So, in 2007 the spinster and the bachelor moved in together. I was 40, he was 44. I had spent 12 years living alone, he had spent even longer. Because I knew I'd need plenty of space (and patience) as I adapted to life in a couple, we deliberately melded our lives in a spacious two-bedroom apartment with a sunroom.
We divided the chores, which we've gradually adjusted and settled into over time. Bob logs our expenses and pays bills, cleans ours acres of hardwood floors and takes out the garbage. I do the grocery shopping, clean the bathroom and the kitchen and do most of the dishes, although Bob does a surprising amount of dishes. The task we've struggled with has been laundry.
When I do the laundry, Bob comments on the "weird" way I fold clothes, tie or ball socks together and tend to bring all the laundry up unsorted and let it lie around the living room until I feel like putting it away. This can take days. I also have a terrible time getting Bob's shirts right. The process he has established is to throw his shirts in the dryer for exactly 10 minutes, then take them out and let them dry on hangers while the rest of the laundry finishes the cycle. When I forget to take them out after 10 minutes, they dry in a big wrinkled bundle.
We used to both do laundry, depending on who had time to do it, but eventually Bob took over. This made sense, until the problems started for me. As much as I have tried to teach Bob the distinctions of what goes in the dryer and what must not go in the dryer, he does not grasp them. Several times I have wailed over a shrunken blouse that did just fine in the washer, but couldn't take the heat. In response, he started hanging all my shirts to dry. I tried to tell him that workout t-shirts can be dried in the dryer, but I guess to him this information contradicted my earlier wailing. He understands laundry categories such as "shirt" "underwear" and "pants." He does not understand laundry categories such as "can sustain the heat of the dryer without structural changes" and "cannot sustain the heat of the dryer without structural changes." When I noticed my ongoing anxiety about what might happen to any clothes I put in my hamper, I decided we had to make another change.
Two and a half years after we began inhabiting the same living space, Bob and I have come to a new division of labor: I do my laundry and Bob does his. Now I am calm in the knowledge that I will rescue my delicate tops from the heat of the dryer. I decide how long my jeans will tumble. I no longer fear for each item I put in my hamper (yes, separate hampers) and I do a lot less wincing as I put my clothes away.
And Bob now has less laundry to do. We are both very happy with this new system. Maybe some parts of our lives just aren't supposed to be "as one."