I once had a roommate who refused to do his dishes. Ever. He’s leave them to fester in the sink, and when he needed a plate or a fork or a frying pan he would simply pull whatever he needed out of the cold, greenish water, give it a cursory scrub, and then use it. He said it worked for him, and I’m sure it did.
It did not, however, work for me. It didn’t matter that we each had our own dishes. (This was his argument). It didn’t matter that, technically, he was only using half of the sink, and that, theoretically, half that sink belonged to him. (Another argument). It didn’t matter that he had grown up with a strict, over-bearing mother, and that leaving dishes in the sink was his way of reclaiming his own sense of self (the weakest argument by far). None of that mattered, because his leaving dishes in the sink for days upon weeks drove me crazy, and that was a place he probably should have encouraged me to stay far, far away from. Because every time I go crazy I remember how much I really like it there.
I remembered as I stood in the front yard flinging his dirty dishes out into the night. I remembered as I stripped the sheets off of his bed, poured in the fuzzy silverware and remade the bed as I had found it. And I remembered as I took every one of my clean dishes into my room and hid them like Bluebeard hiding his dead wives, chortling maniacally to myself as I stashed them under the bed and in my sock drawer.
My roommate started doing his dishes after that. And looking for a new place to live, which was fine with me; I got a new roommate, one who also drove me crazy, but in different, less psychotic ways. But still, I learned a very important lesson with that first roommate: no matter what, always be the craziest person in the room.
This is a lesson that has served me especially well when it comes to raising children. I don’t care what discipline method you swear by, nothing, and I mean nothing can trump crazy. You think hell hath no fury like a woman scorned? Try hell hath no fury like a mother who has to leave the house in the middle of the Downton Abbey finale. Jesus and the moneylenders in the temple didn’t have anything on Mom and the beer bong at the kegger. Yeah, never underestimate the power of crazy to clear out a room. And even if, by some chance, crazy doesn’t work, well then, it’s still just incredibly freeing to be able to let go of the pretense of not being crazy for five minutes. Because it’s not like I go into those situations and turn the crazy on; on the contrary, I go into them and turn the sane off.
Of course, it’s hard to keep being the craziest person in the room when one of the people who is constantly in the room with you is a teenage girl—in other words, a smarter, stronger, crazier version of yourself. But it can be done. After all: it still takes years of practice for the student to best their master. Plus, middle-aged women have one distinct advantage over teenage girls when it comes to the crazy: we don’t worry about “everyone looking at us.” In fact, we’re just starting to get to that age when it is becoming clearer and clearer that less people are looking at us every day, and are also quickly realizing that the day will one day come when no one will look at us at all.
Unless you can get some seriously good distance with those first few dishes, that is.