Super freak

I recently watched the entire first season of Hoarders. I don't have cable, so my television viewing selections are spotty and bizarre -- I will watch things that appear on Netflix Instant Access even if they're terrible or depressing, or, in the case of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, make me want to set fire to myself for being a liberal. Why I don't just get cable if I'm going to spend so much time streaming terrible television on the internet is complex. When I first moved to LA I could barely afford food, so I made the Difficult Grown-Up Decision to skip cable. After my first year in the city I was doing a little better financially, but by then I had discovered how much other stuff I could get done if I didn't have the temptation of zoning out in front of the TV for hours, so I decided to see if I could go without cable just a while longer. And now here I am, five years later, the kind of pain-in-the-ass pseudo-intellectual snot who constantly says things like "Oh, I've never seen The Real Housewives of Dubai, but last night I did read The Age of Innocence for the sixteenth time."

Not having TV is kind of like being a vegan: the only real pleasure you can derive from it is the joy of being a smug, condescending jerk. I think I hate it most when everyone but me discusses Top Chef at a social occasion or when I don't have anything to put on while cooking a complex dinner or painting my toenails. Time-Warner sends me these increasingly desperate mailers all the time offering me discounts and free equipment and bundled rate packages and black market kidneys, but they're missing the point. All it would take would be one flier that read, "You could be watching the Food Network while folding your laundry TOMORROW," and I'd break down sobbing and begging for their forgiveness.

But I was originally talking about Hoarders--really, go back and check!--because after watching the first season of the show, I think I might be one. Sort of. I'm a compulsively neat person, which I blame on my father, who systematically instilled his OCD in me over the years to the point that I literally cannot focus on work if there is a single stray item on my desk. I feel mentally disordered when things are disordered. If I want to spend the evening relaxing, I will spend the afternoon cleaning, because how can I truly relax when there are stains on the white kitchen floor OMG. A couple of weeks ago Henry went out of town, and the first thing I did was clean the whole apartment. That evening a friend came over and asked, "Is your place usually this clean?" "No," I said, then crowed triumphantly, "But it will be for the next four days!" See, cohabitation has taught me that you cannot control everything and that nagging your boyfriend about such egregious sins as leaving a receipt on the counter for more than twelve seconds will not improve your relationship, so now I wait until I have the apartment to myself to get my ya-yas out. So NORMAL, right? SO WELL ADJUSTED.

My neatness has a single caveat: it only extends to what I can see. This is where the hoarding part comes into play. Under the bed, behind the closet doors, inside the kitchen cabinets: these are all places where I am a complete and utter mess, because they are invisible. I will only clean and organize them when they literally cannot fit a single additional item, and even then I'll only be doing it in the service of the real objective, which is keeping things off the visible surfaces in the apartment. I recognize that you are not truly a neat freak if you have to don a pith helmet and a spelunker's light in order to exhume your winter coat. And I had to come face-to-face with my own hoarding the other night, when I returned home from the grocery store to discover that the cabinet where I store my food was packed to the gills. I knew things were getting bad in there, but I couldn't do anything about the six-month-old bags of chips with nothing but pulverized crumbs in the bottom, the half-consumed cans of pistachios and almonds, the six almost-drained bottles of white wine vinegar and all the rest of it because--here comes the crazy Hoarders part--it was all covered in honey.

I really did not set out to have a kitchen cabinet stocked with old food covered in honey. What happened is one of those bear-shaped containers of honey, the ones where the lid never seems to close quite tightly enough, got knocked over on the top shelf, but because I can't see the top shelf, I didn't realize this had happened for some length of time. My first clue came when the honey eventually spilled down onto the middle and bottom shelves, from whence it quickly got all over everything. Anything that touched the honey became contaminated, and if I rearranged things, which I had to do quite often in order to cram one more half-used bag of coconut flakes in there, the contaminated items would touch other items, making them sticky and disgusting as well. This is the point that I, as a closet hoarder, think of as PEAK FAILOVER. Something gross has happened in a space, and because I did not take care of it right away, it has spread to the point of being impossible to deal with in a short period of time. SO I JUST KEEP IGNORING IT.

In finally ridding my kitchen cabinet of honey-coated garbage on Sunday, I came face to face with a side of myself I'd rather not acknowledge. The side that keeps every single piece of mail from the bank in a file for years on end, but cannot be bothered to actually open the envelopes. The side that once dealt with an audible brake malfunction for three months by turning up the radio until she couldn't hear it anymore. The side that apparently cannot remember that she has purchased flour at any point in her lifetime, and thus buys bag after bag after bag of Gold Medal, using one cup of each before shoving them in a cabinet, where they spill onto the existing honey spill to create a super-spill that could survive a nuclear holocaust.

And now, for your viewing pleasure, a photo of Cabinet Zen:

If you look on the top shelf, you can actually see the bottle of honey with the ill-fitting lid that started this whole thing. There's about an inch of honey left in it, so I washed it off and put it back, standing upright this time. Why? If you've made it through this whole entry, I shouldn't even have to answer that question, but I will anyway: BECAUSE I AM JUST THAT CRAZY.


Tucan Samantha said...

I think my favorite part is that there is ANOTHER bear shaped jar of honey on the bottom shelf, just waiting to wreck havoc.

Joe said...

Studio 60 wasn't exactly good, but it never made me want to set myself on fire.