Saturday, March 13, 2010

Obsess, much?

My husband doesn't have a lot of free time. When he has some, he loves to hike and backpack and camp, with our family or with his buddies. He loves to travel, and to spend time at the lake water skiing when it's warm. There are plenty of things he enjoys. But when he only has a few minutes to spend at a time on diversions? He only has one hobby: Obsession.

He chooses a topic (usually, something he wants to buy), and then exhausts every resource he can get his hands on to educate himself about it, until he knows "enough" to make an informed purchase.

Examples? Sure. I've got plenty. Projector and 96" screen in the basement? That took three years. Jeep, and all the associated accessories? Two years. Vacuum cleaners? I'm still waiting for that one to resolve. His obsession with washing machines was accelerated by necessity, but no less intense than his serious interest in treadmills, lawn mowers, digital cameras, laptops, under-cabinet task lighting for our kitchen, garage floor sealants, minivans (also borne out of necessity), hardwood mulch, and reproductively-beneficial nutritional supplements (IVF, remember?).

He reads "Consumer Reports" more than his scriptures. (Kidding.) (Sort of.)

He does not have a monopoly on idiosyncratic behavior. I counted yesterday, after reading Steph's post, and I have 99 books (including library books) stacked up next to my bed. (I am completely willing to post that list on this blog if anyone is interested. Any takers? No? I didn't think so. But it is a REALLY interesting list.) They are not on a shelf (although, they are separated into fiction and non-fiction, then alphabetized), just stacked next to the wall. I gaze at them fondly with greater regularity than I would freely admit, because I. Love. Books. I cannot stop. My name is InkMom and I am a Biblioholic.

I also cannot sleep if my sheets are not tucked tightly at the bottom. (This caused problems early in our marriage. CPod -- all 6'5" of him -- adapted nicely.) In the shower, I always start with my hair and make my way down, and if I forget a step, it pains me if I don't have time to start over.

When I'm trying on clothes, the outfit never looks quite right until I've tilted my head to the right. (MommyJ shares this quirk. When we were growing up, the full-length mirror in our room cut off your head, and if you wanted to get an idea of the whole package, you had to tilt.)

My love for words is near-pathological. I collect them like trinkets and try them on for size often, until they become a permanent part of my repertoire. This has spawned a need to correct any and all improper usage I encounter in a way that is, I'm sure, terribly annoying to all who have experienced my supercilious oldest-child compulsion to make everything RIGHT.

Admittedly, I have let a lot of things go since having children: the towels don't have to be folded a certain way, though I'm happier if they are (after all, they must fit in the cabinet), and while my cleaning regimen might seem a little over-the-top to some (MommyJ), I'm much more flexible than I used to be, and it works for me.

I could go on. There is a certain member of my family who, for a period of time in his early childhood, would not wear pants that touched his legs. Thank goodness for the eighties God-sent trend of parachute pants. He also wouldn't wear socks with lumps, or shirts with tags, and the milk in his cereal bowl had to come to RIGHT HERE or he wouldn't eat it. We all have our little tics.

And that is why I am not surprised to already note idiosyncrasies in my children. ConMan's handwashing needs have become so intense that we have trained him add lotion to the regimen; otherwise, his little fair-and-delightsome hands become so dry it's painful -- but still not painful enough to curb his conviction that there are germs on his hands. (I think I blame this one on his germophobe preschool. Seriously.)

G-Dog, like his mama, can't sleep if his covers aren't tucked in tightly next to the wall. And, he, like his daddy, exhausts us with a machine-gunfire barrage of questions on topics ranging from the nature of God to what kind of sticks birds use to build nests to how kaleidoscopes work. (I know, Mom. I'm getting what I deserved, after famously asking questions like, "Do mosquitoes have blood?")

Last week, Miscellany visited our beloved pediatrician for her 4-month check-up. As Dr. H. examined Little Girl, MayDay kept scaling the exam table like a climbing wall. Once atop the table, he made his way across, behind the baby, towards the counter holding the baby scale, a sink, and a wall-mounted sharps container.

He was persistent, but so was I. Each time he climbed up, I put him back on the floor. Finally, as he climbed once again toward the scale, I took his little face in my hands and asked him, "MayDay, what are you trying to do?" He glanced significantly at the infant scale on the counter next to him. I followed his gaze and suddenly, clarifyingly, knew exactly what had fueled his compulsion.

I pushed the weights on the scale back over the zero-point, and my little, chip-off-the-old block control freak sighed, and said, "Oooohh, thank you, Mommy!"

Sadly, I completely understood. And I am now, more than ever, convinced that the reason more people haven't been officially diagnosed with one psychiatric disorder or another is, quite simply, because we haven't asked.

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  1. Oh the giggles this post inspired! Partly because we have some similar oddities, and partly because it got me thinking about mine and those of the people I'm closest too.

    I'm sure I would have more though, if weren't for the fact I'm far too lazy to indulge in the compulsive behaviours that come knocking at my psyche. Myeh...maybe later, I respond. And turn back to my book.

  2. I don't understand how you can wear pants that don't touch your legs. Hmmmm.

    I have to have something on or over my feet when I sleep either socks or the blankets have to cover them.

  3. oh, same about the sheets...I had to learn to make the bed with the sheets tucked in on my side only, since the husband is 6'7".

    Did you know they came that tall? **snicker

    The Damsel in Dis Dress

  4. Our husband were probably sidekicks in the pre-existence. Seriously.

    I'm sure I have quirks, but I don't know what they are. I'll have to ask Matt.

    Thank you SO much for all your book recommendations. I'm excited to start reading them!

    Oh, and Natalie won't go to sleep until her pink blanket is laid smoothly across her, cool side up, arms under, with the edge tucked directly under her chin.

  5. Um--I want your booklist. Thanks, I'll expect it shortly.

    I understand the lumpy-socks (plus the shoes-must-be-triple-tied-as-tightly-as-humanly-possible-and-pants-must-be-tight-at-the-waist-but-not-the-knees-and-I-won't-go-on-but-you-get-the-picture) obsessions. Well, no, I don't understand in the slightest. But I'm learning to deal with a child with such obsessions. Perhaps he needs a more understanding mother. Do you want another boy?

  6. Books. Really my only obsession.

    But sometimes I wish I had more. It might make my life a more sane place to be.

    (I loved the scale story!)

  7. When we moved to Puerto Rico 12 years ago, my husband began a quest for the perfect cooler. We now own something like 9 coolers, and none have been that Holy Grail which would finally give him the peace he seeks.

    I was surprised at how many people commented on my blog about not being able to climb into an unmade bed...until I realized I was the same way! I don't make it in the morning, but I do pull up all the covers and then pull them down again before I get in!

    And my music obsessions are insane: I play a single line of music - maybe something I've heard on TV or even a ringtone - on both hands, in all twelve keys. Just wiggle my fingers, over and over again. If I'm holding hands with my husband, he's learned to ask, "What are you playing?" because I'm playing it on his knuckles!!

  8. My BIL is an obsessive product researcher, too. He also happens to be a magical deal finder, so asking him for advice leads to well informed, inexpensive purchases. Nice of my sister to marry him just for my consumer needs.

    I don't keep all my to-read books in the house or I would never stop reading (not even to eat or shower) but my list is over 100 long right now.

    I wish my kids quirks dealt with cleanliness and orderliness. Theirs' are more about chaos and noise.

    Speaking of "ticks" my word verification is "tocks." Weird, huh?

  9. Now I understand the title to your blog! JK - but what silly things we have to have and do sometimes to make our world right...and for your baby to be starting so early. He's a prodigy! Cute post...

  10. Oh my gosh, our husbands would get along so well. My husband does the SAME thing. It took years to buy our car, because he had to read every review on every website and every issue of consumer reports. And then he'll move on to his next kick for a while.

    They could get together and discuss Consumer Reports (and scriputres) while we talk about your pile of books. (I'd love to know what you're reading...)

    Of course, I have plenty of crazy things myself, so I'm not complaining. :)

  11. I agree- don't ask.
    But I would also like to know what books you have stacked up.

  12. I thoroughly enjoyed this post! I refer to our different habits as "quirky".

    I share your husband's obsession with researching products, and I also am obsessed with getting the best deal! My husband is like this too. At least he generally trusts my purchases as a result.

  13. I am with your husband! If we are going to spend our hard-earned dollars on a product, it needs to be a great value and last for years! I have researched cars, grills, shoes, juicers, paint, computers, dog breeds, and the list goes on.

    However, if it gets out of hand there is an herb called "cats claw" that works well for OCD's, LOL!

  14. I think your husband and my husband are long lost twins. He does the exact same thing, only unlike you I haven't developed patience for it.

  15. Mmmm....I think that research-the-purchase obsession is a total man gene. It comes attached to the Y chromosome, I'm sure of it.

    And me? Well, the last time I counted the books on my nightstand...and totaled 117!

    I also ditto the head tilt, word fetish, morning regimen, and towel folding as well as the compulsive need to correct other people's errors (oldest child here too).

    Gratefully, cleaning is not one of my obsessions.

  16. I so want to steal some of these quirks for future characters.

    I had OCD when I was a kid which resolved when my dad's health improved, but I remember some of the strange things I had to do. Now I only have compulsions when I'm stressed out and Kenny just prays I don't get stressed out because my quirks are so arbitrary it makes his head spin. My poor, patient, lovely man.

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  18. I don't know about you, but your sister does tilt her head when she looks in a mirror. I'm so glad to finally understand why!

    There isn't anything wrong with being obsessive. My obsessions keep me sane.

    Kelly B.

  19. Yup, it must be the male gene 'cause my hubers has it too. My whole family knows that if they're in the market for anything gagdety to call him, he'll have the low-down on it all.

  20. Just discovered your blog. I enjoyed this post immensely. I'm pretty sure we must be related, as I doubt that we could have so much in common otherwise. Obsession is a commonly used word in my family. OCD has to start somewhere, right?

  21. I too have many OCD friends of varying degrees, and have been touched by it myself. When it comes to making a purchase, I have often missed special purchases by overly procrastinating. So now try and keep myself in check much more these days. Live for the moment.


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