My Aunt Lulu tells the story of how as a child – she babysat me – I would line up her spice bottles as though they were in formation for war. I played quietly and then I would put them back into the spice cabinet. She tells this at family gatherings every time, and I haven’t the heart to tell her it was the first sign of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. She found it endearing that I had a penchant for war and played well alone, and I found it relieving that her spice cabinet was neat and orderly.
In high school, my room was always immaculately clean and upon the first foot on the floor in the morning, bed made with militant-tucked corners. I never wore clothes more than once before it was separated, colors or whites, into the hamper. I would get nervous at the sight of a few dishes in mom’s sink, and as the dishes crept to plentiful the seething would begin. That was the trigger to which all the guns in the world were pulled…dishes in a sink turned to uneven pep-rally banners on the halls. How could a cheerleader, perfectly poised and coiffed, be such a symmetrical slob? The devil is in the details, which sometimes makes it impossible to not feel superior.
College was the first time I felt…neurotic. There weren’t people around that I had grown up with and due to lack of a large population, had to like me. People from all walks of life, backgrounds as diverse as the next, out of step with mine. If you have a therapist confirm that you’re a number in their manual then you can get the university to let you room alone, so there I was in Wentz Hall at Oklahoma State University alone with an abnormally long twin-sized bed. When left to your own devices, as a perfectly capable OCD person, you begin to create some intriguing patterns. It didn’t take long, holed up in that dorm, until I was trying to convince my mom that I needed…no NEEDED a futon.
“Why do you need a futon when you have a perfectly good bed?” She would ask.
“Mom, the bed is too long is makes me feel like I’m a short loser because I’m not here on a basketball scholarship.”
“Well that’s just ridiculous, Lisa. You’re crazy.”
“Well duh, mom, that’s why I need a futon to sleep on.”
Once the futon arrived, I never slept on that bed again. Truth be told, I had come down with a fear of wrinkles. I needed a place for people to sit when they visited – the couple of dorky musicians that were teaching me guitar, which I never learned anyway – because I couldn’t relax while they sat on the bed, moving their bodies and creating giant wrinkles. Eventually, I couldn’t stop thinking about wrinkles and under no circumstance could someone sit on my bed. None. I was spending too much time straightened wrinkles of the abnormally long twin bed and less time studying, so once I eliminated guests and sleeping on it altogether the wrinkle obsession failed to exist.
Fast forward to New York City. I know what you’re thinking, how can someone like you – a small-town girl – live like that. To the normal folk like you (let’s face it the only people to read this blog are my hometown peeps) it would make you shudder at the waves of people crashing into you, but to the crazies like me…it’s like redemption. You see, there’s a process you go through in New York that most Californians call soulless, but we call it desensitized. For someone like me, this ‘desensitization’ was very much-needed. I was, now, normal. I could walk among a crowd – worry free of wrinkles, symmetry, and others I won’t detail here – and just feel secure via eavesdropping…these people are nucking futs. Here I was thinking I was bat shit crazy because a wrinkle set me off into a flustered-state of organizing, but these people have real problems like peeing in streets or fighting each other over parking spaces. For all intent and purposes, New York City swallowed me up like a fine wine.
Ten years later – married, living in Jersey, moving up the corporate ladder by day, writing novels by night, and getting an MBA in between, my fear of wrinkles downgraded to more of a pet peeve (as we – yuppies – call it to sound normal). My mom contributes to my superiority complex of details by supporting that ‘making the bed is just plain good housekeeping,’ and New York City street-strolling has become more of an exorcism of my apparently new agoraphobia. The good news is I’m no longer soulless.