Member Musings: Carole J. Greene

Member Musings features the reflections and thoughts of an NPC member.

Disordered Thinking

Carole J. Greene

Maybe it’s something that happens with age. Possibly, the drinking water’s at fault. There’s even a chance I caught it from someone, like the flu. Or perhaps it’s inherited—I’ll have to check with my mother. Whatever the cause, I am falling victim to obsessive-compulsive disorder!

For most of my life, I hardly noticed things that NOW have taken on tremendous importance. Are the bed pillows propped against the headboards at exactly the right angle? Are they positioned with the pillowcase seam at the bottom, hidden from view against the comforter? Are the towels properly aligned on the rack? Do their folds go to the outside, and the hems to the inside? Is the soap dish clean, free of that yucky residue that can collect over repeated latherings?

What has happened to me? I spend a lot of time these days straightening, aligning, positioning, scouring. Where is the young woman who could go for days—make that weeks—without making her bed? In those days, after a shower, I’d throw the towel in the general direction of the rack. If it stuck, fine. If it fell in a heap on the floor, that was okay too. Yuck in the soap dish? Through much of my early life, I didn’t even bother with a soap dish. Leaving the bar in the bottom of the sink worked for me. When I needed it, I knew right where to look.

Then I got married. I should have expected trouble. Before the marriage, I’d been in my mother-in-law’s home often enough to know she was a neatnik. What I didn’t realize until it was too late was that she’d reared her son the same way. I knew he liked to look neat, that his car was always spotless, the money in his wallet arranged right side up, in order of value, with the heads of presidents to the front. Who knew that he would expect me to copy his extreme habits?

I did the best I could. I learned to make the bed five seconds after I hopped out of it. Towels somehow found their way to the rack, even if they weren’t perfectly aligned. (My hubby saw to that.) When fragrant liquid soaps in pump dispensers and bottles of gel for the shower were invented, I rejoiced, forever liberated from soap-dish scraping. It wasn’t enough, however, to save the marriage.

After the divorce, I found myself creeping back toward old habits. Bed-making became a once-in-awhile chore, not a daily one. I found I liked the look of a bath towel dramatically draped over the side of the tub—even if it didn’t smell fresh the next time I used it. I admit I continued to use the liquid soap dispensers; they helped to hide my natural inclination toward slobbiness. I figured the time I saved by not doing meaningless chores I could devote to more worthwhile pursuits, like reading the classics, listening to opera CDs or writing humor.

The “light bulb of understanding” just switched on! It’s not my age, or the water or even a bug that‘s going around. I won’t have to ask Mother if obsessive-compulsive disorder runs in the family. I know exactly where my obsessive behavior comes from: I got married again—to a man who prefers imported bar soaps to pump dispensers and shower gels. That’s how all this OCD stuff started—when I first cleaned the yuck out of his soap dish.

[Written 20 years ago—but still true. Mostly. CJG]

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