Julie Burchill: Men, leave the cleaning to me

 

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I suppose that as a card-carrying, man-mauling, moustache-twirling feminist, I should have dropped my blowtorch in sheer molten glee at the news this week that, over the past 30 years, men have upped their housework contribution some 60 per cent, according to a new survey from Oxford University. Instead, I thought, "Poor emasculated swine – now that's two genders rather than one who've been domesticated. Whoop de doo!"

All I can hope is that men will: a) do their domestic dirty business when alone; and b) not talk about it afterwards. If they fail to observe these niceties, chances are that even more women than usual are going to be suffering mysterious headaches which only come on when the sun goes down. Someone fussing about housework is highly sexually unappetising – almost as unappetising as someone who lives in domestic squalor.

The secret of successful housework is to do it quickly, do it alone and don't brag about it afterwards – a bit like masturbation. I daresay there is the odd weirdo who likes the idea of watching someone skivvying for them, but they're probably the sort of frigid half-wit who gets all worked up watching Downton Abbey. Me, I don't like seeing women clean, I don't like seeing men clean and I especially don't like seeing cleaners clean. When I had a big house, I got round the last one by making my cleaner drink blue cocktails by my swimming pool and paying her for that instead; I eventually promoted her to the role of best friend and moved to a loft, thus putting myself out of the Lady Muck/domestic help scenario altogether.

It's a fact of life that a certain type of married woman, having gone off sex with her husband, will moan that she's "too tired" to do the deed because of all the back-breaking domestic labour she is all but crushed by the burden of. (Clue that it's not her, it's you: she won't be too tired to go out on the razz with her mates on a Friday night or to drag you to the garden centre on Saturday morning.) The poor sap promptly straps on a pinny and gets scrubbing and next thing you know, she comes up with the new excuse that she can't fancy him anymore now he's a lady-man. Just cut it off, why don't you!

My Swedish friend Cristina told me decades ago about a good part of a generation of men in her home country whose name translated to English as The Velour Daddies, "because they stay at home all day looking after the baby, on paternity leave, and they wear velour tracksuits so when the baby is sick on it, they can just bung it in the washing machine. And the wife gets so bored with this, she is off having sex with Finnish men, who are not tamed." You don't have to be a raving neanderthal to think that the idea of having a "house-husband" would be only marginally preferable to having a house-infestation; smart, tough people want smart, tough people, not some parasite poncing about at home with nothing to talk about at the end of the day.

I would no more respect a woman who made a man into a domestic dogsbody than the other way around, and as for cooking, I'd rather eat my own cellulite than let my husband cook for me. Or as I said to him, "If you need to do it, just don't tell me about it afterwards, and don't do it with anyone I know. And don't write a book about it..."

It ain't heavy, it's my record collection

I suspect that we will find prompts to be sad about Amy Winehouse for ages yet. The latest heart-puller was the news that most of her records have gone back into the charts; HMV actually sold out of copies of most of them soon after the news of her death, as though people were panic-buying staples in a time of unrest. Gennaro Castaldo of the HMV music chain put this rush, apparently paradoxical in a time of downloads and clouds, down to the fact that the CDs are "a tangible connection to the artist – they want their own little piece of Amy to hold on to".

When I was 14, I made a brief escape from my provincial home in order to live in London, where I became a scent salesgirl (and that's not a metaphor for something nasty). I have nothing but fond memories of the experience, but funniest was the police's amazement that I had seen fit to lug 50 long-playing records from Bristol with me – I was a slip of a thing at the time, and even the burly cop who took me back home winced when he picked the bag up.

The idea of leaving home and family for the unknown perils of London filled me with no fear – but the idea of leaving my records was more than I could bear. Today's kids may not grow up knowing the beauty of the full-size record cover – but iPods certainly make doing a midnight flit a damn sight easier.

Don't dare shed a tear for grumpy old Keef

Of course, when it comes to Amy Winehouse, maybe I shouldn't really be sad as, "I never knew the chick". But I DO hope that every Keith Richards fan who smugly approved his ignorant pronouncement on the Princess of Wales that I referred to last week will STICK TO IT when the old buzzard dies, and not go in for any weeping or wailing. After all, they never knew the dipstick!

Feeling compassion for strangers is the way every great charitable and reform movement has started and how it has survived. I wish people would stop hailing Richards' Colonel Blimpish-pronouncement as some sort of clear-eyed tonic talk when it's really just a variation on the small-minded, charity-begins-at-home, I'm-alright-Jack-ness which has been the prerogative of the grumpy old git since the year dot.





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