The odd couple

Remember how much we loved watching the bickering between the fastidious Felix Unger and the slovenly Oscar Madison (played to perfection by Tony Randall and Jack Klugman) on the classic 1970s sitcom “The Odd Couple”?

Wasn’t it hilarious how frustrated they would get with each other’s polar-opposite mentalities when it came to cleanliness of their shared apartment? Ho ho, what merry hijinks!

Nobody with a teenager thinks that show is funny anymore.

When we talk about messy teen bedrooms, we usually throw the boys under the bus. That gender is commonly presented as the gross, smelly one (even in the ubiquitous “You’ve gone noseblind” commercials on TV). We think of their odiferous sneakers and piles of dirty laundry, half-empty food containers and unmade beds.

I am here to tell you that this is not dude-specific.

I have a small bandwidth of correctional parenting at my emotional disposal. I cannot ride my daughter about everything I disagree with or feel could be done in a different manner, so I pick my battles.

A clean bedroom is not a battle I have chosen.

I know my bedroom existed in never-ending waves of horrifically cluttered to immaculate in the sea of my teen existence. I was lucky to have my own bedroom; the only person its cleanliness affected was me. I try to keep that in mind when I have to – shudder — talk to my daughter in her room.

Yes, I was concerned when I saw that henna tattoo on her lower back, but thankfully it was only a Dorito that had been pressed into her flesh overnight as she rolled onto it in her sleep.

OK, that’s a joke, but it’s not far off. Junk food bags and wrappers (none of which I purchased, thank you very much) are everywhere; the wastebasket overflows; clean and dirty clothes are piled on top of the unused laundry hamper. The new desk that took me two hours of proud work to assemble is not used for homework, but instead is yet another surface on which to pile jewelry, empty plates, loose papers, and other random teen debris. The bed is never, ever made. Sigh.

The line in the sand for her Oscar and my Felix (and let’s be completely honest here before my own mother writes in — I’m less Felix than I am Lesser Oscar) is that her mess cannot creep out of her room.

I mean figuratively, but literally may not be too far off.

When her shower results in a trail of towels and sports uniforms and makeup remover pads and other debris in the bathroom, that’s when I speak up. I will not be encroached upon; I prefer to trip over my own sneakers. So I drag her from her den to clean up anything outside her four walls.

As for inside them? Just close that door, mom, and prepare for the bigger battles that surely loom on the horizon.

Kathleen Palmer is an award-winning editor and journalist, marketing/communications content writer and occasional comedic actress. Nothing makes her happier than making people laugh. She is a single mom to a teenager, so naturally she enjoys a glass of wine, or two.

Categories: Never A Dull Moment