Andy Stone: A bundle of quirks and fidgets, showers and toilet paper rolls
I stopped in the middle of taking a shower the other day and shook my head in amazement. I realized I had started lathering up my arms and chest before I’d washed my hair.
Can you believe it?
Well, maybe you can. Maybe you don’t think very much – or maybe you don’t think at all – about exactly how you wash yourself when you shower.
I know I have a very fixed routine. Without going into detail (believe me, you don’t want any details), I’ll just say that I wash from the top down: hair first, then face, then chest and so on.
Following the top-down principle means that when I rinse off the soapy water and its load of dirt, it’s not running down over body parts I’ve just finished washing. This is something I figured out – and settled on – long ago.
OK, this is a minor point, and I’ve probably ruined your appetite for a couple of days, so I apologize.
But what I’m thinking about here is that we are all bizarre packages of odd quirks and fidgets and calcified systems. My shower system is, of course, just one of mine.
Years ago, I wrote a column for the Times that examined the vital issue of whether people put the toilet paper on the holder so that it unrolls up and over the top or down and out the bottom.
That column generated an avalanche of letters to the editor. People were fervent in their beliefs, and they had very good, very firm explanations for why their approach was exactly and absolutely and obviously right.
Personally, I’m an up-and-over-the-top guy – and that seems so obviously “right” to me that it makes me a little uneasy to use a bathroom where the toilet paper unrolls from the bottom.
Sometimes when I’m staying at a friend’s house for a few days, I have a very hard time not switching the toilet paper so it unrolls properly.
Sure, I’m weird.
But so are you. It may not be shower systems or toilet paper, but I know that you’ve got your full share of little quirks that no one knows about but you.
You and, of course, the person you’re married to.
I once asked my wife if she had a “system” for showering, and she looked at me with a mixture of horror and disbelief.
“I just get in the shower, grab a bar of soap, see what needs to be washed, and then I wash it,” she explained, using the same tone of voice that one would use to explain to a small child that we don’t put our feet in the chocolate pudding.
She tried the same sort of response when I quizzed her on the toilet paper issue. “I’m really not the kind of person who cares about something like that,” she said.
That time, I had a response. “Oh, really?” I asked. “Then why is it that you always put the paper in the holder so it unrolls from the bottom? Always?”
“Well, maybe I always do it the same way,” she answered. “But I don’t really care about it. Not deeply … like some people I know.”
Fortunately for our marriage, our house has two bathrooms. The toilet paper unrolls over the top in one and out the bottom in the other.
But my point here is that marriage gives you a wonderful front-row seat from which to observe the way someone else has patched together a functioning human personality from a grab bag of quirks and fidgets – just the same way you have.
Oh, sure, the specific quirks and fidgets may be nothing like yours – no two birds build their nests out of the exact same twigs and leaves, yet all birds of the same species build their nests pretty much the same way. They patch together the materials they find lying around and – lo and behold! – it’s a nest.
We do the same thing and – lo and behold! – we call it a personality.
Now, we don’t focus on this aspect of our marriage partners all the time. Most of the time we accept that they are who they are, and we get on with it.
And when we do confront the makeshift nature of our spouse’s personality, all of us at least some of the time – and some of us all of the time … up until the divorce decree is final – say (or think) something that boils down to, “Why me, Lord?”
But most of us, most of the time, I believe, love and respect the person we are married to, at least enough to gain the wonderful advantage of looking, stopping, thinking and realizing, “Oh, I see. You’re just like me. How strange!”
[Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org]
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Aspen City Council’s recent actions are proof that you get what you pay for, argues Elizabeth Milias in her Red Ant column this week.