Thursday, January 22, 2009



Are you neat?

I don’t mean anal-retentive, super-freaky, germophobic, squeaky-clean, obsessively compulsive, Tony Shalhoub crazy-neat. I just mean, when you were in school and the teacher said Neatness Counts, did you get a B-, or a C+?

For me, that’s neat.

Or are you – for want of a better word — a slob?

I don’t mean an out and out, muck and grime, where-were-you-brought-up-in-a-pigsty, Collier brothers kind of slob. I just mean have you ever been diagnosed as genetically incapable of picking up your socks and underwear once they hit the floor?

Most of us are either one or the other.

So how come, once we know what we are, we spend most of our time — most of our lives, in fact — with someone who is exactly the opposite? Think Felix Unger and Oscar Madison.

Or me and my wife.

She’s orderly. Not certifiable, but she certainly does like things in their place. You know that old joke? The one that goes, my wife is so neat that when I get up at three in the morning to pee, when I come back, she’s made the bed. She’s not that neat. Her cut off point is about 5:30. When we make dinner, she cleans up as we go along. As we go along, people. That’s a whoop-ass helping of Neat.

It drives me crazy.

I, on the other hand, have always lived a life of organized chaos. My desk is a study in pre-meditated confusion. Yes, I file. But more often than not, I pile. Even my writing has always been an oxymoronic mix of spontaneity and structure.

It drives her crazy.

Recently, I saw one of those eHarmony commercials. Apparently they have this patented Compatibility Matching System® that — and I quote — “narrows the field from millions of candidates to a highly select group of singles that are compatible with you.” So I asked my wife, if we took the eHarmony test, do you think they’d match us up?

No way, she said. (Only she said it using three words — her standard response when I ask stupid questions.)

I agreed. The eHarmony computers would take one scan of our questionnaires and spit us into separate buckets, never to be part of each other’s highly select group of compatible singles.

Compatibility isn’t what has kept us together all these decades. It’s our incompatibility. They say the reason opposites attract is exactly what drew Tom Cruise to Renée Zellweger in Jerry Maguire. She completed him.

Which can only mean there's only one possible reason why my wife has put up with me all these years. It’s got to be all that crap I’ve accumulated.