The tidiness ratio
March 21, 2016
by Ivan Raconteur

I was chatting with an old pal recently, and she shared with me the story of an experience she had.

It was the kind of thing I suspect has happened to most of us at one time or another.

She went out looking (according to her) not at her best, and immediately ran into someone she hadn’t seen for a long time. This caused her some embarrassment, although I suspect she was still looking quite good. Women are their own harshest critics.

However, I’m convinced this is a universal experience.

Most of us make at least some sort of effort to make ourselves presentable when we are going to appear in public.

There are times, though, when even though we are not quite up to our usual standard, we decide to take a chance.

Perhaps we have been working in the yard, or cleaning the basement. We weren’t planning to go out, so we didn’t bother with a shower. Perhaps our hair is in disarray. We might look as if we slept in the ancient sweat pants and faded T-shirt we are wearing. We probably have on our oldest pair of shoes, since we didn’t want to get our good shoes dirty.

Then it happens.

We discover there is some little thing we need. We think about getting cleaned up before we run to the store, but that seems like such a hassle, and we know it will only take a minute to run in and run out, so we decide to take a chance.

This is when the tidiness ratio kicks in.

The odds of us encountering someone we know is directly related to our current level of untidiness. The worse we look, the more likely it is we will meet someone.

Often, in these cases, it is a person we haven’t seen for ages, but the minute we leave the house looking like a mess, they magically appear.

They will, of course, be too polite to say anything, but we can see in their faces that they are wondering to themselves how long we have been homeless.

It is a perversity of nature that when we meet these acquaintances, although we might look like an advertisement for the free meals at the gospel mission, they look as though they just stepped off the pages of a fashion magazine, or are on their way to accept an award at a prestigious black-tie affair.

The fact they are impeccably attired and well groomed makes us look even more ratty in comparison.

To make matters worse, there is the hotness escalator to consider.

Basically, this means the hotness of the people we meet on these occasions is inversely proportional to our own lack of tidiness.

The person we meet might be an old flame (or someone we wish was an old flame), or perhaps a distinguished, influential acquaintance. We can rely on the fact that the more we resemble a model for the mug shot roster at a jail in a seedy neighborhood, the more likely it is that the people we meet will be stunning.

The kind of thing that happens on those occasions when we go out and are not looking our best also applies when people come to see us.

Naturally, we are conscientious housekeepers, and generally keep the old domicile in good order.

However, I have noticed it is almost a certainty that on the days when we do a deep and thorough cleaning from stem to stern, and the entire joint is spotless, no one will come within five miles of the place.

On the other hand, if we are having an unusually busy week, or perhaps we have been under the weather and have gotten a bit behind on our household chores, it is practically guaranteed that someone will drop in unexpectedly.

Maybe there are some dishes on the counter. Perhaps there is a stack of unopened mail on the table. There might be a basket of laundry that hasn’t yet been put away. Perhaps someone forgot to put his shoes away. The kitchen floor may look like the Gadarene swine took a detour through there on their way to the sea. These are the times when guests are most likely to arrive.

If you are feeling lonely and want some company, just let your housekeeping go a bit, and someone is bound to drop by.

Most of us are probably not that hung up on housework, and we may feel that if people who come to visit choose to judge us for our housekeeping, that is their problem. But it is still irritating that no one ever sees the place when it is looking its best.

There’s no point in trying to explain that things are not up to the usual standard. Visitors will automatically assume that the way the house looks when they drop by is the way it always looks.

The tidiness factor is too powerful for any of us to overcome.

About all we can do is hope that people will judge us for ourselves, and not our appearance, when we make a quick dash to the store, or when they stop by the house without giving us two weeks notice.

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