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Thursday, May 19, 2005

A Few Strange Habits

Okay, I'll admit it, I'm a little idiosyncratic. Not Sandwiches Are The Devil Idiosyncratic, but I have my own neuroses. I must reunite infinitives that have been torn asunder by homewrecker adverbs. (Those whores.) Making tea, I always rinse out the mug with hot water before I add the tea bag and fill it. Must must must. I brush my teeth at work after lunch. (Well, that one's just good hygiene.) Ummmm....that's about it.

Maybe I'm not that idiosyncratic, after all.


Blogger Ann said...

Hooray for idiosyncracies! I have dozens, possibly hundreds, of little routines, all backed up by a concrete set of reasons.

For example, when I prepare my lunch, I always wash the apple first and dry it, then I rinse the mini carrots and wrap them in the towel to dry, then I fill my water bottle with Brita water. See, if I rinsed the carrots first, I would have no towel with which to dry the apple, and God forbid I take another one out of the cupboard. And if I filled my bottle with water before I rinsed the carrots, then I'd be sitting around doing nothing while I waited for the carrots to dry. So it must be apple, carrots, bottle. And I put the apple in my lunchbox first, followed by the sandwich that Jesse makes for me (on top of the apple), followed by the carrots, which fit in along the edge of the box.

Another example: When I fold facecloths (but I call them washcloths), the thick blue-and-white one always goes on the bottom, the slightly-less-thick dark blue one goes directly above it, followed by the green one and the medium-blue one and then the thin four or five light-blue ones on the very top. And I stack them so that the folded edges face forward (it looks neater), and the folded corners alternate (it makes the pile more balanced).

I have tons of these habits. The way I get up in the morning and prepare for bed at night. The way I fill a whole journal page instead of stopping in the middle. The order in which I open applications on my work computer in the morning. The way I always turn the car radio volume down to 10 and then switch the radio off entirely before I leave the car. The order in which I empty the dishwasher and put the dishes away. Almost everything I do on a daily basis is done according to some internalized, unconscious set of rules.

But I have never avoided sandwiches. That's just weird.

3:21 PM  
Blogger kStyle said...

Those are good ones! Maybe we should get "OCD Club" tee shirts. ;)

5:01 PM  
Blogger Ann said...

Rereading your post, I've always understood that your tea technique is exactly what you're supposed to do, because if you don't rinse the cup (or teapot) with hot water, the tea will cool more quickly.

Wouldn't it be amusing if other people adopted our (collective) idiosyncracies? I can just imagine someone thinking, "You know, maybe I should be more obsessed with the stacking of my washcloths."

5:53 PM  
Blogger kStyle said...

You're absolutely right, that is how you're supposed to make tea. (Also helps ensure that there is no dishwasher soap residue in your teacup.) It's plunged into Neurosisville, however, when you have to reign yourself in from asking a hostess offering tea to make sure she rinses your cup with hot water. For example.

I think it would be fantastic if a float fan club adopted our collective neuroses. What does it say that I was like, Hey, that's a pretty good washcloth system, and you were all, but hell, baby, you're supposed to rinse the teacup!

9:46 PM  
Blogger Emma Goldman said...

Wow--that's impressively obsessive, on both your parts. I thought I had my own little quirks, but I see now that I'm a rank amatuer and that both of you would shudder in horror at my carelessness and slothfulness. The funny thing about order, broadly construed, is that there are orders that make sense, i.e., that are functional in some direct, observable, perhaps even quantifiable way (subassemblies, people!), and there are orders that are more an attempt to keep the world at bay, i.e., that impose what appears to be order but that serve no larger function. It's also the case, though, that what falls into which category is going to be very difficult to ascertain, given that each of us has different notions of what needs to be kept at bay/in order.

9:21 AM  
Blogger kStyle said...

Interesting observation about order, Emma. I would argue that there used to be a lot more institutionalized order/rituals than there are now. For example, it seems my generation does not go to church as much as generations past. And in religion you get all these great little rituals. For example, myself being raised Catholic there was lots of saying amen, genuflecting, and making the sign of the cross. Not so much anymore that I don't go to Mass. I wonder, then, if perhaps there's some intrinsic human need for these little rituals--more pronounced in some people than in others--and whether if, without the opportunity to get it out in some sanctified way, one makes damn well sure that her teacup is rinsed.

9:57 PM  
Blogger kStyle said...

PS Emma, you might be pleased/relieved to hear that, despite my teacup-rinsing quirk, my condo is a total mess and we still haven't unpacked some boxes. We moved a year ago.

9:20 AM  
Blogger Eric said...

Though I'm still getting lambasted for my sandwich confession, herewith some more oddities and quirks from the Land of Eric:

1. I only pay for things with ten-dollar bills, which means I have to throw away the change.

2. For the first two weeks I know a woman, I call her Georgina.

3. I never use the same spoon twice. But I use the same fork twelve times in a row, then wash it, then twelve more times, leave it outside overnight, then twelve more times, then a new fork.

4. Each year on his birthday, I send Dick Clark a card and a photo of myself.

5. I keep a copy of Merleau-Ponty's "Phenomenology of Perception" in my glove compartment, on top of my registration but underneath my AAA card. Passages relevant to nighttime driving have been dog-eared.

6. Rubbing my earlobes makes the voices go away.

2:06 PM  
Blogger kStyle said...

The Dick Clark tradition is cute. Maybe I'll join in.

2:09 PM  
Blogger Ann said...

That's the thing about idiosyncracies: They're never consistent. My closets are disaster areas, and it has never bothered me. It's the things with which I must deal on a daily basis for which I have routines. (I think that sentence is grammatically correct...) Out of sight, however, out of mind.

I'm fascinated by the relationships between (in order of least to most manufactured) routine and order and tradition and ritual and ceremony. It isn't only religous rituals that are disintegrating; everything's turning from rules into choices. Gender roles, for example. Holidays. Workplace dress codes. Education. Whole personal identities.

I think it has a lot to do with commercialization. It's in businesses' best interests to expand consumer opportunities, to turn self-expression into a commodity, and that means they have to expand "lifestyle" opportunities. Instead of a limited range of practical products, the market is now made up of niches, some of which are no more than personality made tangible. You can't do that in a world that puts a lot of stock in rituals and ceremonies, which by definition expects everyone to subscribe to a particular set of beliefs.

I'm thinking, too, about the goal of equality. On the one hand, we don't need hierarchies and categories for rituals and ceremonies. On the other hand, most rituals and ceremonies involve hierarchies and categories. Religion is, of course, the big one, but think too about graduations, with the awards and student speakers acting as class representatives (via speeches) and seating arrangements and family celebrations and, in the case of college and grad school, commencement addresses by famous people (at mine, then-president Clinton). And the very institution of education changed dramatically when rules regarding segregation fell, so sometimes there are hierarchies even when they aren't necessary or even useful.

I get the impression that the kind of quirks mentioned in this post and comments are subtle examples of upper- and middle-class luxury. The busier you are, the less attention you pay to your habits, and the less it may matter. Ditto with psychological and physical diseases. You have other things to worry about.

2:58 PM  
Blogger Eric said...

As there has been some uncertainty about this, I note for the record that the items on my list are not, in fact, real quirks of mine. Just a little humor I was floating out there.

3:05 PM  
Blogger Ann said...

Eric, you don't literally throw away the change, do you? Because if you do, I'd be glad to send you a self-addressed stamped jar and postage for when it gets filled up.

3:06 PM  
Blogger Ann said...

Ha! You know, Eric, I was sitting here thinking, "My God, that is so freakin' weird, but maybe somebody thinks that about my washcloth thing, so maybe he's serious, and if he is serious, I don't want to offend him or anything, so I'm just going to choose to believe him, even though...he doesn't wash his forks until he's eaten twenty-four meals???"

I wish you were throwing out the money, though.

3:08 PM  
Blogger Eric said...

I swear that in my head as I was writing, all of it sounded very obviously unserious (particularly the Dick Clark one). But I think it's sweet of everybody to want to preserve my feelings, and keep to themselves the suspicion that I had gone mentally astray.

My actual quirks have more to do with taking out the garbage more often than is probably necessary, or making my books easy to locate by spine color, or, like Ann, starting up my computer applications in the same order every morning.

And then there is my staunch refusal to employ the Shuffle feature on my iPod, but as that is a long and principled rant, I shall save it for another time.

3:38 PM  
Blogger Emma Goldman said...

Well, this question was so interesting that I wrote about it, but kstyle doesn't have trackback, so I have to tell y'all about it here. and then Ann goes and writes a really interesting comment, which, personally, I think would make a nice addendum to what I was writing, so . . . I'll at least add a link to it, anyway.

3:49 PM  

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