Like many good writers, and nearly all the mediocre ones, I prepare for writing assignments by cleaning my apartment.
A dirty bathroom is the perfect procrastination tool. Cleaning projects always snowball — “Now that I look closer, I really do need to scrub behind the toilet!” — and when I’m done, the warm afterglow of accomplishment is just enough to mute the dread of an impending deadline.
This time around, though, I delayed even my procrastination-cleaning with another stalling tactic: reading about cleaning.
I blame Jamie Reidy ’92, author of Sweep Her Off Her Feet: Seriously, Dude, Clean Up Your Place! A young man’s guide to cleaning one’s home (and oneself) before inviting over a lady, Sweep Her Off Her Feet is as useful as it is spit-out-your-Red-Bull funny. If cleanliness is next to godliness, then Reidy’s book is less St. Augustine and more Mad Magazine: guidance, but with more action and an illuminating dissertation on unsexy pets.
Reidy is no mere domestic maven. An Army veteran and former Viagra sales rep — he also wrote Hard Sell, adapted into the Jake Gyllenhaal rom-com Love and Other Drugs — Reidy is equal parts relatable dude-guru and irreverent pop-culture connoisseur. Meditations on the almighty Swiffer WetJet appear alongside Homer Simpson quotes. Female guests sense shower mold “like a disturbance in The Force.” Personal grooming is the subject of an extended Top Gun metaphor. (The reader is Iceman, because “you’d never play beach volleyball in your jeans, and Val Kilmer is, like, a million times cooler than Tom Cruise now, anyway.”)
So we’re clear: This book is practical, with sections on housecleaning and personal grooming. Reidy dedicates six whole pages (I counted!) to the Zen of cleaning toilets. Interspersed are useful dissertations on choosing house plants, a table-setting mnemonic Reidy learned at a Vegas bachelor party, and thread counts. (Do you know how thread count is calculated? I do now!)
Also: You can read the whole book less than an hour. Brevity is the soul of wit, but it’s devastating to my procrastination tactics.
As for Reidy’s cleaning methodology? I’m not sure even I, a 28-year-old who voluntarily dusts his dresser, am qualified to critique another man’s shower-cleaning rituals. That said, Reidy does rely too heavily on Clorox wipes for my taste. Not once does he mention Scrubbing Bubbles, that most charismatic of bathroom cleaners. And the book is curiously bereft of Bar Keepers Friend, a kitchen-sink miracle and perfect metaphor for early adulthood. (Every young buck imagines himself being a barkeeper’s friend and a bartender: quick with one-liners, generous with cheap whiskey, deft with mineral-abrasive oxalic acid.)
Reidy has mastered the fine art of speaking to, well, dudes. He’s in the muck with us, applying elbow grease to the dirty tub. Notre Dame rectors and parents know that twentysomethings are always looking for advice — they just want it on their own terms.
Understandably, Reidy leans hard into the book’s primary conceit. Basically: Dude, clean up your place for when you bring a lady back home! A cynic might argue that Sweep Her Off Her Feet is a little too overtly focused on dinner dates and the romantic aerobics thereafter. But this is the quiet insight behind Sweep Her Off Her Feet. Reidy knows dudes don’t just need cleaning or grooming advice. They’re also looking for life advice — ideally from a guy who’s been to the Vegas bachelor parties, endured a breakup over a bar of soap, and seriously considered which prescription drugs are acceptable to display in the medicine cabinet. (Xanax is OK; Beano is not.)
And by interweaving life advice and fridge-cleaning tips, Reidy has created something like a brief handbook to modern manhood without labeling it as such. As he reads and scrubs, the reader can be a little bit less of a dude and more of . . . well, if not an urbane sophisticate, then a man. A man with a clean shower drain, at least.
Which reminds me, I need to finish cleaning mine.
Michael Rodio ’12 is a former editor at Men’s Fitness and Men’s Journal, and a former intern at this magazine. He lives in New York City, where he is pursuing his MBA at Columbia University.