact it is a rule of female washing-up stacking that the entire structure is stable only until someone coughs, or your neighbours flush their toilet. Then it cascades to the floor in a torrent of noise reminiscent of the twin towers coming down.

And they never learn! They do it every time, and every time the end result is the same.

I know my wife takes a certain perverse pleasure in building these stacks. She looks upon it as unique skill she possesses.

But you can’t call that a skill. It was an engineer who built the Titanic! It all looked very fine, and then it sank. The skill is in building something that works, preferably for more than five minutes.

And anyway… why? Why not stop halfway and dry a few things? That’s what I do. A single-story layer of crockery and stainless steel can’t topple anywhere. And it saves time, too, no matter what my wife says, because it’s much quicker to dry some washing up than it is to pick shards of wine glass and fragments of china jug out of the cracks in the kitchen tiles, and from between shoulder blades of the cat.

Look… I am not an unreasonable man. I know there must be, somewhere, among the women on this world, one who can build a sensible pile of washing up that stops before it kills someone. I would like to meet her.

It’s possible, even, that I’d like to marry her! I have a sneaky feeling my wife will be happy to make room.

But before you apply – what are you like with toothpaste and a slice of bread?