Goddess knows I try to fold neatly. I figured it was a butch thing or some unnamed disability: dysfoldia? Wrinkleism? Or that generic fallback, SLDS: scruffy little dyke syndrome.

No matter how hard I have tried over the years, from washcloths to a canvas tent, there was always a corner poking out, borders not exactly mated, the deepest layer bunched and irretrievable. When I try to line up a towel’s edges, or smooth a blanket’s lump, I find myself with an armload of rumpled disaster.

All my life I have thought that certain women – femmes, whether gay or straight, female or male – have an innate knack for this sort of impossible task, or were taught secret formulas for everyday dilemmas I found insurmountable. I was blown away to learn this was not the case.

In a life-changing moment, I noticed that when my sweetheart folded a blanket she simply faced the rough edges to the wall where no one would see them. I was seriously shocked.

I asked her, “You mean there is no secret to folding perfectly? You just hide the uneven side?”

She was kind enough not to answer, “Well, duh.”

I continue to be completely shocked. Why, even as a kid, I thought my mother used magic to hang clothes in a way that each item did not come out looking like it had lost a fight with its neighbors. Only now, with my sweetheart in charge, do my clothes again come off hangers all spruced up.

Other such epiphanies have come back to me. I never knew how the women I lived with got sinks so shiny. I would scrub and scrub to achieve the same effect, but always fell short. Then, one day, I caught a partner at it: after cleaning the sink she wiped it down with a dry dish towel! Halleluiah! What a stunningly simple solution. Duh.

I am forever buying ancient copies of books like Hints From Heloise, but they don’t address these humdrum issues. I don’t have the housekeeping gene and have to learn everything the hard way if I can learn it at all. When I went to work as a Housekeeper for a lesbian-owned motel, I was trained in shelving clean linens. There was a huge amount of laundry, which I could handle, but motel-grade sheet folding, especially the fitted bottom sheets, was like doctoral level physics for me.

A lesbian femme friend who keeps an immaculate, tasteful, almost neat-freak house, opened the world of dusting for me. I must have been groaning and complaining about the need to dust the items I had displayed atop the cabinets in my kitchen, including open Fiestaware pitchers.

“You know what I would do?” she asked in that off-handed way I knew would be fraught with expertise. “I’d leave them the way they are until you have to take them down to use them.”

“You would?” I replied, astonished. When she nodded, that was enough for me. A year later, my poor sweetheart had to clean those pitchers when she helped me pack up and move cross country.

And making beds? I can get a sheet tucked into a bed like a Girl Scout camp counselor, which I was. Making a bed look all spiffy? Not so good. Even if there are no cats on the bed when I finish the chore, there is always at least one scrunched up section. I am so grateful for pillows: they hide the top edges of the covers so no one can see how uneven I’ve left them. Except, of course, for my sweetheart, who has no idea of her appeal when she, in that sexy femme way of hers, smoothes the sheets, the blanket, the bedspread, with the back of her hand and her graceful long fingers so there isn’t a dent or a pucker or a line out of place. Part of me wishes I could make the bed look that good for her, but another part of me rejoices at our different styles.

As my friend the story writer said to me just today, “I'm a damn good plumber, painter, cook. Can even hang wall paper, but I'm so computer 'stupid' I'm truly ashamed.” Like her, there are things I do well, but when it comes to housekeeping, I guess I have to accept that I’m still a scruffy little dyke who will always need my savvy femme.

Copyright 2009 Lee Lynch