Monday, February 7, 2011

Picking Battles

I decided to break my almost-two-month silence here with a guest post from Ted. After reading this you'll be laughing too hard to be mad at me for my ridiculously long hiatus. When you're finished, leave a comment letting us know if you are or aren't one. I can tell you right now, I'm a card carrying member of this club, right along with Ted's wife. 

Shortly after graduating from college, my friends and I were nursing our hangovers in the front yard of my parents’ house. While we were busily recounting the antics of the previous evening, my father pulled up in his freshly washed and vacuumed Mercury Marquis and immediately asked me in front of my friends:  “What happened to the lawn?”
 “I mowed it.” I replied. “Doesn’t it look good?” Even if I didn’t have wet-brain, I should have known that there was 0% chance my father would have answered in the affirmative.  

No, he did not think the lawn looked good. Perhaps that was because one of the wheels on the mower was apparently at a different setting than the other three while I mowed the entire lawn. As a result, each strip of the lawn was cut at an ever-so-slight angle that only the most obsessive of obsessive lawn owners would ever notice. Unfortunately for me, my father just happens to be one of these individuals. Not believing him initially, my father then requested that I join him on all fours so that we could both gain a better view of my horticultural faux pas. Please keep in mind that my friends were present for this entire exchange. Luckily, my recently-earned undergraduate degree was in neither landscape architecture or pride.

I do not bring up this story just so I can poke fun at my father’s anal-retentive lawn care tendencies. (But if that were indeed my intention, I would inevitably use that as the lead-in to the story of my father standing on the roof of our two-story house using the electric leaf blower to rid the roof of all debris. I am pretty sure he must have had to plug two extension cords together to be able to gingerly operate the equipment that far removed from anything resembling an electrical outlet.) Rather, I bring up this anecdote to illustrate how some people have an amazing ability to see things that most other (read: normal) people are completely oblivious to. With that, I resort to the analogy section of the SAT’s to drive home my main point:  

Lawn imperfections are to my father as pimples are to my wife.  

Just as I would most likely not have noticed if my father’s lawn mower’s blade was temporarily replaced with two plastic knives lifted from Dairy Queen, I am not someone who really pays attention to pimples, either mine or those of others. Yes, I will pop my own pimples; I consider it to be good hygiene, just like making sure I don’t have any stray nose hairs or kale stuck in my teeth. However, I don’t get enjoyment out of any of these acts. They are just things I do if I want to have people willingly interact with me.  

This is all very different for my wife. (Let’s call her Pam, which seems pretty appropriate considering that is indeed her name) For Pam, the act of picking satisfies a burning need that one usually only sees when watching a tweeker light up on an episode of “Intervention.” And without the aide of rehab or twelve step programs, Pam has learned how to effectively manage most of her impulses to pick. Impressive, eh?

Pam is not alone in this obsession; by my unofficial count, approximately half of all Americans are “pickers.” My non-scientific studies have further concluded that there is absolutely no grey area between the two camps; either you’re a picker or you aren’t. That’s it. Just as you either love the show “Glee” or you despise it. (I am in the latter camp. So for those of you keeping track, that makes me a “Glee”-hating-non-picker.) And my doctoral thesis in the psychology of picking concluded that although it is satisfying for a picker to pick something on their own body, it is that much more satisfying to pick something on someone else’s body. And whose body is better to pick (and more socially appropriate) than your spouse’s.  

If Pam were actually a junkie and in need of a fix, I would do what all good enabling spouses do, which is pawn the baby’s crib and score her some dope. Done and done. If only my life were that easy. Unfortunately for me, my wife is not hooked on crack or meth; her vice is white-heads. And on those occasions where she gives in to her temptations, I can’t just go out and score Pam something to pick; rather, I have to organically grow something that will satisfy her burning need. And considering that I am six foot six, there is a pretty good potential at any given moment that there is something somewhere on my body that is in need of picking. (I now question if she married me because I am truly her soul-mate or because I provide more surface area than all of her other prospective suitors.)

But here’s the kicker: I am not a fan of her picking my pimples. I enjoy her picking at my skin about as much as I enjoy her picking on my character flaws. After twelve years of marriage, Pam is now usually able to overlook most of my numerous shortcomings as a husband. However, she has a more difficult time attempting to overlook the tiniest of pimples growing on my forehead. And I know the moment when she spots something new on my skin. She tries to be really discreet about it. But I know her all too well. And I know what I am in for when I see her gaze shift ever-so-slightly from my piercing hazel eyes to my forehead. That is when my own version of homeland-security-against-unwanted-picking escalates to the dreaded “code red” level. 

“Stop it.”
“You know what you’re doing. Stop it.”
“But I’m not doing anything.”

Both Pam and I know to what I am referring, and we both know that she is trying not to be obvious in her quest to pinpoint the black head she just spotted on my skin. She is like a four year old with her mouth covered in chocolate desperately trying to convince me that she didn’t sneak a piece of left-over Halloween candy. But she will eventually confess to seeing something. And then I can see her having an internal debate as to whether or not she should proceed by asking if she can pick away.  

She inevitably has a far more difficult time gaining my permission to pick when the pimple is on my back. Mainly because it’s on my back, and I know that nobody is ever going to see it. Hell, Pam doesn’t even see my back. And if she knows that there is something on my back to pick, that means that she discovered it when we were enjoying a little “adult time” together. What usually happens is she will be gingerly stroking my back, and then she will pause ever so slightly. And I know that that means that she felt something. “Pam, stop it!” And once again, she knows exactly what I’m talking about. 

At times, Pam will ask me to pop something for her, and that is only because she is not able to reach said offender. I then attempt to muster up a modicum of enthusiasm for the task. This amount is equivalent to how much I would have if someone asked me to be a groomsman in their Star-Trek themed wedding party. I fumble around for a minute, pretending like I’m doing something substantial. But I’m not. And she knows it. She eventually walks away with her original not-popped pimple, and although she won’t admit, I know that she is judging me. Harshly. Judging me the way she did (rightfully so) when I flailed my arms and screeched like a little girl when the vacuum that I was using caught on fire.  

There was actually one time when I went at one of her pimples with genuine vigor and vim. I knew this would be my chance to prove to her that I was a man of honor, and not just a man who was incapable of thinking on my own to unplug a smoking vacuum. I discovered the pimple in the middle of the night. I rolled over, put my hand on Pam’s back, and felt something. Something big. Something big enough that it woke me from my sleep. So I poked and prodded over and over, trying to fully wrap my mind around this crazy growth on her back. And then Pam, herself half asleep, barked:  “Ow!  What are you doing to my nipple???”


The Gillies said...

OMG, I'm a total picker! I pick my kids toenails, and they want to sign me up for "My Strange Addition", along with the couch- and laundry detergent-eaters.

Anonymous said...

Ted, I am a certifiable Picker!! If it were not for the photo and the fear of smoking vacuums , I would have thought my husband hacked your blog! Pickers unite I say!!!


P.S. I want to be a dermatologist in my next life!

~aimee said...

female non picker with a male picker. and i <3 glee!

-- G. said...

Hello. I know this is off topic for this post, but I wanted to let you know that I've awarded you an informal blogging award called "Stylish Blogger Award".

To read about this award, please visit my blog post here:

Please don't feel like you have to participate in this in anyway. I know I wouldn't have if it didn't give me an excuse to see what other blogs were out there.

I should also let you know that I linked your blog on that post. If you wish me to remove the link, please just ask.

Congrats on having what I think is a stylish blog!

Patti K said...

I love this! You made my day! I too, am a picker...but I am perplexed as to how to reach my mid-back to get at the blackhead that has been there for years...I have asked the kids, who have turned there nose up, gagged, coughed, etc. to my simple request... I am divorced,and at this time, have no significant other to the risk of sounding pathetic, may I ask Pam for help? It would help all of us, if you think about it! Much thanks... Patti K

Colleen said...

Ted, you ALWAYS crack me up! I'm in Pam's camp, I'm a picker. I've been known to drive Dan nuts. Hope you guys are surviving the winter. Hope we see you guys when it gets warmer. --Colleen

Aaron W said...

I'm more of a peeler.

Sunburn peeling is very satisfying. I could peel the skin off the middle of my back with the proper contortions.

Allowing elmers glue to dry untouched on your palms is a pretty good simulation for September through June.