Of Guilt and Cleaning Ladies

A Horrible Utterance Heard Recently on the Upper East Side:

“I absolutely must have the floor cleaner by tomorrow. That’s when my cleaning lady comes. Yes, I’ll pay the ten-dollar delivery charge.”

A Horrible-Utterance Analysis, in Ascending Order of Horror:

  1. The utterance occurred at the tony and over-priced Gracious Homes, or, in common parlance, Gracious Rip-Offs, where, if the speaker was not carrying a Birkin bag at that moment, she was probably the only one in the store.
  2. Said floor cleaner might have been purchased in a more timely fashion, and for thirty-percent less, at Costco.
  3. Said floor cleaner was not purchased in a budgetarily defensible manner at Costco because the previous Saturday the person in need of the floor cleaner had taken too long riding her horse.
  4. The utterance was a public admission on the part of the utteree that she does not do her own housekeeping.
  5. The words didn’t drop from the mouth of some Hermes-belt-sporting, Birkin-bag-toting Lady Who Lunches. They fell from mine.

Who, I might ask, has fallen lower than she who pays for a Costco membership, does not use it because she is too busy enjoying the sport of kings, and above all, does not do her own housecleaning?

Is it a far step from this to dropping eight-grand on a handbag?

An observation: The number-one predictor of female guilt over employing a cleaning lady is whether or not that woman’s mother did her own housekeeping.

(Gender note: Single men rarely exhibit this hang up. They seem perfectly  happy to pay, or live like slobs. When a wife or girlfriend enters the picture, a man’s cleaning lady opinions will follow the rule above– usually as pertains to his wife’s or girlfriend’s responsibilities.)

A fact: My mother does her own housekeeping. Therefore, I enjoy the following personal psychosis: I can easily spend money on my nails, hair and clothes (my mother having taking pride in her personal appearance), but I meltdown buying delivery floor cleaner for my cleaning lady.

(My cleaning lady, of course, would think this was all nuts. Oblivious to my hang-ups, she is happy to have a job.)

A story from the Eavesdropping Department: I once overheard cocktail party chatter after the 2008 crash. One extremely wealthy lady told another that she would not put in her normal order of clothes at her favorite boutique that spring. The tab, I understood, was usually in the high five figures.  She said she could afford it. The crash had not affecteted her. But she said she was embarassed to spend money publicly in the height of a recession. That year, the boutique folded.

A story from the Irony Department: My mother recently bought me a high-quality Birkin knockoff  so I could have one, just like all the other ladies in my neighborhood.

I guess we’re all crazy about the topic of money in one way or another. What is it okay to spend money on? What is it not okay to spend money on? Where did those rules come from? What’s your story?


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