DSM IV for Dummies

I am sitting down to write yet another entry about some compulsive behavior of mine. Suddenly I am struck with the thought that I have certainly admitted to quite a few compulsive behaviors and we haven’t even scratched the surface yet. Hmmm…I wonder if I have some kind of disorder which causes compulsive bahavior. Is there something wrong with me? Really wrong?
I have these kinds of conversations in my head all of the time. Because in addition to being compulsive I am also an hypochondriac. Yep, I am one of those people who every time I read or hear about symptoms do a quick mental self exam. Every little ache and pain could signify something Really Wrong. When I have a really odd symptom I make sure to tell K. so that when I turn up dead he can tell the coroner what I said.
Anyway, the compulsive behavior in question is straightening. My house is not particularly clean, but most of the time it is picked up. I have the firm belief that if my house was larger and had more storage options it would be even neater and more organized. As it is I am doing the best I can with my limited means. (If you saw the size of my closets you would sit right down and cry along with me.) K. tends to be somewhat messy, so we have established a sort of equilibrium, wherein the house is just neat enough to keep me from losing it.
However when I go shopping the little neat freak that lives inside me really blossoms. I was in Macys the other day desperately searching for suitable clothes. Where are all of the clothes for people who do not want to bare their midriffs, yet are not ready to don the adult-size poly-blend Garanimals? I can’t find them. Macys currently comes closest to my personal mini-nirvana of style, selection, and cost. I wish it wasn’t Macys (seems doddery of me) but it is.
[Here is how un-cool I really am. I was recently in Soho and decided to buy myself something hip from some little New York boutique. Why not? I saw a cute shirt in a window, a little summery silk blouse with vaguely Asian flare. Perfect to take to China with us. K. says, "Go ahead in and see." We walk in. I browse and try not to look as if I came in just to talk about the blouse in the window. K., being much more straightforward than I, and probably a little more impatient, goes right up to the girl and asks how much the blouse in the window costs. Meanwhile I realize that this is one of those shops where the largest size they carry is a 6 and we had just better beat a hasty retreat. The girl answers. I am heading for the door with a big fake smile plastered on my face. "$210." Two hundred and ten dollars? For That blouse? The little summery thing? I give K. the look--"Get me out of here. NOW." We smile at the girl, pretend to consider spending Two Hundred Dollars on a blouse, and leave. I'm sure we fooled her.]
The little boutiques don’t work for me because I am just too cheap. No matter how many times I tell myself that I will not consider cost if I find the perfect top/pair of pants/pair of shoes, I can never pull the trigger when it comes right down to it. I’m a wimp. And cheap. Cheaper than that, anyway. (Younger sister, stop laughing. In some circles I am cheap, just not compared to you.)
Let’s get back to Macys. It was a sale day and the clothes on the racks were a little out of order. So of course I started straightening them up. I will always rearrange hangers, and sometimes walk several feet to replace an item that someone else has left on the wrong rack. On my bad days I will also fold. I could blame this on that awful stint working at the Gap after I dropped out of grad school, but my bat sense tells me that I would have been like this no matter what. Even when I say to myself rather sternly, “Don’t do that because it’s weird and you don’t have to,” I still go ahead and straighten. I am the most compulsive when I go into the Gap, but it happens everywhere.
Not only do I straighten, but I am furtive about it. It’s one thing to walk in and start moving stuff around. It’s another to glance over your shoulder every ten seconds as you do it. I tell myself that I have an orderly, analytical mind. But I know it’s some undiagnosed psychosis just waiting to come to light.

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6 Responses to DSM IV for Dummies

  1. Figlet says:

    I bet you didn’t know that my pals at the Starbucks closest to my office sometimes give me free coffee. Because I always tidy up the milk station and wipe down the counter. Which probably comes from taking the little sign in the bathroom on the airplane waaaaay too literally when I was a kid. “Please wipe sink after use.” I wipe the sink at work as well. I pick clothes up off the floor when I’m in a store, except for tonight when we were at Target and I told myself NOT to, just for once, to see how it felt. (I can still see the nylon basketball shirt lying on the floor.)
    As for clothes shopping, well. I hate department stores. I want easy in and out. So it’s Gap, Banana, Gap, Banana, a little Anthropologie, and Gap. Currently wearing Gap sweater, Gap jeans, Gap tank top. Bra and underwear? Gap Body.
    Anyway, I’m oddly relieved to know I’m not the only one with certain compulsions.

  2. Jo says:

    Oh good grief thank god. I do this too. I pick stuff up off shop floors and find it its proper place. If I find something someone has dumped on a shelf in the wrong place in the supermarket, I take it back where it belongs (because it’ll be lost and confused).Last night I felt actual pain because of all my old faithful stuff, dumped outside in a skip in the cold. Ack, the guilt. I can’t decide if I’m overly controlling or just plain mad. Or both.

  3. Aimee says:

    I worked in a bookstore for two years. Now I compusively straighten stacks of books. I had to force myself to stop lining all the books up at the edge of the shelf all neat and pretty, because some shops don’t do that.

  4. Q says:

    OMG, are you sure we aren’t twins who were separated at birth? Because this is getting a little freaky. ;) At the same time, I have to confess to being more than a little relieved that other people compulsively straighten/clean at shops and coffee stations, and that there are people out there besides me (and my dad) who become paralyzed with anxiety at finding ourselves in a huge department store or (worse!) a shop that sells breezy little blouses for $210. That “Get me out of here. NOW” expression? I made it out of sympathy without thinking and then realized it when I got to that sentence LOL.

  5. heather says:

    You do so well in the department stores. I seem to go in there and just get completely confused. I’m like Figlet – I need to just walk into the Gap or a place like that where all of my options are on the one side & all of my options for J. are on the other side. (Added bonus…my options for Q. are just 20 feet away through the doorway to Gap Kids!) It cracks me up though to think of you trying to straighten up Macy’s all the while hoping that no one is watching. I’m sure part of it does trace back to your days at the Gap. I remember working at Gap Kids & the manager telling me to “fold the denim wall”. I think that you can truly only understand and appreciate “the denim wall” if you’ve worked in a Gap before! Living with a husband that also tends to be how did you put it?! “somewhat messy” drives the neat freak in me crazy at times as well (especially as the daughter of S. G.!!). I think you do remarkably well given your total lack of storage space in your house – not even an attic to just stick the junk you don’t want to look at for a while.

  6. Bec says:

    I could live in clutter til the cows came home. I even …da da da dum… leave stuff in the dressing rooms – sometimes not even put back on the hanger. Ha Ha Ha… evil laughter (i worked retail too…)