Until I gave them away, two of my dining room chairs had odd markings on them. No one ever asked about them, particularly the one that looked like the wood stain had been bikini waxed right off. Guests just sat in them, politely, and hoped not to stick to the seats.
What stained the chairs? I have no idea. It doesn't matter really, because my chairs suffered less from a specific chemical than from a force: The Girl Sty.
Women don't like to admit this, but we all at some point in our lives were messier – filthier, really – than any of the men we know. We piled wet towels on the floor of closets, we shoved candy wrappers under beds, we have left apple cores in our cars for so long they developed ecosystems.
Men can be plenty gross, but their bathroom counters never seem to develop that layer of film – what the hell is that stuff, anyway? – that coats our tiles. Try as they might with their quaint piles of smelly sweat socks and tightie-whities, they will never match the power, the wonder, the stench of The Girl Sty.
My car is just a rolling Girl Sty with a great sound system. CDs, empty water bottles and scraps of paper are crammed into every corner of my car that isn't taken up with baby blankets, baby socks, baby toys and, of course, my baby. I change Zev's diaper right on my passenger seat hoping 1. His tush isn't going to transfer any germs to my next passenger and 2. Desitin is good for leather.
Still, nobody beats the Queen of The Girl Sty: My sister. Growing up, Sis would curl up in bed with spent razors and bottles of hair spray. It was The Girl Sty that she created while living with us one summer that left my old chairs stained forever.
After visiting Sis' new place in Northern California, all my mom could talk about was how clean Sis' apartment was.
"Everything is so neat and so clean," Mom gushed. "You wouldn't believe it."
I didn't. I suspected Sis' newfound cleanliness was a ruse, and without much pressing, she very cheerfully admitted as much.
"Right now there are big things of trash," she said. "I'll take it out later. It's just me, I'm not being harmed by the trash. Why do people rush to the trash? I have a lot of room, I can share it with the trash."
Apparently, though, she's not as bad as she used to be. When Sis lived with Hubby and I, we kept the door to her room closed and prayed that an earthquake would break it off from the rest of the house. I guess she learned from that because these days, the bulk of her Girl Sty is confined to her second bedroom – the door to which she also leaves closed.
The rest of her place, she promised, is actually pretty clean.
"Right now, the reason it's clean is my friend's roommate is a boy and he keeps their apartment so clean, so when they come over I'm embarrassed."
I'm convinced that this peer pressure is the reason many women clean at all. We don't want men to know we're filthy. We want them to think we wash our hair every day and that we'd never leave the house without showering. We want them to think we have never licked a spoon clean and put it back in the drawer. Because if they don't – if they catch on to the fact that we're hardly the "fairer sex," how can we ever browbeat them into doing our dishes?
Sis agreed. Our conversation turned nostalgic, and I reminded Sis of the time she heard a crunch as she settled into a chair in her old apartment and found she'd killed a mouse.
"Ha. Oh yeah," she said. "Well, so far, I haven't seen any bugs, so I'm OK."
I can't wait to drive my Girl Sty up north for a visit.