“Letter to the Mother-in-Law,” by Shyama Laxman

Apr 14th, 2021 | By | Category: Nonfiction, Prose

Dear Mother-in-law,

How many times can you hoover your flat? Turns out, I can do it every single day. I see my dark hair on the beige carpet and it fills me with anxiety. Hair, anywhere other than on my head has always been a source of revulsion. Now that I’m married to an English man, who is perhaps more used to spotting light hair on the floor, the couch or the carpet, I have to be extra careful. The Husband doesn’t mind or even notice these details, as is men’s wont. But I am hawk-eyed though you might call me considerate.

I check the pillows and the bed first thing after waking up for any shedding from the previous night. There is more hair to be found on nights when we make sweet love, what with all the tossing and turning. I give the bathroom a once over after a shower to ensure that the bath and the floor are clean. And then there is the daily hoovering that sort of seals the deal.

Last evening, The Husband was trying to pull something out of his mouth during dinner. He suspected it was my hair (though we were not sure as we didn’t see any evidence). He said he liked it. I just about managed to not gag on my food. I returned his rather odd way of expressing affection with a more conventional peck on his cheek. As it is a new marriage, we are still discovering each other’s idiosyncrasies. I was hoping trichophilia wasn’t one but too late for backsies.

I have read that people are losing hair due to pandemic related stresses. That thought doesn’t bother me as much as seeing strands of hair on a freshly hoovered carpet. But it’s not just my hair that needs to be cleaned. The Cat manages to get the litter outside the box every time she uses it; The Husband drops crumbs and coffee grounds on the kitchen floor every time he makes breakfast; the soil from the indoor plants form a circle around the pots, every time The Cat goes digging or when The Husband goes pottering at nine on a weeknight. The disarray stresses me out. I am sure that’s what’s causing the hair fall. Hence, all the hoovering. It’s a vicious cycle.

I know I need to get back to a full-time job for this madness to stop. Exhausted after a long day at work, hoovering five days a week would be the last thought on my mind. But for now, keeping things clean and tidy makes me feel in control; gives me a sense of accomplishment and lasting peace…until the cycle starts all over again.


The Wife

PS: I am not insinuating that The Husband is messy or lazy. I hope you didn’t get that impression.

PS 2: We purchased a Dyson hoover, the kind that is recommended for pet owners. I won’t lie that it has made the job fun and caused a small dent in the bank balance.


Shyama Laxman has an MA in Creative Writing from City, University of London. She writes mainly about gender, sexuality, and LGBTQ issues. Her work has been published in The Quint, Huffington Post, ShethePeople.TV, Muse India, and Gaysi. Her new poem “The Nudes Editor” is published by Guts Publishing in their Sending Nudes anthology. She is currently working on her first novel. Or so she likes to delude herself.

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