The way to a man's heart is through a vacuum cleaner?

Women's Web site iVillage doles out ghoulish dating tips.


Rebecca Traister
July 25, 2006 7:40PM (UTC)

Thanks to a Broadsheet reader who passed along this gem from iVillage.com, the Web site for women. Yes, it's a little story called "Why Getting Organized Can Improve Your Love Life" by Regina Leeds, "Zen organizer for iVillage."

Leeds writes of her surprise at discovering from a male friend that men notice the cleanliness of an abode "from the first date" and that this friend "felt really hurt when [his] wife let the house go" after a few years of marriage. In retrospect, Leeds' friend told her, "it was one of the first signs [that the] marriage was over."

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This revelation sparked Leeds' curiosity, and she decided to quiz other men about how they felt about women's housekeeping. "It became apparent that men want to be nurtured," she writes. "One of the key ways the men felt a woman's love expresses itself is with the physical state of the home. Who could have guessed? Forget the lingerie! If the house is a pigsty, the lingerie won't help solidify the relationship." Oh, it gets better! One Los Angeles bachelor tells Leeds, "If the woman's home looks like a bomb went off, I will probably forget the possibility of a long-term relationship. But, if all I want is sex, I won't care at all."

Of course, because this is one of those articles that include sentences like "Of course we're not telling you to jump off a cliff" directly before lines like "but you sure will look pretty in mid-air," there are lots of protestations about how Leeds isn't trying to persuade any woman that she should make dust-busting a higher man-hunting priority than her "looks, personality and brains" (yes, in that order). No, no, no! Women should create "nurturing environments" to "soothe their own souls." But if "this state of affairs attracts a man -- we have earned a bonus." Really? That's funny. Because if I've attracted a man who would otherwise regard me as a one-night stand were it not for my way with a feather duster, then I think I've "earned" not a bonus but an express ticket to domestic freaking hell.

Remember, Leeds writes soothingly, "getting organized is a skill that many of us never learned ... [But] it is never too late to start making new priorities in your life! The important thing is to establish realistic goals and practice, practice, practice." She concludes: "It has been my observation that it is the woman who sets the tone for the household ... So whether the creation of a nurturing environment brings a man into your life ... or if your longtime partner suddenly sees you in a new light, getting organized is a wonderful tool in your romantic arsenal. In fact, the men I spoke with confirmed this was a much more powerful aphrodisiac than sexy lingerie!"

OK, first of all, the "important thing" is most certainly not to "practice, practice, practice" keeping your house! A good tip for both men and women: Be responsible; pick up after yourself; don't leave messes for other people to tidy up. But unless you are the kind of person who really cares about having a pristine home -- in which case, by all means, keep a pristine home -- do not "practice" housework as any part of your man-catching or man-keeping "arsenal." If you're practicing something, please make damn sure it's something that brings you joy or excitement or makes you think or feel or makes you money or strengthens your relationship in serious ways. And if the thing that's going to strengthen your relationship with a man is the perfection of your housekeeping skills, then you have relationship problems bigger than any Zen organizer could fix.

Second: If a man finds your housekeeping sexier than he finds you (lingerie or no lingerie), then run, do not walk, away from that man.

Third: WHAT? Who wrote this? How did it get published? You know how sometimes on Broadsheet we get into discussions about Linda Hirshman and how radical she is, what with her suggestions about how women should have only one baby, marry down, care less about a clean house and negotiate for equitable distribution of chores, and how there's a glass ceiling at home? Well, sometimes, I'm inclined to agree that while smart and provocative, Hirshman is indeed out-there radical. And then I read a piece about how women should snag and keep a husband through housekeeping because men "want to be nurtured" and if wives "let the house go" then it's reason for divorce and I think: Oh no. Linda Hirshman is not radical enough for what we're dealing with here.

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Rebecca Traister

Rebecca Traister writes for Salon. She is the author of "Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women" (Free Press). Follow @rtraister on Twitter.

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