On a Friday night in September, a friend and I sat in Two-Two Chicken, eating chicken drumsticks like they do here in Korea, with a fork and a set of small clamps. It was while engaged in this rigorous form of dining that he and I began talking about my messy apartment and the connection it had with my ability to pick up women.
“What’s the state of your apartment?” he asked. “Would you be comfortable bringing a girl back there?”
“It’s all right,” I said, lying. My apartment was in a complete state of disarray. The floor was covered in socks and undershirts, the table in used tissues, and the bathroom floor in hair shed from multiple parts of my body. I had been using my soap dish as an ash tray, and had knocked the cigarette butts all over the place without picking them up. The same soggy noodles had been sitting in my sink for days. I would, in fact, not have been comfortable bringing a girl back there, unless maybe she was homeless.
My friend pulled some flesh off his chicken. “There you go,” he said. “You’re already mentally defeating yourself. If you don’t have a place to bring a girl back to, you can’t really believe you’re going to pull a girl tonight, now can you?”
I sipped my beer and mumbled, “It ain’t that bad…”
“But it isn’t good,” he said. “I read about this in a book. It’s called ‘The Clean Apartment Theory.’ For a guy to have confidence with women, he must have a place prepared to take them.”
Many hours later, I returned to my apartment alone. I looked at it and shook my head. If this was a metaphor for my confidence with women, I might as well have taken a vow of celibacy.
The next week I slaved away like Cinderella, dusting and sweeping and mopping until the place looked pretty pristine. I washed the socks, cleared the cigarette butts, and made a small wig from the hair, which I then sold to an ajima to cover her bald spot. When Saturday night rolled around, I set out as I normally did, happy the apartment was clean but skeptical that anything would come of it. I mean, I’d only changed my apartment. The bigger problems – my clothes, hair, head and body – were still present.
Now, I promise that this next part is true. To my shock and delight, I successfully brought a girl home that night. The Clean Apartment Theory – in its first application – had actually worked! In preparation for the next weekend, the apartment was cleaned again. Thoroughly. Low and behold, that Friday, I found myself sharing a cab home with an entirely different female. Could it be possible, I wondered, that in all these years talking to girls, the only thing I had to do was clean my place? That was the key to success?
“I just want to warn you,” I said for my own amusement, “my place is a little messy.” I wanted her to be blown away by the tidiness. Once we got there the girl looked around and said, “What are you talking about? This place is spotless.”
“Yes,” I said. “Oh yes it is.”
I didn’t know it then, but I had hit the zenith of The Clean Apartment Theory. For the next month and a half, no lovely set of eyes would see my sparkling place of living. No girl would share a cab home with me or wake up in my bed, filled with regret. Oh no. And through this stretch of failure, the apartment gradually began to regress. It fell into a routine – hell Monday-through-Thursday, freshly cleaned on the weekends. The state of my apartment depended entirely on my plans. If I wasn’t going out it would go back to being messy. Or, as I thought of it, normal.
But although the shine of the theory has lessened, I’ve still made a vow to keep my place nice. The Clean Apartment Theory isn’t about having a well-prepared lair. Instead it’s about creating a feeling of control and responsibility, of adulthood and competency. The Theory makes me face the question, “What kind of person would you be if you could keep an apartment clean ALL of the time?” A better one, I think, especially if done out of discipline, and not just to create an illusion for a random girl, whose own apartment might not say so much about her.