When Did My Amusing Quirks Become Senility?


I have noticed that the older I get, the more often people comment on my “senile idiosyncrasies.” I mean, I always had them, but when I was younger, they were just considered to be charmingly cute quirks. Now that people are looking for that first sign that I should be shuttled into a nursing home, the quirks have taken on an exaggerated importance.

Yet, I must admit, they help define me.

For instance, I put silk plants in with my real plants. I see absolutely nothing wrong with this, yet it distresses people. When someone notices that I’m only watering every other plant, I inevitably have to “fess up.”

“I don’t need to water the silk ones.”

“But why do you have fake plants at all?”

“Shhh! I’m encouraging them.”

“The real plants?”

“Yes, I find that when a real plant is surrounded by a forever-green plant, it gets them to try harder.”


That’s when people start to back away slowly. I have started to sound less cute and more crazy.

Another thing they pick on is my hyper-organization. Previously, it stood me in good stead, but now I am immediately labeled “obsessive-compulsive.”

Oh, yeah? Well, if I’m so disturbingly obsessive-compulsive, stop coming to me every time you can’t find the tape, the scissors, a matching sock or a fresh bottle of ketchup. Someone has to keep tabs on these things.

My husband complains about the way I eat cereal. I mash it all down into the milk and let it sit for a couple of minutes before I dig in. I hate crunchy cereal… so sue me.

I also cannot stand anyone reading my newspaper, magazine or book before I do. Look, I ordered the thing… I paid for the thing… I fetched the thing out of the mailbox — at least give me first glance! And, if I don’t get to it for a week and the waiting is killing you, here’s an idea: order your own damn stuff!

On our first date, Mark took his fork and chose something off my plate to taste. He didn’t know how close he came to never seeing me again. I had to talk myself down by rationalizing that, since he was probably going to pay for the food, it all technically belonged to him. On our second date, I made it clear that I was paying for my own meal, but it didn’t matter — he still ate something of mine. Don’t order fish and then help yourself to my steak! If you want a steak, order one. (See the bit about newspapers above.)

Of course, Mark is probably right about this next thing. He tells me that it’s not polite, when invited to someone else’s home, to straighten their lampshades and pictures before you sit down. But I have to. It’s that or leave the house. I can’t even attempt to focus on conversation when something in the room is askew. I’ve tried; I can’t do it.

In my own home, I wipe down doorknobs, phones and light switches with alcohol, but only if someone in the house is sick… or looks sick… or was sick… or has a friend who’s sick. Some people think that’s weird. I think that’s thoughtful hygiene.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I must tell you that I save the bows off packages. For years. The kids laugh when they receive a birthday gift adorned with the same bow they’ve been seeing on packages since 1983. But a package without a bow is like a cake without frosting. And who wants cake without frosting?

You do? Well, that’s a senile idiosyncrasy, plain and simple — unless you’re in your 30s. Then it’s a charmingly cute quirk.