I grew up OCD. My mother was OCD. My grandmother was OCD. I don’t know who else was OCD but I had to have come from a long line.
When I was little I couldn’t bear to have a stain on my clothes, use a towel more than once, use anyone else’s towel or be in a dirty environment. I never ate other people’s cooking (unless I knew them well), a habit I developed from my mother, and I never drank out of anyone’s cup. I wasn’t allowed to come in the front door. I in no way was allowed to sit on my bed – because beds were for sleeping not sitting. There were no posters on the wall – just ceramic Hummel repros that my mother had hung ever so carefully.
In the summer we lived in the basement. We had a kitchen, a dining room and a den. This kept the house clean upstairs according to my mom. We were not allowed in the living room because that was for company – no plastic covers thank God. If we were lucky enough to park it in that off-limits space, there would never be any food or drink in the immediate vicinity.
My room was immaculate because Mommy cleaned it. She made beds like a drill sergeant and God forbid my skills were not up to her expectations. A whole lesson on the art of bed-making would ensue. If my mother bitched about me not cleaning my room (when I got older I guess I was expected to do something) my dad would say to her, “By the time you bitch about it, you can just clean it yourself.” My downfall.
We had the cleanest tub known to man. Not one stray mark, hair or splotch of some kind. I miss that tub. We were mannerly at the table (maybe not my dad – he wasn’t having the cleanliness thing at all) and very neat eaters. I couldn’t imagine spilling something on my shirt or the table or the floor. That was a no-no.
As a kid I washed my hands like a surgeon. Carefully scrubbing each finger up to my elbows. I walked with my arms in “surgeon position” and God forbid if someone touched me, breathed on me or the wind blew, I would immediately have to wash my hands again. There were times when I washed my hands +30 times a day. I notice as an adult, I still do it, especially when something is plaguing me.
I was fine with all of it. It was my – our way of life. As I got older my OCD developed further. I would have to perform everything an even number of times: turn the light off, look under my bed, make the sign of the cross, look in the closet, ask God for something and the list continues. I frowned on dirty or messy houses and people who I perceived to be dirty. It became a problem when I shunned great opportunities for dancing and acting because I skeeved people. I don’t think anybody ever knew how bad it was because I hid it wonderfully.
In college I rebelled at tad. I got sloppy, messy and didn’t really care. Not on my person – that was still OCD. My car was immaculate and I kept it pristine but I could not say the same for my room.
I moved to France to attend La Sorbonne. I was living in a pretty dusty, old apartment with 3 guys and a girl. We had a maid, Madame Santos, who we always caught watching TV instead of cleaning the apartment. The grout in the bathroom had turned black from all the mold and the mold-laden shower curtain would stick to you at every turn. We finally complained and our landlord bought us a new (clean) one.
I do have to say that during my first couple of days in Paris, I scoured my living space with Monsieur Propre, put ticking and plastic covers on all of my bedding and scrubbed my kitchen area until it sparkled. Then all bets were off. The slob in me came out. I was more relaxed and “wound-up-tight factor” was less taut. My OCD never really left, it just took a vacation.
Four years later – enter my husband. Mr. Clean (or so I thought). When we first moved down the shore, I would vacuum and mop the floors and he would just re-do them two more times because they weren’t done right. Boy, did that sound familiar. So I rebelled some more. I hate people telling me what to do (a father trait). I hated the OCD thing – probably because it LIVES in me.
Eleven years later, John has become an occasional slob and makes me feel guilty for not always getting “things” done. I am not allowed to have a housekeeper because my Italian man doesn’t believe in them. I work a full-time job, tutor, home instruct, gourmet cook, take care of the cats, pay the bills, clean and have also gone to graduate school and coached cheerleading. I’m an organizer at home but if you destroy my order over an over again, you leave me no choice but to retreat.
Lately my OCD is rampant. You wanted it, you got it! I just got a new dryer and arranged my laundry room into a pristine atmosphere and I need it to stay that way. I’ve even posted sign threatening anyone who will produce chaos. I can’t have chaos.
My classroom at work is my messy outlet. It is a disaster. Organized chaos. If I file something I usually lose it. If it’s in a giant pile on my desk, I can track it down. I can only be disorderly in one place at a time. Period.
Summer is almost here and I will be off. I’ll hang by the pool with a glass of Champagne and a good book and then I will retreat inside, cook and clean my ass off. Unleashing my OCD is never a good thing. Insanity is only a step away. The question is… Am I talking about my sanity or my husband’s?
Let’s take a vote!
I don’t even like candles on a birthday cake. That’s so germy. If you have ever been OCD, what is your Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?
© 2010 J. H-M and CultureChoc2010.