22 December, 2007

Dirty Laundry (or Mentioned Unmentionables)

In addition to the other psychological problems I have, I'm a bit of a clean freak. Related to that, I'm also a bit of a germophobe. Particularly lately, I've noticed that I wash my hands incredibly often, and when I do, I often soap up three or four times in one go, and sometimes I still have to tell myself "you're clean already" and force myself to finish and move on. It makes me think that I might have symptoms of an obsessive-compulsive personality, although I wouldn't go so far as to say that it's serious enough to label it a disorder (unlike some of my other problems). Unsurprisingly, I value having clean clothes to wear each day, and to keep it that way, I have to do a lot of laundry. For the longest time, this meant doing laundry once a week, with very little change (although it wasn't necessarily once every 7 days, so it's not like a specific day of the week was always laundry day).

I've always been very private about my laundry. I don't think that's necessarily an unusual feeling to have, I mean most people don't like the idea of other people looking at their unmentionables, right? That's where the phrase "dirty laundry" comes from, right? But even so, I've been more protective of my laundry habits than is really necessary. I don't specifically remember what it was like here at home before going to college. Sorry. But at college it was often a chore.

Let's see, four of the five residence halls (dormitories, if you prefer) I lived in during college had laundry facilities within the building. The fifth had a laundry room in the basement of another building that was just a short walk from the one I lived in. I got into the habit of doing laundry late at night, when there'd be less chances of a crowd. Although machine availability was always a concern (and sometimes an issue), the real fear was just having to do laundry (i.e. put clothes into machine, move clothes between machines, or take clothes out of machine) in front of other people. I obviously made a point to wait to fold my clothes back in the privacy of my own room. Unfortunately, I didn't always have privacy in my own room. In those cases, I really just had to make out the best I could.

Nowadays, I have a different problem with doing laundry. I'm much less concerned about being seen doing laundry as I am about being heard, since I do it in the middle of the night when everyone's asleep. The problem is that the machines are in the basement right next to the room where my brother (the working man) sleeps. And sometimes the washer makes a lot of noise. Just the thought of being such a nuisance, keeping my brother awake at night, when he has to get up in the morning and go to work, while I can sleep all day and then lounge the rest of the day, makes me feel very uncomfortable. It's not like he's ever complained, or that I have any reason to believe that he even hears the machines when he's sleeping, but that doesn't make it any less unnerving.

There's also another issue, which relates to the problem I discussed in my last post. Sometimes I go to the basement and I might hear sounds coming from his room, or there'll be a light under the door, and I'll know or suspect that he's still awake. In those cases, I can't very well do any laundry, because I know he'll know that I am doing laundry, and I fear that he might think about me and make some kind of judgements about me. Not that he would, but that he could. It's that whole idea that I automatically fear that people are criticizing me, and the best way to avoid the anxiety that that thought causes is to erase myself from the minds of others, by sneaking around and trying to convince people that I'm not even there in the first place. That's how I've gotten the nicknames "Phantom" and "Puff of Smoke" in the past. But it's crazy that I'm so insecure that I can't even do laundry in the middle of the freaking night!

So lately, I've been avoiding doing laundry as much as possible, and I've gone to brand new lengths between loads. That's still not more than a couple weeks between, though. I've known people that hardly ever do laundry, like once a month or something, but they have tons of clothes I guess. I only have so much to wear. I've got plenty of shirts, but the rest gets stretched a little thin. I resorted to going out and buying a pack of extra socks at Wal-Mart recently, just to extend my range.

If you don't want to read about my underwear, then I suggest you just skip the rest of this entry. But my feeling is that if I force myself to talk about the things that embarrass me, then maybe I'll be less embarrassed about them in the future. Hiding things away and refusing to talk about them just because they're undesirable is a great way to compound your problems. I believe that. Plus, I'm all about truth, and holding back in the fear of embarrassment is, for me, equivalent to being a hypocrite.

Simply put, I'm way too embarrassed to go out and buy underwear. Although, I've managed to do it once or twice in the past, so I at least have something to work with. But if I only have so many pairs, then I can only go so many days before I *have* to do laundry, right? Well, inspired by an eccentric in my life, I tried "going commando", as they sometimes call it. Unlike that eccentric (and I refer to him as such in a purely complimentary way), I didn't do it for reasons of joy or pleasure or adventure. It was simply a practical solution. I wouldn't necessarily say I prefer it, but honestly, I could go either way.

The biggest issue is that after taking a piss, you have to be very careful about zipping up. I never really understood the whole "getting caught in the zipper" thing because it just didn't seem like it could happen. Until it almost did. Now I'm extra careful.

When it comes to clothing, I've always hated wearing layers. It just never felt good, having layers rubbing against layers over my skin. In elementary school I went through a period where I'd wear sweats exclusively, just because they were comfortable. At the time, I hated the rough feel of putting on jeans (I have since gotten over that, since I rarely wear any kind of pants other than jeans). But I never wore a shirt underneath my sweatshirt. I knew that most kids wore sweatshirts to keep warm on a cold day, and they would take it off at times when they got warm, revealing whatever shirt they had on underneath. But I didn't like the idea of wearing two shirts at once. The only time I can accept it is if I'm camping and it's so freaking cold that that's the only effective way to stay warm.

On a related note, I never caught on to wearing boxers. I tried briefly (pardon the pun), but it just felt like wearing shorts under my pants, and they would constantly bag up and get all out of place and it drove me absolutely insane. I own only a single pair of boxers these days, and I never even wear it. It's silk ("a little too delightful"), and I only bought it to impress my high school girlfriend anyway, and even then, the material didn't have enough substance to avoid taking my shape, if you know what I mean, making them a rather ridiculous garment to wear in sensual situations.

Wooh! So getting back to what I was saying before, the less I wear, the less I have to wash. This is a simple truth. You know, I actually considered just not wearing clothes at all. I'd never have to do laundry. And it's not like I encounter many people in my average day, and I only rarely leave the house. But the bottom line is that I know my dad wants me to become more "well-adjusted" and not more eccentric, in the hopes that I'll eventually make something of my life, so I have a good feeling that's not a boundary that I could get away with pushing. And it just wouldn't be fair for me to push it. I don't want to even imagine what that conversation would be like if I showed up to dinner one evening, naked as a jaybird. I'm not stupid. And the last thing I'd do is willingly throw myself into the jaws of the shark like that.

(disclaimer: I love sharks, it's just an expression)


  1. Now that I'm finally done with getting the things I need to hang up my laundry and finishing the act of actually hanging up my laundry, I can comment.

    I've noticed that you're a pretty clean guy, but I never really chalked it up to being obsessive... then again, I've never actually stood there watching you wash your hands. I think it could be worse, though... it's not like there's anything wrong with being clean that offends anyone's sensibilities.

    I really couldn't care less about people seeing me do laundry or seeing my laundry itself. What I have a problem with is people touching my laundry -- at college, for example, you'd always get those people that hauled your stuff out and put it on the table, another washer, or a floor... it was such a waste of money since you'd have to do it over again.

    I remember watching you do laundry a few times and commenting on how you didn't fold your clothes there.

    As for layers... I took to wearing undershirts in high school at some point, largely because I hated it when I stretched or something and my shirt pulled up too far. Not only does it mean everyone sees your skin, but it also means you get that uncomfortable gust of air touching something it doesn't usually touch.

    So I get bigger shirts and tuck them in under my normal shirts.

    The other advantage of this, in my opinion, is that the normal shirts aren't "worn" as much... so if, for some reason, I haven't been able to do laundry, I don't feel bad about wearing a normal shirt as long as I have a clean undershirt. It might sound stupid to you, but it works for me and helps ease my guilt about rewearing a shirt.

    I guess it's kind of like jeans. If you wear underwear, it's fine to wear jeans for a few days. However, if I were to go commando, I'd probably not feel as awesome about going for a week in those jeans.

    As far as underwear... my mother always got the underwear up through high school, I never had any say in it, as much as I tried to. Fortunately, I managed to take control of my shaving and deodorant purchases quite early on...

    I switched to boxers in college and haven't looked back. I know, I know, Kramer makes convincing arguments, but boxers are the best for me. They're loose and comfortable. I suspect it's because I'm fine with layers already, actually. The trick to keeping them from curling up is to flatten them out after you put your pants on. After that, they're a nice protective layer between you and your pants, or you and your zipper.

    Socks are my big problem, though... I have tons of socks. At one point in college, I kept getting socks because I didn't want to do laundry, and I ended up having more socks than I can normally use, which makes me feel bad. After all, if I wear a week's worth of socks, do the laundry, then those socks are back on top of the drawer, which means I'm always using the same socks.

    Since it's winter, I've actually been wearing a lot of layers... my usual work ensemble consists of an undershirt, a long-sleeve shirt, a normal t-shirt, a dress shirt, and then my Bucknell hoodie on top of all that. Casual ensemble is the same, minus the hoodie and dress shirt. I mean, not only are the layers good at keeping you warm (which is essential when you're biking everywhere), but they also help keep you cool when you bike. Of course, it's also a bit more fashionable, too.

    Then again, Japan has its own solutions for people who hate layers -- they make fake layers. You can get shirts that have a t-shirt with an undercollar and long sleeves sewed in, so that it's all actually one layer but looks like two or three. They're pretty comfortable, too... though I suspect you don't like long-sleeved shirts.

    I'd hate going completely commando. I mean, not only are you exposed to the whims of the demon in the climate control system, but there's also that feeling of being completely unprotected. I mean, okay, you bumped the table, big deal. But without pants? Ouch, that's a scratch. The sofa or the chair that are nice to recline in? The fabric's too rough for going commando, or maybe the bits of dust rub off onto your skin.

    Imagine all the little scratches and hurts you'd accumulate over a week of going commando? On top of that, your most delicate areas aren't protected at all? I'm going to have to turn that down, even in the stage where it's just a dream. It doesn't bear thinking about, to me.

    I suppose the ideal solution would be to have around two and a half weeks' worth of clothing and do laundry every week. Then you'd be able to wear all of your stuff, stretch out your wardrobe to over twice normal if you HAD to, and not stress about missing a laundry day.

  2. You make a good point about the difference between being psychotically clean and just not being clean.

    Yeah, having somebody else move your laundry was always a pain. I mean, there are some people that stick their laundry in, and leave it there overnight, or even worse, don't come back for days. They're asking for it. But when you make a point to come back in a timely fashion to take care of your clothes, and find that somebody got impatient - yeah, that's annoying.

    I'm actually not so averse to long sleeves as I once was. I'm obviously used to short sleeves, but in the times when I've worn nicer shirts with long sleeves, it's not too bad. And plus, I do tend to get cold easily, so I have a habit of keeping my jacket on sometimes (like in class, or even when performing at Open Stage sometimes during the colder months), so I guess that has helped me get used to long sleeves as well.

    Finally, I'll concede your point about protection, but I have to admit, just in my experience, it's not quite so bad as you make it out to be.