Jill Biden’s Coffee, What I’m Reading, & Guerilla Housework

On the morning of March 1, Jill Biden went to Brewer’s Cafe, a Black-owned business in Richmond, Virginia, and ordered a cup of drip coffee. I gravitate toward fun features rather than political news, and was thrilled to discover “common ground” with Dr. Biden.

Jill Biden at Brewer’s Cafe

Jill Biden is a new kind of First Lady, obviously brilliant, an instructor of English at a community college, and she has an Ed.D. from the University of Delaware. A boutique coffee habit turns her into one of the java people. She was working: she stopped for coffee on the way to speak on a panel at Massey Cancer Center at Virginia Commonwealth University.

In the article at The Washington Post, the stop at the cafe is a light preface to the larger issue of her visit to the Cancer Center. The reporter possibly overthinks it: “Maybe the first lady wanted to support small businesses. Maybe she wanted to signal to Black Americans that President Biden was serious when he said his administration would not abandon them. Maybe she just likes places that are touted as having some of the best French macarons and coffee in their respective towns. Her press office would not comment.”

I may be naive, but isn’t a good cup of coffee the perfect brain boost before work? You can want good coffee, and decide to support a small Black-owned business.

By the way, I read a few weeks ago that the book on Dr. Biden’s bedside table was The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. I do hope she’s allowed to read this without being told it’s a photo-op!

And so it goes…

WHAT AM I READING? I just read Henry James’s The Golden Bowl for the third time, and am scandalized by the evil Charlotte’s schemes to commit adultery with her friend Maggie’s husband, Amerigo, her former lover. To make it more Jamesily intricate, Charlotte has married Maggie’s father, Adam Verver, a wealthy collector of art and antiques. In the introduction to the Penguin, Gore Vidal finds wicked Charlotte more interesting than Maggie. But my guess is that many of us women find ourselves siding with Maggie. This is an intricate, beautifully-written page-turner. Europeans always marry rich Americans in James’s novels.

GUERILLA HOUSEWIFERY. At the best of times, I have a hard time with housewifery. Clearing the surfaces of tables is the extent of my daily housework. I do not vacuum and scrub the floors daily. Marie Kondo had no effect here. You will not find me folding the laundry: my method with sheets is to roll them up and sort them according to fitted and flat. If they get mixed up…! That’s our life-style

I am still recovering from the weekend a friend stayed and decided to clean my house. I feebly begged her to stop, because I was too exhausted to help. When I went into the kitchen to grab a glass of water, she lectured me on why I should never mix bleach with…something! That would not be a problem of course, because it would never occur to me to squirt more than one cleaning product on anything! Plus did I have two cleaning products?

The gift of guerrilla housecleaning–and I do believe it was meant to be a gift– became just another contest in the never-ending tournament of femininity–I lost when I wasn’t even in the round!

“Remember when X cleaned the house,” my husband sometimes says.

“Please don’t use that against me,” I say.

The guilt of inadequate housewifery never stops, and studies of housework make me cynical. According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics’ American Time Use Survey, most women say they spend 5.7 hours daily doing housework and looking after the family. This raised a red flag for me: What housework, I wondered, do they find to do for 5.7 hours?

In this last year of the pandemic, I have begun to have a glimmer of compassion for cleaning maniacs. The house seems dirtier now that my husband and i both work at home, and it is not the time to hire a maid. The kitchen has become a treacherous repository of what I call “attack groceries”: a six-pack of paper towels falls off the refrigerator onto my head, I sweep up 100 blueberries after a box of blueberries jumps off the edge of the counter, I find rings on the coffee table when SOMEONE I love fails to use a coaster. I swear so much I need to cover the cats’ ears.

I need to reorganize the kitchen. But first I have to get a good cup of coffee.