I am lucky in the respect that my girlfriend has her own form of OCD. So when we are together we normally resemble two extras from One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest.
I had a phone call from her the other day.
“Tell me I’ve shut my front door?” She asked me in a worried tone.
“Kate, I’m in my flat and you are over by your house. How the hell do I know if you have shut your front door?” I replied, confusion my normal expression at moments like these.
“Just tell me I have shut my front door!”
I could tell that she was getting agitated. “OK, OK, you’ve shut your front door. No one is getting in. It’s shut.”
“Thank you.” I heard her sigh with relief.
“Or have you?” I replied mischievously.
I had to hold the phone away from my ear due to her inhuman cry of anguish. I can normally string moments out like this for at least 15 minutes. Wisely my inner common sense, who is normally so absent throughout most of my life, told me this probably wasn’t the best time to do this. Not if I ever wanted to have children at least.
“The door is shut.” I said hurriedly, before she had a chance to explode down the phone at me for being an idiot. “The door is shut. It’s a firm barrier. No one can breach it. All is calm, all is well. And……relax”
But it is not just the little door routine that Kate has going on that amuses me. Her greatest form of OCD comes when we go shopping for food. She has this thing where all the packages and tins live happily together in harmony. Beans with beans, bread with bread, and so forth. If this equilibrium is unbalanced in any way, say if someone has left a stray pack of pasta with the tins of sun dried tomatoes, well, there is a distinct possibility that the fabric of space and time will be ripped apart, and we will all be hurled screaming into the abyss. It freaks her out basically.
So naturally when we go shopping together, I have to go scampering down the aisle like a malevolent Willy Wonka, rearranging all the stock so it is all mixed up and making mental bets with myself as to how long it will be before she cracks. Her eyes normally dart about like two chipmunks on speed, and with a cry of "I hate you!", she then spends the next five minutes rearranging everything back the way it was, muttering "You don't live there, you certainly dont belong there!"
I am also adept at dodging hurled tins of butterbeans as well now. Though her aim is getting much better.
My own OCD manifests when I also go food shopping. But only if we are shopping for me, never for her. Now to me, shopping is not fun. There will be no laughter, no joy, and certainly no tomfoolery on my watch. A change in me occurs the moment I step through those automatic doors. I become what Kate lovingly refers to as “Shopping Nazi”. I can’t help it. The moment I am in the zone, the moment I have the list in my hand and a trolley careening out of control, I switch off. You can’t get through to me. I get so panicked that I am going to miss something out, or forget something for the wonderful meal I am about to cook, that I become an animatronic mannequin. My eyes glaze over and I end up wandering the aisles, muttering like Rain Man.
“Need milk, yeah, need milk. Gotta have some paprika. Paprika good. Can’t forget milk.”
All the while, Kates is walking beside me like my care into the community champion.
“Those new potatoes look nice.” She would comment.
New potatoes? Why is she throwing new potatoes into the mix? Were they on the list? I would scan down it, checking to see if they were. Nothing about new potatoes!!
“Not on list.” I would grunt back. “Can't deviate from the list.” And I would stride purposefully down the fresh veg aisle, sending little old grannies flying like bowling pins.
“You’re really weird.” Kate would call out to me, as she began to arrange all the spaghetti tins so all the labels were facing the front in symmetrical order.
My other form of OCD is evident when I eat. This is where it is at its most obvious. And sadly I had to present it to Kates one day and hope she wouldn’t run screaming into the night with terror.
I couldn’t be bothered to cook, so I ordered us in a Chinese. When the food arrived, I began to unpack it and dish it up on my plate.
“What the hell are you doing?” She asked me, as I finished my plate and offered to do hers.
“Dishing up dinner, what does it look like?” I replied, puzzled.
“No, I mean, look at your plate. What the hell is that all about?”
I looked at my plate. All the food was in neat little piles. The rice in a perfect oblong shape from its container. The sweet and sour chicken in a delicate little hillock, no splash of sauce anywhere on the plate. The noodles were a delightfully pretty little mound. The whole plate was a work of art.
“I can’t have my food all mixed up. It all has to be separate.” I said, truth be told a little sheepishly.
“Why?” She asked. She was smiling, but I watched her eyes closely to see if they twitched towards the door, or my cooking knives.
“Because it makes me feel highly uncomfortable.” I replied, thinking, well, she was nice.
“Well I’m not having mine like that!” And she began to heap the rice, chicken and noodles in a big mess on her plate. I believe I turned white at that point looking at the pure chaos that was taking place before me.
“Your rice, it’s all mixed up with the noodles.” I squeaked. I had never seen such wanton disregard for food etiquette in all my life. Maybe that's when I fell in love with her? I mean, how could you not love someone who was willing to just let their noodles land where they wanted to?
I think that is why we go so well together. Apart, we are a mass of odd little foibles that would probably make you normal folk stare at us open-mouthed. Together, well, we are still the same, but it just makes life that little bit bearable. Plus we can cause less damage that way. And for that I am eternally grateful.