Death By Unwashed Sweater

Of all the heart-rending and poetic moments in A Streetcar Named Desire, the one I think of most often is Blanche’s line: “You know what I shall die of? [She plucks a grape] I shall die of eating an unwashed grape.”

I grew up believing this was a plausible danger.  I also wouldn’t sleep over at friends’ houses (this was a strain on 3rd-grade friendships) and got squeamish about eating off of other people’s dishes or using the bathroom anywhere but at home (and heaven forbid the horror of all horrors–having to pee outside!!).  I had to wear my socks inside-out so the little seam wouldn’t rub my toes.  I hummed nonsense syllables in the back of my throat and rubbed my fingers back and forth against doorknobs or tabletops an even number of times.  It drove me nuts when my sister would thumb the pages of a book while she was reading, because she was only going in one direction, over and over. There were many ways to upset the delicate balance of my universe.

This has a three-letter acronym that starts with O and ends with CD.  I know that now.  (If you want more examples, check out Alison Bechdel’s amazing graphic novel, Fun Home.  I wasn’t that bad, though…I swear.)

Anyway, I have begun to realize that I live a wild and unfettered life in comparison with the hang-ups of my childhood.  I now indulge in such illicit pleasures as:

  • unplugging appliances by yanking on the cord (you’re supposed to remove a plug by grasping it near the socket)
  • getting dirty, sweaty, and muddy (my favorite event for work so far was the Illustrators Party, when three of us tromped around a farm all day in charge of entertaining 50 illustrators’ children; I went home covered in pond water, PB&J, paint, and pumpkin pulp) (and, less thrilling, came down with a stomach virus the next day)
  • tasting someone else’s food (I used to think it was The Ultimate Of Romance when I saw couples sharing a drink from the same straw, because I wasn’t allowed to share even my own sister’s drink for fear of–dum dum DUM–germs)
  • eating at other people’s houses and not being picky (I was the pickiest of picky-pickerarians, I tell you)
  • not washing my hands obsessively (I used to think people who left a bathroom without washing their hands were for-real criminals)
  • wearing my pants multiple times before washing them (what’s a little grunge among friends?)

Maybe it’s all part of the rebellion-against-overprotective parents thing.  I recently pierced my nose, but the real big deal is that I relish having a snack without a plate–which makes CRUMBS on the floor.  Not only did I become a poet/actress/yoga teacher instead of a doctor, but I also let the bathtub air-dry after a shower instead of mopping up every drop of water–which leads to MILDEW.  (Although I also love cleaning the bathroom, so perhaps that’s why I like letting it get dirty.  Umm I concede that might not be quite normal.)

My point is, today I am wearing a sweater I bought yesterday, and I haven’t washed it yet.  I was always taught to wash something when you bring it home from the store.  For underwear, sure, good idea.  But will I really die of wearing an unwashed sweater?

Here’s to living on the wild side.

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