Growing up and into early adulthood most people have parents to support and help grow them into independent self-sufficient adults. Somewhere along the way being independent becomes lonely and the feeling of wanting a significate other kicks in. Having a significant other can be the most rewarding yet best learning experience of life. In Sandra Cisneros short story Los Boxers, a character tells a story about all the little things his wife had done for him before she passed away. Although this character remains nameless, he paints a great picture of all the new things he had to learn without her. By the end of the story he realizes just how wonderful his life was with her, without even realizing it. Even though this is a short story it makes a powerful claim that being in a committed relationship is a humbling experience that teaches you about who you are and how to appreciate the small things in life.
The setting in this story is a very simple setting, a laundry matt. The main character is there washing his own laundry and strikes up a conversation with another person doing laundry. He is lonely from the beginning because he starts up a conversation with a busy mother trying to watch her children as well as finish her laundry. “You betcha you can have my basket. My stuff aint ready yet” (Cisneros 130). As he continues conversation, he states his wife has passed away as well as the first simple lesson he learned since she has passed, laundry. The cost of laundry isn’t cheap, and the average person spends about $2.00 per load (Laundry Solutions Company). He quickly learns that the laundromat he is washing at isn’t the cheapest or the biggest but for some reason he is there that day. Even though this laundromat is smaller, which may require more wait time it does ensure more people for this lonely widow to conversate with. Not only does he learn how to find the most cost-effective laundromat, but he learns a task his wife had to learn for him before she passed. Understanding what his now passed away wife did for him every week is a humbling moment for him and is probably the reason he stays at the smaller more “spensive” (Cisneros 131) laundromat.
As he continues his conversation with the busy mother he goes into further detail about the mundane process of laundry. Jeans seemed to be a hard lesson he had to learn without his wife. As he describes the way he dry’s his jeans, it seems that the only reason he found the solution to not shrinking them was because of a K Mart lady. The lady told them that he must dry them on low or else they would shrink. From that moment on he dries them on low and doesn’t have to wear jeans that are too small for him. Even though the jeans take much longer to dry and probably cost more he once again has another humbling learning moment of the tasks his wife always did for him.
The learning moments of laundry don’t stop, he keeps learning new tips about the simple task of laundry. Separating the laundry by color, weight and specific items also needs to be done. As does making sure each load has plenty of water. Lots of water will cause less wear and tear, he says “that’s the secret” (Cisneros 131). The widow describes this as a secret, as if laundry is a newly discovered task. Realistically it is not, laundry has been a task since the Roman Empire (Gamman and O’Mara). Since this is a newly discovered task for him, he had to have gone though loads of money and laundry to uncover secrets that the Roman Empire uncovered long ago. Putting in large amounts of energy into figuring out laundry makes a moment of appreciation for his wife who always did his laundry for him. Laundry is teaching him how to appreciate his wife and learn the unconditional love she had for him.
Stains and doing laundry go hand in hand, just like his dirty laundry that was always in the hands of his wife to clean. This time he knew how to get stains out because he was always spilling things. Mole on his shirts, blood on the towels and beer on the living room rug (Cisneros 132). He learned from his wife how to get stains out with an ice cube because of his own clumsiness. Now every time he spills, he has the memory of her running to the ice box for an ice cube. He can now successfully keep stains out of his laundry and appreciate learning from her every spill that falls his way.
The very end of this short story he describes his wife as extremely clean and neat. Every part of the house looked as if it was new. It used to drive him crazy how clean and neat she was. His wife even ironed his boxers, which shows how neat and clean she was. Though it doesn’t seem like he has learned the secrets of a clean and neat home yet, he has mastered laundry. Even though laundry seems simple it was not simple to him at first and wasn’t at all for his wife. Laundry has taught him the importance and impact that being in a committed relationship can have on his life. His wife was committed every week to making sure he had clean clothes to wear. His wife was also committed to keeping a close on the house and making sure everything looked perfect for him. Committed in even the smallest things that don’t seem to matter. Her commitment to him was only recognized after she had passed. After his wife was gone, he had a new appreciation for her. This new appreciation humbled him in every load of laundry he did. It humbled him to the point of making sure others washing laundry next to him knew his secrets that he had to learn on his own.
Cisneros, Sandra. “Los Boxers.” Women Hollering Creek, Vintage, 1991, PP. 130-132.
“History of Laundry- Topic Overview.” http://www.oldandinteresting.com/history-of-laundry.aspx.
Accessed 12 October 2019.
Gamman, Lorriane and O’mara, Sean. “Laundry.” https://www.encyclopedia.com/fashion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/laundry
Accessed 12 October 2019.