Thursday, September 10, 2009

Housewife's Hand

Barely one month into my retirement I developed “housewife’s hand.” That’s the commoner’s term for eczema. It’s commonly caused by excessive exposure to dishwashing and the use of detergents or strong abrasives.

Now, before you go rushing to judgment that it’s a response to my finally contributing real work around the house, let me say I have ALWAYS done the dishes. My wife, Gilda, and I have a very workable arrangement. For the last 36 years she dirties the pots and pans by cooking, we both dirty the dishes eating up her mostly gourmet meals, and I clean up afterwards.

I am actually quite defensive about my cleaning abilities. I resist offers from my sister-in-law when she volunteers to wash some of the pots and pans. Many times, after we’ve entertained parties of 16 to 30 guests, and Gilda is deservedly already resting in bed, I stand at the sink for upwards of an hour cleaning the remains of the evening’s repast.

Over the years, my skin has cracked from doing the cleanup. I often use gloves, especially during the winter. But I rarely suffered during the summer, so naturally I was caught off guard when the skin on my right thumb started cracking and flaking. I bathed it in lotions, even added some prescription ointments, but the condition refused to disappear over the last six weeks. I finally gave in today and headed off to the family dermatologist who quickly diagnosed it as housewife’s hand and prescribed a stronger ointment.

I must say I am rather miffed at this turn of events, considering that a few months ago I had actually cut down on much of my dishwashing after reading that it is more “green” to run full loads of a dishwasher than cleaning dishes in the sink.

At one time, early in our marriage, a dishwasher saved our union. Gilda always wanted me to clean up right after dinner. I always wanted to wait a while. She usually got her way, but not without repeated and to no-avail arguments from me. It was only after we moved to our second apartment that the fighting stopped. That apartment had a dishwasher.