Fuzzy Wuzzy Wuz OCD

The other night, the wife and I are out having dinner with some dear friends. In the course of dinner at a fabulous Chinese buffet (one of the better ones in the area, I might add), I happened to notice something upon one of my fellow diners. There, on her brown spaghetti stringed top, was a lone white thread clinging to the fabric surface. My first inclination is to pick it off, but alas, not only was she seated across from me, this was not located in a casual pick off area. No, it was on the right boob region of her top. Thus, a dilemma was created for me: how do I casually inform her of an insignificant thread that is located in the so-called “bad touch area” of most child therapy dolls? The bigger dilemma simultaneously arose: why is this little string so damn distracting to me?

I did not bring it up, but mercifully, the string detached itself as the evening went along. It saved me an evening of being distracted in a manner that would make ultimately explaining my behavior feel outright foolish. (“Why do you keep staring at my chest?” “Um… there’s a tiny string there?”) Nevermind the mirth that became apparent when I was telling my wife about this on the car ride home tonight. “You should have said something,” she giggled at me as she filed away this little story for future teasing.

At least we both agreed it was a personality quirk. It wasn’t anything more sinister as it did not control my thoughts (unlike my diagnosed OCD family members). Nor was it anything harmful, since I was not pulling a Monk and trying to unthread or unfuzzy the world around me. But I do think that it was a pretty narrow quirk.

Someone with a bunch of fuzzies or other clothing debris doesn’t activate this need to pick. It’s not like I won’t say anything, but the larger the number, the easier it is to point out the problem without feeling odd. However, if there are a few (like, three or less), then the desire to remove the offending pieces kicks up a notch. I can’t stand looking at a solid color material and see one or two things creating an imperfection in the palette.

This does become an issue in the workplace. As one of the only male staff members at my library, the sexual harassment training dances through my mind when I spy a co-worker with a little piece of debris on their clothing. Now, I know I don’t mean any harm, but as sexual harassment training (and other sensitivity training, for that matter) tell us, it’s not about what we think, it’s about what the other person thinks. So then it becomes a more serious quagmire: do I continue to seek to remove the offending fuzzy, or do I just let it go? Usually I find something else to do, which handles the matter nicely in that “out of sight, out of mind” mantra that works for so many other problems in life. (You know what I mean. Wife, kids, car, creditors, parents, family, work, etc. The fun stuff!)

So you know, it’s not a matter of trying to pick it off myself. But it’s more of the notion that my observation (“You have a fuzzy on your shirt”) will lead down a bad train of thought (“Only someone really creepy would have been able to spy this thread? THE HORROR!”) This is probably more of a product of anxiety type thinking than, well, real people thinking. But I’ve always found that I’ve been more of attentive observer of people than of other subjects. I can still recall favorite music of friends from long ago, dietary preferences of people I don’t see anymore, and odd and ends about classmates from elementary through high school. Maybe, out of all of the aspects of my life, this is the one area where my observation skills excel. Or, for the wackier alternative theory, this “need to groom” lies with my primitive primate ancestors. The fuzzies are the new ticks and lice and other skin irritants that need to be removed just as our ape cousins do today all over the world. (There is a story behind that last possible explanation. When I was picking a fuzzy out of a co-workers hair a couple weeks back, I made a crack alluding to primate grooming. She snickered at me and said, “Well, are you going to eat it?” “No,” I replied. “Not unless you start putting candy in there.”)

Truly, there must be far far worse quirks to have. I should be thankful that mine is so minor, so hilarious, and so very much not going to get me into any trouble.

Unless the fuzzy doesn’t get removed.