I hate washing dishes.
I can’t believe that when I was a small girl, I actually liked it. That was before obsessive-compulsive symptoms caught on to what I was doing, and I could just enjoy swishing around the water and soap.
As I got older, washing dishes became a painful chore.
Push the plate down in the water. Submerge it completely. Lift one edge up. Use the dishcloth to wipe the eating side. Turn the plate over. Wipe the bottom. Turn the plate over. Wipe the eating side. Turn the plate over. Wipe the bottom. Turn on the water. Rinse the eating side. Rinse the bottom. Turn the plate in circles. Rinse the eating side. Rinse the bottom. Rinse the eating side. Rinse the bottom. Rinse the eating side. Rinse the bottom. Turn the plate in circles. Rinse the eating side. Rinse the bottom.
I was obsessed with not cleaning the dishes enough. So I compulsively washed and rewashed them. I was also obsessed with rinsing all the soap off, because if others ate soap, it would make them sick. And it would be my fault.
So I washed and I rinsed. And I took a lot of time doing it.
My mother criticized me for the time I took and the water I used. It was a waste, she said.
When I was about 12, I was trying frightfully hard to be good, though I came up with plenty of sins to confess in my compulsive prayers and chants.
I decided that I needed to help my mother around the house more. So I offered to wash the dishes for one meal a day without being asked.
What a torture I was putting myself through!
Around the same time, I stayed with one of my aunts while my father was in the hospital and my mother was with him.
I felt like I was in the way, so I offered to help by washing the dishes.
And I set about it in my usual way.
While I was washing, my aunt received a phone call. I heard her say, “She’s washing the dishes.” Pause. “Well, she’s a little slow.”
I remember that I felt like I was being unhelpful after all.
Today, I have a dishwasher that takes care of most of the dishes. But we still wash some by hand, including the cats’ bowls.
Even today, though I don’t have the same problem with the washing, I still rinse the dishes longer than my husband does. I have a holdover fear that I’ll leave soap residue on the dishes and someone will get sick. And it would be my fault.
Have you ever had obsessions and compulsions about washing dishes? What household chores did you have to do as a child?