What Happened When My House Cleaner Dumped Me

Photographed by Julia Robbs.
There’s a particular nub of middle-class loathing in admitting that you have a cleaner. It is, frankly, embarrassing that we are content to shepherd a stranger into the bowels of our intimate living space just so that they may clean it. Whereas in the rest of life it’s considered downright unedifying to air your dirty laundry, in this scenario, you are actually expecting someone to peel said dirty laundry off the floor (disclaimer: I have never left my knickers out for a cleaner to pick up. Treating your cleaner like a maid is something quite different — it also makes you an asshole) and fold it, neatly.

With all that in mind, my cleaner is a necessity. Yes, I know what I said and I’m standing by it. I simply don’t have time — I’d like you to reference the very blog you’re reading right now — to maintain my flat to the rigorous standards of cleanliness I like to live in. I don’t care about ironing my sheets, but dust makes me anxious and sticky floors induce nausea. I will give up my daily coffee before I give up my cleaner. FACT. Except, well, what if you don’t have that choice? What if your cleaner just...divorces you, apropos of nothing?

This is exactly what happened to me a few weeks ago and as you can tell, I haven’t quite got over it (though I have found a new cleaner and I’m learning to trust her loyalty). Somewhere along the line, my English and her Polish got muddled (miming works adequately in person, but not really at all via text) and a simple request for her to let me know when she coming was met with first, haughty dismissiveness (“I am busy cleaning” — the implication being that she was too busy to let me know in that very text the time she was coming — “but you may find a new cleaner if you want”) and then, silence.

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She reminded me that rejection, confusion, and personal affront are never far.

Panic stations. Three texts from me ensued, burbling that I didn’t want a new cleaner, I just wanted to know when she was coming, and wait, did she not want to clean anymore? And if not, why? What had I done? Was she trying to tell me something? I was met with deafening silence.

A week later, I picked up my phone gloomily. I let her know (though it’s become patently obvious that it was her letting me know) that I had noted just the slightest lack of enthusiasm for her job and had therefore found another cleaner. I then deleted her number.

This entirely baffling episode reminded me wholesale of my experiences of dating. Any occasional pangs of longing for that initial frisson (making your phone light up every five minute to see if you missed a text) is cancelled out by the threat of "ghosting" (where you simply ignore the other person’s entreaties, à la — supposedly — Charlize Theron to Sean Penn). I have been ghosted several times — most recently by my cleaner — and I do not take to it well.

I am, quite literally, terrible at being dumped. I’m even worse at being ignored. I am not graceful; I do not go quietly with my dignity. I will harangue you for an answer, unleash my confusion over anyone and everyone. I am like a labrador. Fiercely loyal with next to no inclinations to ever dump anyone, and therefore, an inability to process this in another person. I haven’t been single for almost four years, but let’s not sugarcoat this: My cleaner dumped me. She reminded me that rejection, confusion, and personal affront are never far.

I don’t know why she binned me. I wish we could have talked. Or rather, mimed. But life’s too short to cling to those who never loved you — even if they’re fucking fantastic at dusting.

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