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Putting dirty dishes in fridge is plenty domestic

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Editor's note: This is a reprint of a Dave Barry coumn that ran in October of 1998.

Guys do not get enough credit for being domestic. This is because the people who give OUT the credits for being domestic are - not to generalize or anything - women.

Women tend to believe that domestic things should be done in a certain way, defined as "not the way guys do them." I have a perfect example of this type of thinking in the form of a letter I received from a woman named Karen in Portland, Ore., who does not approve of the way her fiance handles his dirty dishes. Here's how he handles them: He puts them in the refrigerator.

Now I can hear you women asking: "Why?" But I bet most guys immediately grasped the reason, which is: If you put dirty dishes in the sink, after a couple of days they get moldy; whereas in the cold, airtight environment of the refrigerator, mold takes much longer to develop. Karen says her fiance does not actually wash the dishes "until he runs out of dishes; or his refrigerator gets full." Fortunately, he has a lot of room in the refrigerator, because, Karen states, "he hates to go grocery shopping." She also notes, for the record, that "he has a dishwasher that works perfectly fine." "I'm wondering," Karen wrote, "if we should just ask for an extra refrigerator for a wedding gift." My feeling is, no. It makes far more sense to get a freezer. Not only will a freezer hold a lot more dirty dishes than a refrigerator, but, thanks to the lower temperature, these dishes can remain relatively mold-free in there forever. This will leave Karen's guy with more time for other domestic chores, such as laundering his underwear in the dishwasher, unless that is where he keeps his canned goods.

Speaking of which, what this nation needs is an Institute of Guy Domestic Research, where guy scientists wearing white laboratory coats stained with Cheez Whiz would conduct experiments to answer household questions that concern guys, such as: If you leave your used underwear in the freezer for a week, is that as good as laundering it? Or should you also splash a little Old Spice on it, just to be safe? But getting back to my main point: Guys are sometimes accused of not having a domestic "flair" just because they tend to accessorize a room with used pizza boxes. But there are examples of guys coming up with decorative "touches" that Martha Stewart would never conceive of even with the aid of world-class narcotics.

For example, I have here a fascinating newspaper article sent in by alert pastor Pete Beckstrand of the Zion and Franklin Lutheran Churches of Viroqua, Wis. This article, which I swear I am not making up, is from the Sept. 26, 1996, edition of - get ready for an excellent newspaper name - the Vernon County Broadcaster. It concerns a local resident named Mervin Langve who, according to the article, "discovered a slice of toast in an old-time toaster . . . in an old cookstove." He realized that the toast was made from bread baked by his mother; thus, as the article states, "Mervin determined that the toast is 36 years old." I am telling you right now what a woman would have done if she had found a piece of toast older than all three Hanson brothers combined, and even older than some Christmas fruitcakes: She would, using tongs, throw the toast away, then throw the tongs away, then get out her industrial disinfectant and violently scrub the entire house as well as several neighboring houses. But that is not what Mervin Langve did. According to the Vernon Country Broadcaster, he "mounted this piece of toast on a breadboard he now has hanging in his kitchen." The Vernon County Broadcaster states that it makes for "a very attractive keepsake."

I called Mr. Langve, and he told me that the toast is still on his wall and looking as good as ever, despite the fact that he has never put any kind of preservative on it.

I asked him if visitors think his wall decoration is unusual.

"They sure do," he said. "They can't hardly believe it." I bet they can't. And I happen to think that - despite the fact that this entire story has been ignored by so-called major newspapers such as the so-called New York Times - Mervin Langve has broken important new interior-decor ground with the concept of wall-mounted heirloom foods. Think of the possibilities! (" . . . and on this wall is the actual meal that Uncle Walter was eating when he passed away; you can see his forehead impression in the mashed potatoes.")

So let's not say that guys are not domestic, OK? When we see a guy who makes drapes by nailing trash bags over his windows, let's remember that he might have a legitimate domestic reason, such as that he ran out of duct tape. Let's be fair; let's be open-minded. And above all, let's remember to let our underwear thaw before we put it on.

Dave Barry is a humor columnist for the Miami Herald. Write to him c/o The Miami Herald, One Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132.