I really believe in the power of laundry to build community and bring people together. That’s why it’s so frustrating that our next door neighbor, Noah, seems to react to our slow laundering in such a hostile and defensive way.
Here’s the deal – Cate and I like to make our own soap. If you’re reading this blog you probably know that store-bought soap is a horribly chemical and artificial substance. I just looked at a soap label in the medicine cabinet at a house party a couple weeks ago, and it was terrifying. I say, if you don’t know what the thing on the ingredient label is, you shouldn’t be putting it on your body. What is “sodium chloride”? What is “water/eau”? I’ll stick with just water, thanks. So we make our own soap.
And this simple act of defiance against the giant multinational consumer products companies drives Noah crazy.
To give just one example, part of the soapmaking process is using wood ashes to make lye. Cate and I are pretty DIY, so instead of, I dunno, going to Wal-Mart and buying a few bags of ashes, we make our own by burning wood in our backyard. When we can, we use old pallets we find behind Safeway. But we also sometimes drive to the Ikea up in College Park and buy a couple bookcases to burn. It sounds expensive, but honestly, it’s worth it to have the feeling of satisfaction and wholeness you get when you use soap you made yourself.
So anyhow: last week, I was burning an old armoire that I’d found on the curb. I’m in the backyard, tending the fire to make sure I don’t set the fence on fire again, and Noah comes stomping out his back door, yelling and screaming. He said it was his armoire, that he’d just inherited it and the moving guys had just dropped it off, it had a couple albums of old family photos in it, why did I steal it and burn it, etc etc.
I said: first, Noah, back off.
Second, property inheritance is part of why there’s so much inequality in our society, so I don’t totally agree that it was “yours.”
Third, this batch of ashes is probably going to be ruined because of the chemicals in those photos, so I just wasted a whole Tuesday morning, thanks to you.
Fourth, because I’m big enough to overlook that fact, I’m happy to share some of the ashes with you, because they’ll still probably be good for gritting the sidewalk after it snows or something.
I still feel angry about it, but also sad. Because people like him are so wrapped up in acquiring things (like that armoire) that they don’t see that what really matters is relationships (like what I think of him). If only he cared a little more about what I thought of him and a little less about things, then he probably would have not been so selfish about the whole thing. Oh well.