Triathlete Love: Dirty Laundry

  • By Susan Lacke
  • Published Aug 6, 2013
  • Updated Aug 7, 2013 at 6:46 PM UTC

Who knew smelly bike shorts could be such a touchy subject?

There’s a study out of Texas Tech University showing that two-triathlete households eschew traditional gender roles, tending to favor more egalitarian relationships instead.

Except, of course, when it comes to laundry.

Laundry is a virus that preys upon the two-triathlete household. After a week’s worth of two-a-day workouts, our growing piles of towels, bike jerseys and running shorts demand immediate attention, lest they loom over our homes like a malodorous Mt. Everest.

But when I ask my partner, Neil to start a load in the wash, he looks at me like I’m speaking Farsi. Apparently, that’s “my job.” In the whole time we’ve lived together, I’ve yet to see him fluff-and-fold a single tech tee. I’m not alone. Almost every one of my friends has described a similar situation in their own two-triathlete households, tales that usually end in the spouse or partner being called some variation of “indolent asshat.”

Who knew smelly bike shorts could be such a touchy subject?

To his credit, Neil has tried. I have, on occasion, witnessed him lift a basket of laundry and carry it in the direction of our washing machine. But then his apprehension is plainly written across his face: Permanent Press or Regular Wash? Hot rinse? Cold rinse? No rinse at all? Bleach? No bleach? Why does this soap smell so girly?

Mind you, Neil’s a highly intelligent man. As an engineer, he works on complicated machines all day. He’s tried to explain it to me, but all I can really understand is that lasers and giant magnets are involved. I can neither confirm nor deny the presence of robots, the Higgs boson, or Jimmy Hoffa at his workplace.

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When it comes to laundry, however, I can see the bewilderment on his face as he tries to determine whether his light gray shirt goes in the “dark” or “light” pile. He says men just aren’t programmed to do laundry, an excuse which I typically sort into the “crap” pile. Still, I take the basket from him and tell him to go grab a beer from the fridge… and drink it while he fixes the fence in the backyard. You know, “men’s work.” Or something like that…

All across the world, couples bicker over housework. At the end of the day, after hours of work and commutes and childcare, no one wants to change the air filter or take out the trash. For the two-triathlete household, there’s even more demand on time and energy. When you’ve both ridden 100 miles before most people have even finished their Sunday brunch, the last thing either of you wants to do is mow the grass.

I’ve seen several triathlon couples clash over household duties, resulting in some nasty name-calling and door-slamming. Over what? Whose turn it is to vacuum? Buying dog food? Washing the bikes? Pretty trivial, if you ask me. Though I’m not stoked about having to do the laundry after coming home from a long run, I really only have two choices: throw clothes in the washer or call him a horrid name. They both take exactly the same amount of time, but only one will result clean sports bras. Meanwhile, he’ll remember to pick up dog food when I forget, and fix our air conditioner when it breaks in the middle of the night. When that happens, I’ll be really glad I didn’t call him an asshat.

Somehow, our household is still standing. Sometimes it’s a little disheveled, and some less important chores will wait until the off-season. On occasion, it requires a vigorous game of paper-rock-scissors to determine who’s taking out the trash this week. But flexibility, not blame, is the key. And when all else fails, there’s no shame in bringing in outside help.

I wonder if the robots at his work know how to separate whites and colors…

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More “Triathlete Love” from Susan Lacke.

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