If by the end of this, I have your sympathy, then I have truly failed. This is not a plea for help. Sometimes you just have to be willing to think out loud. Explore an idea. It was, once again, the girl pants that started it all.
The originals. The black ones of the stretchy corduroy. I found them in the bottom of the black pants drawer. I couldn't remember the last time they'd been worn. I put them on and couldn't believe how comfortable (and hot!) they were. Why had they been relegated from my bottom to the bottom of the drawer for so long? No answer forthcoming, I wore them to work. I mostly work nights, and all night I reveled in the pants. Not until the sun rose did I know. In the parking lot, as I fished the car key from the shallow pocket, I noticed several faults in the coloration that are absolutely invisible under anything but the sun. A bizarre red area. A bit of worn, inexplicable blue. The discoloration is as unmistakable as it is inexplicable. They reverted to perfection in the shadow of the car's interior, but the reason the pants had been in exile remained clear.
My penchant for cleanliness is well known. OK, it's more of a need than a penchant. My family would say it's more of a mad, Hitleresque regime of perfection that rules the house to the chagrin of all who dwell therein. But I think that's an exaggeration. I'm a neatnik. I prefer order to chaos. Tidiness to clutter. Am I a freak for recognizing civilization's reasonable decree that a toilet be as springtime fresh as it is winter white?
That said, I have to admit that not being able to even think in my house when it is cluttered or in need of a good vacuum might be slightly beyond the pale. And lying in wait to catch the person who can't seem to keep their foul fingerprints off my stainless steel fridge might not be the best use of my time.
"Aha! So it's been YOU all along!"
"It has a handle for a reason! The handle is fingerprint proof. Use it!"
"I just wanted something to drink."
On the other hand, I'm sure this conversation takes place all over America a thousand times a day. Someday I'll have one of those new titanium fridges that doesn't accept fingerprints. Until then, I suppose I'll just have to keep the Windex stocked and ready.
But cleanliness is easy--totally rooted in a desire for a better world. And I don't call other people slobs or tell them how messy their houses are, I am not germ-phobic, so there is obviously no reason for concern.
Until you consider the tag problem. I wish people would either put them down or cut them out. There was a girl at the Salvation Army whose tag was sticking out. I approached her to mention it, but she turned to explore the jeans, and as it turns out she was kind of beautiful. I realized that she might take my interest in her tag as an interest in her time. I turned to make my purchase. But I had to stop, and turn around, just to see if she had, by some miracle, noticed the tag and put it down. She hadn't. I decided on the only sane course of action: Sneak up on her and see if I could fold the tag in without her noticing. I'd be doing her a favor, right? I'm sure many of you would have done the same. But she was too wily. She kept turning and shifting. I think after a while she thought I was following her or something, because she looked at me funny. If she could have focused for just a second, she would have heard me say "your tag is sticking out." But she turned away and I ended up just mouthing the words. To my credit, I accepted that it was a complex situation that wasn't about to be resolved, and I moved on.
I also have car problems. I realize: when I change lanes on the freeway, I am bitterly disappointed if I cannot do so without touching one of those bumpy things. I have pulled over to clean specks off the dashboard. I almost crashed reaching for a candy wrapper on the passenger side floor (which would have made it into a proper receptacle if not for the breeze.) I have repeatedly pulled over at car washes to vacuum the car.
When I go to the cinema, popcorn is a guilty pleasure, as long as I grab a napkin on the way in and stop at the drinking fountain to moisten it. Without a wet nappy to clean the quality butter flavored alternative from my fingertips, I'd have to smuggle in a rubber glove with which to eat the popcorn. Either that or just get up and go wash my hands when the small or medium bag is done.
Sometimes I am late because my jacket or my jeans or my shirt or my shoes, or the combination of said elements, isn't quite right. And even as I panic a little about being late, I cannot leave the house until I can see the clothes and say: "This I must wear." And I keep telling myself "Just leave! it's fine! THEY'RE JUST CLOTHES!" But then my brain tells me, "The perfect jacket is the next one you try on." Three times in the last year I left work to buy a shirt, because the one I had worn wasn't quite right, and home is too far away.
For a long while, when a drinking fountain featured a tall one for adults and a short one for the kids, I couldn't just take a drink from one and ignore the other. It had to be both. Sometimes one, then the other, and then the other again, just to make sure. Sure of what, I really couldn't say.
I'll stop there, because to list all the details would take pages and pages. Let it suffice to say that working for County Mental Health, I became acutely aware of the implications of some of these tendencies. So special steps were taken. I made it a point to ignore the bathroom sink until my slob family let it fall into a state of abject filth before hitting it with the Windex. I took one long drink from the tall fountain and walked away. I would ignore my coworker's tag for a good half an hour before taking the scissors to it. I would eat the dark chocolate M&M's in whatever order they fell. Even the brown ones.
But during this period of self intervention, I had failed to pull out The Pants, and put them on, and wear them in the bright light of day, just to say I could. So here it goes. I don't wear them to prove anything. There's nothing to prove. Because I'm fine.
They say that when an Indian woman is weaving a blanket, she weaves a flaw into it, to let the soul out. This is a beautiful assessment of what it means to be human. Or it's insane, or just a great way to cover up an obvious gaff in order to sell more blankets. Whatever it means, it's a great little mantra to keep uttering to myself every time the sun highlights the discolored patch, the dashboard dust, the fleck on the carpet, that other drinking fountain, the tags all over the world, the stray hairs, the cat dander, the clutter, the disorder, the filth, the fowl, the fake, the fools, the fat, the fray, the . . .