A Teen Boy’s Bathroom By Any Other Name


Would still smell like a gerbil cage.

And why is that? It’s not like we have goddamn sawdust stored in our house. From my recollection of my brief history of owning gerbils, one of the overwhelming smells was sawdust.

Oh man, not to get off track here, but my experience with gerbils has been brutal and disturbing. Not in a Richard Gere way or anything.

Calm down, Richard Gere fans. I know that is a baseless rumor, but I am not one to back away from the easy joke. 

The first time I had a gerbil, it was just a temporary thing. I took the classroom gerbil home for the weekend when I was in the 5th grade at St Augustine elementary. Her name was Daisy and I couldn’t wait to get my turn. Daisy finally came home with me for the weekend and then fucking died. Catholic school was scary. I had already gotten into huge trouble once for an incident involving some kid’s lunch and the Goodwill box. What would happen to me over possible rodent homicide? My mom solved the problem by buying a new gerbil.

The second time, my mother ill-advisedly allowed my sisters and I to get some gerbils. The gerbils ate their babies. They died off and then the last one alive got squished to death by a little girl named AnnaMarie who my mom was babysitting.

I am not a fan of gerbils. Then I went and had two sons, 11 years apart. I’ve had to live with the smell of a gerbil cage for about 20 years now.

I loathe cleaning our hall bathroom. It’s the main bathroom. The one for the general public. Randy and I have our own bathroom, so we rarely use the one in the hall. Joey’s bedroom is just across the hall from the bathroom and basically, it’s his bathroom.

The bathroom is disgusting. I only go in there when I know where having company. We’re having company for the next three weekends after this weekend. I have to clean the bathroom.

As a parent, the right thing to do would be to make Joey clean the bathroom. Getting him to clean the bathroom is so much not worth the effort it takes. We go in stages.

Me: Joey, you have got to clean this bathroom. It’s foul. And clean the whole thing. Everything.

Joey: Okay

Me: Don’t say okay and then not do it. I don’t want to ask you a hundred times.

Joey: Okay

Then I have to ask him 100 times.

Joey: I’m done cleaning the bathroom.

Me: You did the whole thing?

Joey: Yes.

I go in the bathroom and the dirty towels and clothes have been picked up off the floor. That’s it. The toilet and the sink haven’t been cleaned, the tub hasn’t been cleaned. There are wads of tissue around the garbage can. There is a collection of hair along all the baseboards and a rusted empty can of shaving cream on the floor.

Me: Dude, you did nothing.

Joey: What? I got all the dirty clothes.

Me: I told you to clean the whole thing. You have to sweep the floor and clean the sink and toilet and stuff.

Joey: Fine.

Me: Make sure you do a good job sweeping and I’ll mop it.

Joey: I can sweep mom. It’s not like I don’t sweep at my job. I am a professional sweeper.

Five minutes pass.

Joey: I’m done.

Me: With everything?

Joey: Yep.

Me: In five minutes?

Joey: Yep.

I go into the bathroom and the ring in the toilet has slightly lightened up and there is still hair on the baseboard. And the rusted empty can of shaving cream is still on the floor.

So, you see why it’s just easier to clean the damn bathroom?

I am at home because I am sick today. I probably have a sinus infection. Joey just got over one and it never fails that if he is sick, then I am sick. It’s Friday and I’m really bummed that my weekend is probably toast and happy that I’m getting an unexpected 3 day weekend. Even if I do feel like shit.

It occurred to me that as long as my ability to smell was compromised, it would be the perfect time to shovel out the boy’s bathroom.

On the other hand, as a responsible parent, I should make my kid clean up after himself. I think I will do that. Besides, In my weakened state, the most I want to do is start watching Supernatural from season one (for the 4th time) and read blog posts. Maybe see how many cups of hot tea I can get Randy to bring me before he starts getting pissy about it. Wanna take bets on that? I’ll help you out, it’s probably more than a dozen times. Randy is very sweet when I’m sick and takes good care of me.

Yet I still desire to torment him. That’s true love right there.

I hope you all have a great weekend. I’ll be spending mine blowing my nose and bitching at my kid during every stage of the gerbil cage clean up.

Thanks to Marcia over at Menopausal Mother for the inspiration today!





About the author


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  • We got the final “launch date” for M yesterday, so I have an entire to do list for him between now and when he leaves. His bathroom is definitely at the top of the list, followed by his bedroom, with the closet being a separate line item altogether.

    Rather smell gerbil cage though than four varieties of Axe body spray mixed together. Blech.

    • I am SO GLAD you’re liking it! I kind of want to read it again now. Yeah..I’m in my bed surrounded by tissues and empty mugs. But still have the energy to work the keyboard. I’m just afraid of how many typos are in there because I am really out of it.

  • I’ve got the same situation with Precocious Daughter, minus the shaving cream. And plus the fact that we both use that bathroom, since I haven’t managed to evict my ex from the master bedroom (it’ll all be in the book). Anyway, I completely empathize with you and am thrilled to know I’m not the only one with hairy baseboards.

  • Do not even speak to me about so-called “pocket pets.” Degus (sort of like big gerbils except their tails DETACH when you try to grab them) are still a sore point around here. Did you know they can projectile-poop? Yeah. Neither did I.

    As for cleaning up after adult kids? Say no more. Far, far easier to do it yourself. Then move to much smaller digs where they can’t follow you.

  • I can’t get my “adult” kid still in the house to pick up their room. it looks like a junkyard. I could try and draw a line in the sand but I am too tired to fight.

  • My biggest problem with the kids’ bathroom is the toothpaste ALL OVER the sink, floors and mirror. Not the used toothpaste splatters, the ‘right-out-of-the-tube’ blue sticky. WTF! And don’t get me started on the toilet roll…
    Selfishly, if you have more time to write, milk it for the weekend.
    But truthfully, if Randy is willing to bring you that much tea and you have that many snot-rags, you may have to clean your own washroom on Monday too so get better!

    • Hahah…I hope the whole weekend isn’t a bust. We’ll see. I”ll take it easy today. Yeah, what the fuck is up with the toothpaste? It’s like they do that shit on purpose.

  • I am absolutely, completely, and unequivocally DONE with cleaning up after the 12 year old and the 15 year old. DONE, DONE, DONE. I had the chance to review this system called “PLAY: The Discipline Solution” by Angela Ruess and it is going into effect in this household come October 1. My “job” is to keep the apartment clean, keep the laundry from overtaking the entire apartment, work my ass off to pay for all the chit that they want/need for school, birthdays, Christmas … why should they not have a “job” as well? Their “job” is to go to school, get good grades, keep their rooms clean, and pick up after themselves. If they don’t, I’m going to start handing out fines for breaking the law and not doing their job. Come hell or high water – I am NOT going to deal with that nasty ass gerbil cage that they call a bathroom ever again.

  • Wow – your son uses the same cleaning “method” my teenage daughter uses – her version of cleaning is to sweep the room with a glance and that is pretty much it. Enjoy some Netflix binge watching and get your men-folk to wait on you hand and foot while you rest (and if it works let me know how you managed THAT trick – I still haven’t figured it out yet!)

    • Haaa..sweeps it with a glance.

      The boy will do a few things for me when I’m sick and Randy will take good care of me the whole time. He’s very sweet. Except for when he’s not.

  • I guess a gerbil cage isn’t the WORST it could smell like? But yes you probably need to just stand over him and direct the cleaning, which will make nobody happy but will get the job done, finally!
    Feel better. Being sick on weekends sucks.

  • My kid was ecstatic. It was her turn to keep the teacher’s beloved parakeet over the Fourth of July weekend. Monte’s cage was installed in our playroom with great ceremony (and interest from both cats). His owner told me the touching tale of how she acquired him, how much he meant to her, and how he would be singing merrily as soon as he got used to the surroundings.

    The first clue I had that Monte’s singing days were over was as his owner’s car had barely cleared our driveway. “Mama? How come the birdie’s feet are upside down?”

    Shit! Of course, it was a holiday weekend so every vet was closed. I swept Monte into a shoe box and headed out to the exotic pets store downtown. “Help! Something’s wrong with this bird.” I think PetStore Employee#1 was about twelve, but he was the nearest thing to bird knowledge I could come up with on short notice.

    He looked at me with (understandable) worry. “That’s a dead bird.”

    PetStore Employee#2 looked into the box and nodded. “Really dead. See that white stuff around the beak?”

    I nodded.

    “That’s nasty stuff. I hope you didn’t touch it.” I started wondering how to boil my hands. And the playroom.

    On the plus side, we never had to babysit another school pet.

  • Ha ha ha, I wish you luck with that and I do hope you feel better very soon and get to enjoy the weekend.
    If it makes you feel any better the class gerbil also died whilst in my care. It was old, for a gerbil and I had it for the summer break. It lasted pretty much the whole summer before biting the dust which made a change from him biting me.

  • Are we living the same freaking life??? I’m still coughing from my cold that I got 2 weeks ago and my teen son’s bathroom is scary. Since I work two jobs and, you know, try to write, I ended up having a cleaning lady come here every 2 weeks. So, at least for like A DAY, his bathroom is clean.
    I hope you feel better soon. I recommend vodka.

  • I’m sorry to say there is still latex paint crusted in my boy’s sink from last month’s painting project…

    My big project LAST weekend was installing a shelf so I could put the portable stereo up & OFF THE FREAKIN’ COUNTER – Lord knows he MUST have music to perform his toilette by!!! But we still haven’t gotten his room put back together from Great Remodeling Project of Aug ’14…

  • If it makes you feel any better (literally or figuratively), the bad-bathroom scene is possibly not limited to boys… I have two girls, and I just don’t even GO upstairs anymore.

    Because whenever I do, all you hear is this:


    So many questions.

  • OMG! I am cracking the fuck UP! I kid you not – I have (repeatedly) had that EXACT conversation with my son over cleaning his room (smells like a gym locker since he spends 16 hours a day up in there when he’s not working) and cleaning up our upstairs bathroom.

    I am SO making my husband read this because he thinks MY kid is unique in his half-assedness. The 5-minute bathroom cleanup drives me NUTS!

    Feel better. My girlfriend at work swears by her neti pot but I can’t do that shit without choking myself and getting that weird burn-y feeling in my face. Ew.

    • I can do the neti pot…I forgot about that! And taking apple cider vinegar..that helps.

      Tell your hubs that the boy is doing exactly what they all do. It’s frustrating..but it’s not unique.

  • As a teacher of grade eight boys I can tell you the reason the bathroom smells like a gerbil cage is because teenage boys smell like gerbil cages. I don’t know what it is…that mixture of musty sawdusty haven’t had a bath in two week despite having PE three times a week smell.
    Don’t fret. They will grow out of it….eventually!

  • Two points here. I’ve never gotten over watching my gerbil eat its own arm off and die slowly over a four day period. Gerbils are sucky pets.

    You know what else is a sucky pet? A teenage boy. My kid’s bathroom smells like the barn at the fair. He does the EXACT SAME SHIT. I’m thinking about buying him a gerbil as a special reward.

  • Hilarious. Oh I am so happy I didn’t go the gerbil route, but we had a rat when the kids were young. All was fine, until he started having disgusting tumors protrude from his body. I had the first removed but then they kept coming and the vet said it would be best to have him put down. So I lied to my kids and said he just died. I was a bad mom, but I redeemed myself years later and told them the truth.

  • My friend Everett tells a story about a house he shared with some other teen aged boys while attending college. He said no-one would clean the shower stall in the bathroom, even after they noticed a mushroom growing out of one corner of it. He said that everyone just sort of left it alone.

  • Yeah I’m on cleaning duty too but hubby does certain things that I’m not able but he’s working over-time this weekend so looks like it’s getting partly done luckily no kids live here just normal scrubbing and cleaning still sucks but at least hubby has a pretty good aim. He’s also seriously OCD so he still cleans constantly. He makes me chicken broth when I’m sick but after about six times he gets testy. Loved the fortune cookie comment! Sounds so like my guy.

    • He’s really a sweetie and it’s not like he NEVER cleans bathrooms..but he RARELY cleans bathrooms. He does do all the laundry and yard work and we split on cooking and kitchen cleaning. Well…probably not split actually…more like 60 – 40 with him doing the bulk of it. But I work outside the home and he works at home, so he has more opportunity..

  • Oh man do I know what you’re talking about (re: smelly boy rooms). One boy is out of the house, but still have a 17-year-old boy at home. I too clean the hall bathroom (basically his only) only when company is staying with us. His idea of cleaning is to swish the toilet brush around the bowl a few times. Always joke that I’m donning my hazmat suit when I go in there with my cleaning supplies. And what is it with the pube hairs all over the damn floor! Yuk!

  • I sincerely hope you get to feeling better real soon. I understand the bathroom thing totally, but my situation was slightly different. The problem was my ex-wife and the bathroom in question was our bathroom, in our room. I’m the OCD neat freak and she was the oinker. Seriously, clothes, towels, whatever, always all over the floor. Wads of very long, red hair stuck to the shower wall and God help us all when she discovered some gray hairs because when she colored her hair the walls and sink looked like a crime scene.

    We won’t even talk about what damage she could do to a kitchen.

    While you’re reading blog posts this weekend, I hope you’ll stop by mine and help me play “Torture the Teenager” in my latest post. It’s gonna be fun!

  • Bathrooms are vile to clean. I have said I am looking forward to having my kids be able to clean it themselves, but maybe I’ll hire a cleaning lady instead. The stench and lack of kid motivation to clean might kill me.

  • Here is what I would do: Make a checklist of everything you want done in order to create a “clean” bathroom. LIke the signs you see for employees on the doors of the bathroom at Target. Be really explicit. And he has to do, and check off, each one.
    The only reason I can give this advice is because this is similar to what I have to do for myself, in as much as that I am naturally as sloppy as (but not quite as gross as) a teenaged boy!

  • I HATE cleaning the toilet the most out of everything in the house – so A does it. I think he figures it’s easier to do that listen to me whingeing and whining about having to do it !!! Well – he used to do it – now I get someone in once a fortnight to clean – it’s the best money I spend all month !!!
    I’m also sick – woke up with a horrible scratchy throat, hacking cough and post nasal drip yesterday – A has taken himself off to his shed this afternoon – not sure if it’s because he doesn’t want to catch what I have or because, like Randy, he is really good to me when I am sick because I have been known to suffer from ‘man flu’ and he looks after me so nicely (much better than I do when he is sick and I pretty much tell him he isn’t dying, he’ll be right !!!)
    I hope you feel better soon and enjoy your long weekend. We have a 3 day weekend next weekend – man, I’m hanging out for that !!!
    Me xox

  • I avoid my kids’ bathroom like the plague. I’ve been nagging them to clean it, and it still is disgusting. I know I’m failing as a mom by letting them get away with it, but I hate cleaning bathrooms and I can’t stand to step foot in there. I feel sorry for their future spouses…

  • Boy’s bathrooms scare me and I don’t use them. I also don’t like how young boys clean and when we have company I clean the bathroom company will see myself, I’m fussy like that. Oh, I hate the smell of a rodent cage too.

  • Oh man! I wish I had your patience, but after seeing the final result of my kids cleaning their bathroom, and my older one almost puking as a result, I just throw in the towel and clean it myself!!

  • Ha. Oy.

    I’m no parent, but here are my three suggestions?

    (1) Give him one or two jobs and tell him that if they are up to YOUR standards, you will do the other jobs and let him choose the jobs.

    (2) Do it with him. Simultaneously. So maybe he’ll see what you mean by “clean.”

    (3) Start putting all your gross crap in his bathroom and see how long it take for him to get annoyed and clean it. Obviously don’t do this on the weeks you have people coming to visit.

    Ideas. I am always wrong about ideas though. Have fun. Feel better!

By Michelle


RSIH in your inbox