What do get when you mix a streetwise first-born man and a sheltered baby-of-the family woman?
“You can’t polish a turd,” said my husband.
My husband and I got married in 1984. We lived in a large two story house that must have been 80 years old. I like a neat and tidy house but if the opportunity to spend my energy with friends or family is presented to me, I’d rather do that than clean house. My theory: The house will always be there but growing relationships is way too important to pass up.
My husband, Dale, can be a clean freak, meaning, he cleans things I wouldn’t think of cleaning – the fiberglass trim on the outside of the garage, for example. Yet, I have to search the house, and the attached garage, for his socks when laundry day rolls around.
One evening, shortly after we married, my husband complains that the house is a mess, which it may have been but it was still clean. There is a difference between messy and dirty. Apparently, in Dale’s mind, there’s more to cleaning than vacuuming and dusting. So the next day I decide to “surprise” Dale and polish the sort-of-stained looking wood trim that bordered the floor, middle of the wall and the top of the walls in our very large dining room. (The trim isn’t really stained, but it’s painted to look like it’s stained. This technique was used in the 60s and 70s.) It looked the same after I polished it as it did before but I thought for sure Dale would notice a difference, he has eagle eyes. He notices everything, (except my new haircolor, or my new dress, etc..)
Husband comes home, I wait a while to see if he notices my awesome cleaning job. After an hour he still hasn’t noticed it so I say to him with an impish smile, “Honey, do you notice anything different in the dining room?” He walks into the dining room, looks around then looks at me with that “What-am-I-looking-for” look. I explain to him how I spent hours polishing the trim in the dining room and how I plan to polish the same type of trim in the living room. “Doesn’t it look nice?” I exclaim proudly.
He looks at me and says, to my confusion and utter dismay, “Mary, you can’t polish a turd.”
I had never heard that phrase before and was totally confused. My confusion must have been evident because Dale then explained what he meant. It boils down to this: some things aren’t worth putting so much time and effort in, especially when the effort makes no difference. Basically, my effort was a waste of time. But it did make me think a bit differently about cleaning.
Not necessarily life changing advice, but useful nonetheless.