Chores: Are they real?

Here is an extremely cute fact about my fiancee: she calls cleaning and all of the other stuff you do around the house chores. It gets me every time she says itits like I dont even see her anymore, I just see a little kid sweeping steadily with a broom on the front porch of some old, southern house as the sun is creeping down behind the trees. Or I see a little kid in a rain jacket that just picked a pail of dewy berries for dinner and is running up the hill to her house to dutifully turn them over to the family, and to ask if there are any other chores she can help with.

The word chores makes me think of childhood. I had them when I was little. My brother and I made a list at some point of all of the things we needed to do and who was supposed to do them. There was also a mental list of who last rode shotgun in the car (because obviously that is super exciting and we needed to alternate to make life more fair).

At camp where I spent every summer between ages 9 and 16, we always had a chore chart on the back of our cabin door that helped keep track of who did what so that we all got a new chore every day. The favorite chore was emptying the trash (all you had to do was take a small trash can to a larger trash can and dump it). The least favorite was dewdrop which is what we called the giant, shared bathroom. Sometimes you had to do sinks, or toilets, or floor in there I dont remember exactly how it worked I just know it was really gross. One of the funniest chores was rafters, which involved making sure the towels drying on the rafters were aligned neatly and, in fact, needed to be drying. If you had a towel up there that did not need to be drying (aka it was already dry), you would automatically get an X. Xs were bad. The more you got, the less chance you had of winning honor cabin. Winning honor cabin was always a really big deal and super exciting, but I cannot for the life of me remember why. All I remember was that you got a plaque to hang on the door of your cabin for one week. Am I crazy or does it seem like getting an X is not that big of a deal if the only thing it prevents you from doing is borrowing a plaque? But at the time, you could not have convinced me to stop caring about the devastating fear of getting an X. Chores were important, and we all wanted to be good at them.

My question now as an adult is, do chores exist? If no one tells me to do something, is it still a real chore? For example, I know that a space in which humans live has to be cleaned from time to time, but if there is no chart and no assignment and no Xs to be given, I cant get myself to think of it is a chore. In my mind,  chore means something you have to do by a deadline because someone is making you; whereas now, at age 28, cleaning my living space is supposedly something I should want to do, for fear of turning into a dusty cave monster.

Well, when it comes to cleaning stuff, I neither have to do it nor want to do it. My poor fiancee runs around the house cleaning and telling me she is almost done with the chores and I cant understand why she is doing it. Its not that I want to live like a slob; here is what I want: I want the house to be cleaned on the sly. I want to exert my freedom as an adult human by just sort of cleaning sneakily when I feel like it and in the middle of doing something else. Maybe I am looking out the window and I happen to start spraying it with Windex, for example. If I do that, I own the window, and the window doesnt own me.

This difference in opinion about cleaning styles has sometimes caused tension in our shared living space. While my fiancee wants to have an entire chore Saturday, I want to pretend our apartment is cleaned by tiny elves while we are away or while we are reading a magazine. I promise you that I do help clean the houseyou just wont know when or how or in what way I am doing it. It will always be a mystery. Except when I forget and there are piles of clothes everywhere; in that case, there will be no mystery. You will know that I forgot to trick myself into secretly cleaning. I will get an X from no one. I will know that my room does not get honor cabin this week