Dishwashing Dogma | Teen Ink

Dishwashing Dogma

October 24, 2014
By Birdsong PLATINUM, Vancouver, Other
Birdsong PLATINUM, Vancouver, Other
38 articles 1 photo 7 comments

It probably happened like this: As a child, when you were unsuspectingly loitering around the kitchen one evening, your mother beckoned you over to the sink and tucked a sodden sponge into your reluctant hand. There was no turning back. From that day on, you were the Designated Dishwasher.

Your mother promised that this chore would teach you ‘life skills’. You rolled your eyes, your default response to all your mother’s character-building strategies. As you grew up, you probably realized that you were wrong about the pointlessness of dishwashing, the same way you were wrong about the stylishness of ripped jeans, thick eyeliner, and that boy band that no one remembers the name of anymore.

If you still think the only thing you learned from dishwashing was scrubbing techniques, you’re doing something wrong. In that case, pay attention- I’ll tell you how it’s really meant to be done. 

Your first time washing dishes will be a bit of a catastrophe, with water snaking down your sleeves, bits of Unidentified Food Objects burying themselves in your nails, and pots crashing out of your haphazard to-do tower. Stay calm. Learning to wash dishes is like learning to ride a bike: shaky at first, but you’ll be cruising in no time.

Let’s start from the very beginning. Fill the plugged sink with warm water and a couple squirts of soap. Feel free to let your hands linger in the stream of water. On cold evenings, sense the tingles of warmth diffusing from your fingertips, through your core, down to the soles of your feet. This is irrevocably the best part. Don't ever lose the delight of watching a pillow of bubbles appear, borne proudly aloft by the rising water underneath. Savour that delicious crinkling sound as you scoop up a foamy handful and fling it into the air. As the gemstone-sized bubbles lazily drift down, marvel at their gossamer grace, their trembling fragility. Take note- and this is important- that such a beautiful phenomenon is created only with water, soap, air, and gravity.

That said, do not spend too long dallying with the bubbles. Every good dish-washer knows when it's time to start working. Get used to the discipline of washing every evening, right after dinner- no excuses. No matter what your profession, IQ, or social skills may be, you are not above this task. And don't even think about leaving the more challenging cases in the sink. You know what I’m talking about- that pot encrusted in charred rice or those pans glistening with a thick layer of oil. No one else will clean them for you, and I promise you, they will look infinitely more revolting in a few days. Instead, get a sponge that has two sides. Most of your difficulties can be solved by flipping over to the rougher side and re-angling the challenge a bit.

Now scrub. Scrub like you mean it. There is no technique here, just willpower. Scrub like it’s your only calorie-burning exercise of the day (I sincerely hope it’s not, but that’s a whole other essay). However, remember that you don't have to do this alone. Water and the garburator are your friends; accept help when you need it. Similarly, it’s important to understand when it’s best to leave a pot to soak overnight. There is no glory in scrubbing your sponge to shreds, and some things are easier when you come back to them in the morning.

Finally- and most importantly- take satisfaction. Be proud of prying the last eggplant tendrils off the grill, rasping every blotch of burned cookie dough from the baking sheet. It will make you hugely more appreciative when eating out, or when someone offers to help.

In stressful times, this ritual will be your haven of calm. In tedious times, this activity will be your interlude of activity. In confusing times, this habit will be your oasis of simplicity. You'll see. Yes, there may be more conventionally productive undertakings to fill your evenings with. But if you can get tranquility and fulfillment and joy and out of a silly menial task like doing dishes, then boy, oh boy, is there contentment for you beyond this sink. So dry your hands and get out there.



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