If you’re new to the blog and don’t know me very well in real life, you’re probably getting an overly rosy picture of how great my life is and how much fun I am to live with. Wow, that allyenz. She’s always making these cool crafts with her kids, and she takes them to school on a sled. If she and her husband are not out on the town going to parties and hanging out with locally famous people and hearing live music, they are having just as much fun at home, watching Bewitched and cracking up at the kids’ antics and they never argue. If her life is a highway, I wanna ride it all night long. . .
I need to come clean about some of this. I’m actually kind of a pain in the ass. You’d really more want to run me over with your car most of the time. I know, you’re thinking well, everyone is a pain in the ass when you have to live with them, and it’s true. Many days I don’t want to live with me, so why would anyone else? And yet, I’ll bet you still want to hear about the specifics, of the Tolstoy/Anna Kareninaesque specific ways in which I am challenging to live with, right? That’s what we’re doing here, in part, sharing our flaws so we can all feel better about the fact that we’re not the only ones. Some of you have lived with me and already know this, but I’m telling it to the rest of the readers who might have this misperception that I’m always light and breezy and easy going and fun. (Didn’t that kind of sound like some kind of feminine protection ad? Also a bunch of lies, you know. Nothing light and breezy and white pants about any of it.)
It is March 12, now, and I just this week finally cleaned up the valentine making mess off of the dining room table. You might be thinking, well your husband lives there too, so he could have done it, right? Wrong. Because no one gets to touch a scrap of paper in this household and make an executive decision about it except for me. It looks like bossy and control freakish on the outside (which it is), but the underlying thing is that I’m clearly on the OCD continuum somewhere, because I don’t even allow him to touch the junk mail before I’ve had a chance to review it.
Isn’t it obvious that I might need to look at that Ulta Beauty ad, even though I never have and never will set foot in that store? ( Is it even a real store? Or just an ad?) Maybe they have some interesting new products I would want to buy at one of the stores I do go to, like Target. Or Costco. Or Target. I don’t know what I’m thinking I’m gonna miss. I think that’s the root of OCD, isn’t it, fear that you will miss something important? (One of my therapists from long ago helped me to distill some of my misguided behavior down to “a need to complete,” hence the nervous talking thing. It all must be said. You couldn’t tell, could you?)
And the bad thing is that I so often get positive reinforcement for my thoroughness with the direct mail marketing, nearly always finding some little gem that compels me to want to read each and every little insert. Just this week I came across an ad telling me that the Old Country Buffet now has Mongolian Stir Fry (made fresh for you!) which was important to send to my lunch friend as we exchanged our life-saving (for me) string of 600 emails to plan our next outing. (After ruling out many, many viable options, we have narrowed it down to just a few. Or one.
But there is still time to change our minds again. We did finally decide on Matt’s. Just got back.)
My old next door neighbor had OCD pretty bad, and when he was cleaning out the house after his mother died, I would find him back there in the alley, newspapers spread out on the top of the garbage bin like it was his desk, carefully flipping through each page of each section, scanning first the left side, now the right side, flip, scan . . . flip, and then when he reached the end of the section, he would scan the back page, fold the top half back down onto the bottom half, lining up the corners, lift the lid, and neatly drop the completed section into the bin. Check. And I am just OCD enough to be bothered not so much by the fact that he is spending a perfectly lovely spring morning standing by a gross brown garbage receptacle pretending to enjoy reading newspapers from 1984 or 1997 or 2006 or (does it really matter if it’s not from this past week?), but by the fact that he was not even recycling them! And the recycling bin was sitting right there!
Even worse, I’m also a control freak who happens to have a good deal of psychological training and a keen desire to examine other people’s motives, so if Said Husband were exhibiting this same bizarre behavior (i.e. giving undue attention to the reviewing and sorting of the direct mail marketing flyers/ads/junk mail–not the reading old newspapers in the alley part, which is so much worse, right? Right?) I would try to sit him down and talk about it and uncover the flawed reasoning/emotion behind it so he could put a stop to this nonsense. But he is not judgey like that, so he just says Okay. Whatever. The mail and all paper in the household is yours. Plus he also has good boundaries, and knows he is my husband not my therapist, so why would he take on the futile task of trying to enlighten me about anything? That is totally her shit, and thank god it’s not mine. (Plus, bonus, because who likes being in charge of the mail and bills anyway?)
And, just to bring my pain-in-the-ass-ness to an even more annoying level, if the paper piles around the house start to feel overwhelming, I will sometimes act all put out that I am the only one around here that ever deals with the mail and the bills and the kids’ school papers and artwork and stuff. (Therapists call this type of client “help-rejecting complainer.”) So my husband might step in once in a while if I’m complaining too much, and make a genuinely well-intentioned covert effort to deal with the heaps of paper and when I discover last month’s Southwest Journal or the Cub Foods ad in the recycling bin before I’ve reviewed them, depending on which particular week it happens to be in the lunar cycle, I might a) be genuinely grateful and thank him or b) be slightly miffed about the possibility that I have missed out on the 40% off coupon for JoAnn’s, but just let it go because who is the adult here? or c) completely snap and say, “You might think you’re doing me a favor by throwing out all the coupons and stuff, but who put you in charge of the world? Could you just let me decide one thing for myself?!”
Why do I do this? Why do I clip coupons and never use them? I carry them around in my purse and they are there like a constant reminder of the nearing expiration dates and the slow steady hand of time forever sweeping us closer to our fate/death. They are a quiet anxious voice whispering to me each time I approach a checkout lane, You know you have a coupon for that . . . somewhere in that mess you call a wallet . . . which is a giant metaphor for your brain . . . I don’t want to be one of those annoying people who holds up the checkout line digging for the coupons (unless I’m having a really crappy day, then it might be my passive-aggressive go-to, who knows?) so sometimes I just give up and let them expire in there like the leftovers in the fridge you’re never going to eat but feel too guilty to throw away until they are molding. But I get credit for knowing this about myself, right? (Only if you act on that knowledge, is what my husband would probably say. But I didn’t ask him.) Was that whole paragraph one sentence? It kind of felt like that to me. And I didn’t even mean to talk about coupons. (Nervous talking thing, need to complete, blah blah blah.)
Another reason I am a pain in the ass to live with is that I only clean when other people are around to witness it and thank me. I could theoretically be cleaning all day long, instead of writing blog posts and looking up the guitar tabs to songs I want to learn or other things that seem important at the time, but I wait, because I would like some appreciation for how much I do around here, and frankly you can’t really usually tell the difference when I’ve cleaned/picked up or not cleaned/picked up (see cleaning with a toddler in the room) so I need eyewitnesses in order to get the credit.
[Ed. comment: You could probably skip this paragraph if you happen to be eating or something.] By the way, several weeks ago I had to plunge the toilet because the kindergartener put half a roll of Angel Soft down there (while still somehow, inexplicably, failing to wipe thoroughly, judging from the skidmarks in the Batman Legos undies) so I had to plunge, but first fish the poop out of the toilet with a plastic baggie “glove.” Lovely.
There were no witnesses for that one (which is probably why I am telling you about it) but I didn’t really want witnesses, because it is just this sort of thing the kindergartener will blurt out when I am having a nice getting-to-know-you-chat with another parent at school. (“My mom scooped poop out of the toilet this morning with her bare hand!” “Well, no, honey I actually did use a baggie, but . . . oh, never mind. Well anyway. About that playdate . . .”) But you can be sure my husband heard the blow-by-blow about it after work, and looked at me like Why are you telling me this? (Aren’t you supposed to be greeting me at the door with a gin & tonic? On a tray? With snacks?) Is it not obvious? Because not only do I want credit for the plunging, I want extra credit for the poop scooping.
I don’t know, maybe I’m too hard on myself. Maybe we all want recognition for our efforts. Maybe pride in a job well done just isn’t enough for many of us.
I feel like this section needs a better ending, but I’m kind of done with it.
What should we talk about next? Here are our choices. This is going to be quick because
it’s almost time for my lunch date (back from my lunch date, still editing. Just finish!!), which I’m excited about, but I also just feel really behind (just hit publish!). I have posts drafted on all of these different topics. Maybe we should put it out for a vote? That has been working really well for my lunch group, putting it out to six people for everyone to weigh in with an opinion about where to go and what kind of food to eat. Super efficient, and democratic. So let’s have everyone vote on what my next topic should be.
1. Should we do a craft? St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, or April Fool’s Day craft/jokes/pranks? Sprinkle green glitter in the toilets like a leprechaun “just went”? The kindergarteners love this kind of thing!
2. Take a walk through my (Girl Scout) scrapbook and revisit the big arena concerts I attended in the 70s and 80s?
3. Tasty after-school-snack-making with the kindergartener–Frito Boats filled with Grape Nerds. Yum! And how this quickly leads to a serious-minded discussion of heaven and hell (not how you would have thought!).
4. Real Life Stories of visits to the E.R.: Leaning In To My Hypochondria.
5. Irony of the kindergartener/squirrel being phobic about skittish things and why Wild Rumpus is so nice to lock up the chicken when we visit.
6. How kindergarteners can talk for 20 minutes about a very pressing topic and get to the end of the conversation and ask for the definition of the topic and you realize they have no idea what you have been discussing for 20 minutes? None. Whatsoever.
7. Why the second grader has been left out of so many recent posts, while the kindergartener and his antics have monopolized?
8. We are the Bickersons: Why Home Improvement should never be a family affair?
9. Let’s Revisit Southdale circa 1965-1969. Was Tate’s Red Owl really attached, or was it over at the current Southdale Square? Remember the giant golden bird cage? The (Ponderosa?) steak house cafeteria? Woolworth’s pet store? The smell of the flower stand in the garden court? Getting free soft serve from the snack center where Cara worked (jumping ahead to circa 1980 now)? Except when her manager was there?
10. How much I love the early U2 but am afraid to expose the kindergartener to Bono, because Ringo and Mike Nesmith are just so much easier to live with, ego-wise?
If no one votes, I’ll just pick. Probably number three, because I already have the photo! (I just can’t figure out how to get it off of my phone! Does anyone know what iCloud is?)