Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I invent a new phobia.

It's called blancheaphobia and it is a fear of accidentally bleaching dark clothes that you like. Is something a phobia if it's actually happened to you, more than once? Once I decided a Clorox spray and paper towels would be a great way to clean up the plastic in the beige interior of my '97 Honda Odyssey. Wherever the rag touched the carpet it was ruined with orange-colored spots. Another time, same product, I leaned up against the bathroom counter before fully wiping off the spray and left a horizontal bleach mark across a dark blue shirt. Then there are the times the washing machine decides to throw random bleach splatters across my clothes, even when there hasn't been bleach in it for a few loads. It's dangerous. I still use Clorox spray but I change into old clothes first and I stand way back holding the bottle as far away as I can.

On phobias, I am also a checker. Ezra and I went on a camping trip last weekend and before we left I made him stand there next to me as I checked each dial on the stove, twice. First I wiggle them to make sure they're really off. Then I check to make sure in wiggling them I didn't accidentally turn them on. Then I do it at least one more time.

After trying to convince myself this is phobic behavior and that I should, deep breath, try and check things only once (the iron, the oven, the stove, the water running) or not check at all, that's the one time I come home to find I've left the stove on.

I check twice leaving a restaurant to make sure nothing has fallen under the table.

On the checking. I can't fault myself entirely because I was trained as a child in the inevitability of losing things. I grew up watching my father lose every possible thing that could be lost, a pathological level of forgetting that caused a lot of trouble. I still remember him tearing around the house once hissing out a garbled version of "where are my keys," which were in his mouth. The first time we left for England, for him, it was to move there for good, he had thrown out his new passport and kept the old one after getting it renewed for the trip.

He found this out on the line to check in at the aiport, lugging all the shit that wouldn't fit in the hold or that had not gone with the shipping, including the Dune action figure of Sting that his second wife who was with us at the time had given him as a joke. Sting sat stiff-legged on top of the luggage as my Dad tore through his bags in the middle of the line at the airport, cursing.

Was he cursing himself or cursing fate, or both? Bleach is an outside force, though even when the washing machine is at fault I still blame myself. I should have known somehow, the thinking goes. When I have actually forgotten something or screwed something up by not thinking it through however, I blame fate. Nobody asks for a hole in his head like the one I have, a missing space that fills up easily with worry and compulsion. It's another phobia, fear of one's own capacity to forget.


Elizabeth said...

it must be hard to have a poop phobia and a bleach phobia. since at our house, the one is the weapon to fight the other.

i love this post.

Warren Smith said...

I believe I remember that action figure.