Objects of Desire
July 17, 2008

It has come to my attention that we in this household, we in this tiny apartment on Alamo Square Park, well, we have a pattern of forming oddly strong attachments to inanimate objects.

First it was Car. Then Kitchen (not so much an inanimate object as an entire collection of inanimate objects). And most recently, Couch.

I think it's because we don't buy stuff that often. I mean, we buy stuff, but we don't buy STUFF. Big stuff. Car, Couch, and Kitchen's cosmetic surgery were all big things for us. Costing us not just dollars, but the time we lived without and the time we spent discussing, processing, researching, and choosing.

All of these inanimate objects get admired, stroked, loved. Loved for what they do for us. Loved for how they change our lives. Loved for how they make us feel and act.

I live very much in this apartment. Not only do I work here, but I really, really live here. If things are confabulated or junkered or clusterphobic, I get claustrated, irritafused, and generally agontanked all up inside. I guess that without being a total control freak -- although I know that's exactly how I sound -- I need things to be "just so." Disorder and chaos around me screw with my soul. I can't work, I can't write, I can't cook. (Cleaning the kitchen sink to sideboard is step one of any recipe of mine.)

Mark calls it procrastination when I'm facing deadlines and I drag out the vacuum cleaner and bucket of rubber gloves and sponges. I suppose it is a form of procrastination, but it's more like I'm easing myself into my work by clearing my path.

But there are times when, by necessity, the entire place goes to complete pot. Magazines and bits of paper half-covered in important scrawls stack up. The dust rambles with the the fur balls, and the kitchen remains either completely untouched or bloats with half-rinsed takeout containers. These are the actual deadline days. I can't take a break to clean or arrange things. I can't shop or cook, and I definitely won't do laundry.

The end of deadline days is severely marked with a flurry of "must"s for all the above. My husband calls me a whirling dervish when I'm in this mode. It's panting, sweating, dashing. Scrubbing and sloughing. It's running the vacuum, dishwasher, and washing machine with no regard for the energy crisis. Didn't I just save the world a bunch of energy by doing nothing for three weeks? It's scrubbing counters and stocking the fridge. It's folding blankets, spot treating, and sniffing out mildew.

Does it sound like complete and utter drudgery? Yes, I guess it probably does. Here's the screwed up thing: I actually enjoy it. I enjoy putting everything back in its place as the final purge to a completed deadline.

As a kid, I hated cleaning my room, taking out the trash, and doing my laundry. I despised allowance-earning Saturday Chores. It was even worse in college when a bunch of us ADPis lived in a three-story house on Arbor Street and we had a rotating chore wheel. (It wasn't so much a wheel as it was a wipe board. And it wasn't so much "we" as it was our one roommate, who would write down her name and her chore, check it off and say "Check!" in a loud voice while looking around with pointedly pursed lips.)

However, as soon as a space became totally mine and not owned my parents or shared by roommates, I gained a sudden pride of place. Almost as if cleaning my home wasn't just taking care of it, it was putting my stamp on it. Making it more my own. The same goes for our beloved inanimate objects.

I really get that Subaru graveyard commercial. Because if there is a couch, Prius, or free-standing Scandinavian countertop final resting place, we'll take them there. And we'll cry a little when we do it.

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