Friday, August 10, 2012

Men are from Ugh. Women are from Neatness

One of my favorite Neal Simon plays is "The Odd Couple". I haven't acted in it yet, but I think I could still pull off a good Oscar Madison if I lost a little weight and put some color back in my hair.

Damn!  Now that I've summoned it, the ubiquitous theme song has lodged itself in my brain.  I expect it to follow me around, dropping sandwich wrappers in my path and blowing cigar smoke in my face all day.  The only way I can get rid of a song once it jams in my head is to replace it with another one.  Then I'm stuck with that tune until it in turn is replaced, or it gets bored with itself and falls asleep when I'm not looking.  However once I realize there is no brain tune playing, it wakes up again once I wonder where it went.  You don't want my head. It's noisy in there.

Since the dawn of sapiens, we have been social beasts. The larger the group, the easier we find it to get along. Owing to the concept of security in numbers, it was simply easier for Ugh to blame someone else, like Wug, for the mess Ugh made.  It was much later, after we started splitting off into monogamous pairs, when we had to own up to our own failings. There's something to be said about how we as self-realized beings adapt to our surroundings to cope, or not to cope with changes.  But when it comes to dealing with the other-than-me on our lives some of us are more adept than others..

Using the Oscar-Felix unity as a template, I can apply it to the relationship my wife and I enjoy in our so-far 29-year experiment in co-habitation.  There are all sorts of things a guy like me needs to learn when he pairs up with a not-me who happens to practice Neatism. Neatism is, as it sounds, a borderline obsession with arranging everything in alphabetical order if it has a label, by height if not, by color if available, and everything is hidden away from sight thereby eliminating "Clutter".  “Clutter” is bad.  Neat is good.

Before entering into the state of Romantic Co-habitation; as far as I was concerned, vacuum cleaners were for people who had shedding animals in the house, and they were w-a-y-y too noisy -- the vacuums that is -- not necessarily the animals.  In my pre Co-habitation world, there were no English words for: the Black Stuff that Grows in the Shower, the Green Stuff that Grows in the Refrigerator, the White Stuff that Grows in the Coffee Mug, or the Brown Stuff that Replaced the Orange and Yellow Stuff that Used to Smell Good. I didn't see a need to name them.  I have no stronger excuse.

But, things are different now, my education has been intense. To begin with, my wife knows the words for all of these things. I'm not certain they are the actual scientific names for the aforementioned fungi, but they are sufficiently descriptive nouns nonetheless.  I bow to her creativity.

When I was young, I had been taught: "There's a time and a place for everything."  In later life, I took that to include such things as the white stuff in the coffee mug.  Not so for the Neatist. (I coined this word myself.)  For the Neatist, the time is always "Now" and the place is predefined by the Master Plan.  If it is not in the Neatist’s Master Plan, there is no place for it.  Exceptions can be made if I petition for special dispensation for certain, unlisted treasures; but the wait can be long for an answer and the space allotment is usually small.  Essentially, I have three desk drawers, one third of one closet, a dresser, the cargo space of my 2006 Matrix, and a cigar box in which to store my 60-some years of personal life's accumulation of touchstones; along with and among the various and sundry components of my modest wardrobe.

Which brings me to this: before our partnership, I wouldn't have dreamed that there was a correct way to hang shirts in the closet, except that the hook came out where the neck would be and the wide part went into the arm hole at the shoulders.  I thought I got points for hanging them in the closet at all.  No. They must face East.  I don't know if it is a sacred alignment for Neatists or not, but they must face East.  I have also learned to embrace the Mystical Trifold of the Towels.  I'm not permitted to explain further. Just know it is the Right Way.  And don't get me started on the Quadruple Flex with a Twist trick with underwear.  I never mastered it and she won't even let me try it anymore.

All these things I learned from my wife as we have traveled on our road together.  And I must admit I was beginning to get the hang of stuff like the order of the Things that Go Under the Sink, when the entire dynamic changed.  Our Daughter arrived.  No longer does our household provide succor for the Neatist. Nature has seen fit to provide for the Child.

...And Ugh has someone to blame for his mess again.

Cue that ubiquitous theme music....

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