Felix or Oscar?

Today’s post comes to us from Minnesota Steve

The Odd Couple was a popular play that then became a hit movie and then became a television series that ran for five years. The original play, written by Neil Simon, features conflict between recent two divorcees who room together. Felix is a neat freak; Oscar is a slob who is comfortable being a slob. Essentially, the two characters are defined by their very different positions on the OCD scale. I particularly liked the movie. In it, fussy Felix was played by Jack Lemon, an actor who could do crankiness well. Oscar was played perfectly by Walter Matthau.

One reason I found the jokes appealing was how they mirrored my relationship with my favorite hunting and fishing partner, Bill. Bill was Felix; I was Oscar. Bill used to wear suspenders and a belt to keep his pants up; by contrast, I’ve been known to wear neither, with predictable results. We have been pals for over fifty years. Bill has gradually grown less uptight, while I have become somewhat more prepared. It has been the best friendship I ever had.

I was shocked to learn, when I was in my sixties, that I had slight OCD tendencies. One night I sat behind a woman during a small theatrical production. The tag on her blouse was sticking out. I found myself seriously tempted to tuck the tag out of sight. I didn’t, of course. Men who rearrange the clothing of women they don’t know might suffer harsh consequences. I couldn’t wait for that play to end because that loose tag was like a bit of grit in my eye.

When I moved to Michigan, a family friend helped set up in my new apartment. She donated glasses, silverware and furniture so the place would be livable when I arrived. To my disgust, I found myself freaked out by having “mixed” flatware. I lived for 48 years using nothing but the lovely Dansk flatware my erstwife and I got when we were married. After Nancy’s intervention, my elegantly stylish flatware shared a drawer with all kinds of alien forks and spoons from Walmart or who-knows-where. Every time I opened the silver drawer I was disgusted by the clash of styles. When I moved back to Minnesota I secretly dumped all the alien utensils.

So I’m still Oscar, but have a carefully hidden streak of Felix that only my best friends see.

How about you? Are you more slob or neatnik? Do you have enough OCD in you to be slightly bothered by it from time to time? Sitting in the doctor’s waiting area, did you ever straighten up the stacks of magazines?

65 thoughts on “Felix or Oscar?”

  1. thanks steve
    slobs r us has a chapter at my house and the online meetings are good because there’s nowhere to sit down
    i remember seeing jack kaufman in one episode make a sandwich on the kitchen counter then just eat over the sink because then you font need a plate. i thought hey there’s a good idea. i was 18 and still forming my habits. i now have years of years of sandwich eating under my belt and

    Liked by 1 person

    1. and if you buy the right colored carpet you can eat anywhere.
      a friend about that same 18 year old time frame told me if you get a carpet with a pattern that will hide the evidence of dropping a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in it that life can be simplified. i use that as part of the equation today

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Back when we were allowed to dine in groups, I had two shirts, one blue and one brown. The brown shirt was the right choice anytime we ate pasta or something with gravy. Food spills didn’t show.

        The Oscar in me has long been reluctant to use glasses for drinking, especially when I’m indulging my V8 juice addiction. If you swig it from the bottle, you don’t end up with a glass you have to wash.

        But when you say you have years of eating sandwiches under your belt, I’m impressed. That sounds physically challenging. I have arthritis, so I mostly eat sandwiches at eye level.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Fun post, Steve. I am a real mix at this point. I too will eat while walking around the house, without a plate. But if I find a card rack where there are birthday cards tucked in with the sympathy cards, I may be there for a quarter hour getting the entire rack back in shape! I’m sure I’ll think of more…

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Definitely Felix. Indeed, I do have just a tad bit of OCD in me. I’ve learned to “let go” of a lot of it over the years. I never really straightened the magazines in a doctor’s office, but I always found myself counting ceiling tiles and figuring out the area encompassed by roughly knowing the tile or room dimensions.

    Liked by 5 people

        1. Not sure what history tomes have to do with ceiling tile but history tomes always start in the middle of some time—with history extending both forward and backward.

          Liked by 2 people

        2. I started our tile floor in the middle. Except I made a mark for the middle, then used that as an “edge” for the tile rather than the middle of the tile. Didn’t realize it until I got close enough to see it was off and then thought ‘Wait a minute…’

          Liked by 2 people

  4. Most of us are probably mutts of one kind or another. I certainly am no Felix but I have my quirks. I don’t own a pair of sweat pants. The clothes I wear in the house by myself are the same ones I wear when I go out—nondescript, middle of the road but presentable clothing.

    Where one falls on the Felix—Oscar continuum depends on whom you are comparing yourself to and which aspect you are comparing. While I am not a list maker and my work spaces are usually unorganized, I do perceive I have a mild OCD need for visual order. I am bothered by unmade beds and unwashed dishes. My doctor’s clinic doesn’t have magazines on tables but my dentist does. If I were sitting long enough near a table full of magazines in disarray, I can safely predict that I would eventually have those magazines aligned and evenly spaced.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. A significant part of graphic design is lining things up—or deliberately misaligning them to “create tension”. What passes for my OCD tendencies might simply be habit.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Yes. I doubt this is true OCD, but simply a trait. To be a “disorder,”a behavior or trait must somehow interfere in your life. Your trait furthered your career.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. My goodness, Steve, we have another commonality–Dansk flatware. Do I dare think you also have Dansk dinnerware, as we do?? 😉

    I’m on the slob end of the spectrum but only slightly. My wife is slightly to the OCD side of the spectrum. I’d say we balance out pretty evenly. I’d call our household and habits “normal.” Our house looks lived in and to some a bit cluttered (it’s mainly things on shelves, lots of kitchen utensils and gadgets on the counters and above the cupboards, quilts laying on backs of chairs and sofas, books and magazines on coffee tables and end tables, etc. But we keep our house clean and sanitary, but don’t obsess about sterile or magazine-photo-shoot perfect.

    Chris in Owatonna

    Liked by 4 people

    1. This can get tricky, Chris. My general position is that most women are more Felix than Oscar. Of course, that might have been my excuse for being a bit Oscar all those years I was married. I think women’s eyes are better able to see dust than mine. That was actually kinda creepy when I was single and dating. I used to assume my home had all kinds of dust and dirt I couldn’t see. Or, worse, smells I couldn’t smell.

      I never ran the vacuum cleaner unless I expected a female guest. I learned that by observing the behavior of my dog, Katie. When I ran the vacuum cleaner, Katie would position herself by the front window, eager to see which female friend would appear. She knew someone was coming. After all, I was vacuuming.

      Liked by 3 people

    2. I’m sorry; we have three different flatware patterns in the drawer. With the occasional 4th piece. It’s what we started with, then some inheretid pieces and now the latest batch we bought to fill in.
      I just want them heavy enough so I can scoop out ice cream without the spoon bending.
      I’ve been trying to turn the ‘good’ ones the other direction, but I’m the only one who does that so it depends who unloads the dishwasher.
      And drinking glasses should all be organized by size and style. But again, I seem to be the only one that does that.
      And yet we say daughter is the OCD one because she’ll clean off the coffee table and sort things in her room. But she doesn’t care about flatware or glasses. Huh.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. It has been an interesting time as my friend and I go through boxes she had had in storage for years, and now needs to empty, sort through, and discard thecontents or find places for the contents in her apartment. I am more of a Felix. She likes things neat but isn’t as merciless in throwing things out. Things have been a little tense at times.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. I recall my first “fit” of organizing, a summer when I was home visiting my folks during the California teaching years. Came upon my mom’s kitchen “miscellaneous” drawer, filled with cut-out recipes, Ann Landers columns, medical advice… and wondered how in earth she’d ever find anything in there. I started sorting and probably created a divided notebook, or used an accordion file. Have never looked back.

    Our house, though usually looks like a minor cyclone. I have what my mom called little “rat piles” (there’s that rat again) on every horizontal surface – it’s organized by type, but still looks like hell. When we’ll be having company, it gets put in a “holding spot” for the duration.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Bill, we had a closet that was filled with all sorts of strange stuff (scarves, ice skates, extension chords, raincoats, Christmas tree lights . . . etc.). A friend once tried to find something in that mess. He didn’t find it, but said, “I think I saw Amelia Earhart’s flight plans in there somewhere.” Your comment suggests we weren’t really messy. If we just called that “the storage closet,” everything would be cool.

        Liked by 4 people

  8. I am definitely more Felix than Oscar. I dislike clutter and most of the time my little condo doesn’t look very lived in. My OCD tendencies (I think of them as great organizational skills) showed up often at work on the NICU. I could not start my shift without tidying up the bedside cart to make sure I had all the supplies I needed, they were in the correct place, and the top of the cart was clean. I also left the cart in the same condition when my shift was done. At home I am ruthless about getting rid of stuff I no longer need/use – whether recycling, donating, or tossing. Thank goodness I live alone and don’t have to deal with other people’s “stuff”. In regards to food, I am a mix. Felix shows up during prep and clean up. Oscar shows up for eating. My favorite place to eat lunch or supper is the loveseat in my den and if a plate is not absolutely necessary, I’ll just use paper towels or napkins to hold the food.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You’ve got some Oscar in you if you use a paper plate when eating alone. You have some serious Oscar in you if you then reuse that paper plate, in spite of a few minor food stains. I–ahem!–know an elderly gentleman who does that.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Rise and Shine Baboons,

    I am still trying to get my act together following our trip back to MN last week. Today I am more myself–part Oscar (things I just don’t care about) part Felix (things I do care about). I had to draw on my Felix last week to clean my house after we returned, then disinfect everything from our travels.

    I don’t like lots of things setting around the house because then I cannot find anything. I just don’t deal well with overwhelming visual details that many people really like. Plus then you have to dust the stuff which I really don’t like.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Kelly and I are a good mix of each. We have certain things that have to go there, and others that just get set down. The kiss of death for things that just get “set down” because they generally won’t move for months. Curses! Hate it when we do that. I’m looking at two large books on the table that I bought up because I thought Kelly wanted to read them. And they’re big enough I’m not sure where to move them. We definitely need more book shelves. But that means painting that room first before we can put up shelves.

    I remember years ago Kelly was helping me down in the barn. She set the pitch fork down and I moved it 6″ and said it had to go there. There was a little discussion about that.
    20 years later she referenced the pitch fork again. We both laughed; me that she’d bring it up then and her that I actually remembered it.
    17 years ago today we sold the milk cows. Normally we go out to Olive Garden to celebrate the annual ‘No Cows’ dinner. Oh well!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I would have to say that for the most part I am more Oscar than Felix. I’m not a fancy dresser, I have been known to just put my hair up without brushing it in the morning. The best thing about having to work from home right now is the sweat pants.

    There are a few places where I’m a little more Felix. My studio—I do not like to leave it messy, because that discourages me from coming in and starting a project. Kind of the same at work—I don’t like to keep a messy desk at work I like everything filed and put away and straight. It’s harder for me to stay focused When things are organized.

    The one thing that I have noticed in the last week now that we are social distancing is that I have taken on the dishes here at the house. In the past if YA left dishes in the sink I would get on her to do her own dishes. Now when I find them I’m just doing them. And she’s caught onto this immediately!!

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    1. ” It’s harder for me to stay focused When things are organized.” That confuses the heck out of me. Please tell me it should read “disorganized.”

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  12. I am in the K-Two camp. But that makes sense for people in the health care industry- be organized and prepared and CLEAN (good chefs too). I feel better when the beds are made and dishes washed. I guess that would put me more in the Felix camp. My husband fortunately is not much of an Oscar and seems to appreciate the organization. I call it “Defensive Organization” to avoid the panic when one cannot find something important they are looking for.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thanks Steve- I have been following for years but not always posting. I also follow Out to Pasture blog to keep up with the goats! Still miss the Morning show. Welcome back to MN!

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I just checked and Cheeky’s two turned out to be bucks! I know they would prefer does and hope the next batch due tomorrow will be such.

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  13. Ah, some more middle of the road – I’ve found the passage from Laurie Colwin’s More Home Cooking that I sought, where she talks about “la cuisine de la ‘slobbe raffinee’, or ‘the cooking of the refined slob’ ” In her Roast Chicken example: The refined slob does not, for instance, even tie up her chicken. Her fancy imported linen kitchen string… has been purloined by her child, who has used it to make spiderwebs by tying all the chairs together. Before I had a child, I would no more have cooked an untrussed chicken than I would have reused the dead coffee grounds, but today I know an untrussed chicken is perfectly fine. Probably still more Felix than Oscar, but I love her irreverant attitude, and she has some great stories..

    Liked by 1 person

  14. OT Flashback: Last week when we were announcing the book we planned to read next, I stated that when the time came that I was ready for my next read I would go in the basement and see what jumped out at me. I know you’ve all been in suspense since then. The time has come and my choice is:
    Up In The Old Hotel by Joseph Mitchell.

    Joseph Mitchell was a journalist and a writer for the New Yorker. His beat was the places and people that made up the street life of New York in the thirties and forties—among them profiles of street preachers, gypsy kings and bearded ladies. Up In The Old Hotel is a collection of his journalistic stories plus some of his fiction.

    I’ve read another of Mitchell’s collections: My Ears Are Bent and enjoyed it greatly. Mitchell’s book Joe Gould’s Secret was made into a movie. That story is included in Up In The Old Hotel

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I just started the book you were recommended about people meeting each other at the crossroads as it were. I have course don’t remember the name right now because I’m in the other room and I’m too lazy to get up and go in there and look at the title.But I am a few chapters in and enjoying it.

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  15. I no longer think everyone who is affected by OCD is tidy and well-organized. A few years ago I struggled to understand what was going on with my aunt, who had to abruptly move into assisted living. She had a tendency to accumulate stuff, and she had great difficulty parting with all her stuff. Her apartment from which she had to downsize was not large, but it was a challenge to empty. She was willing to part with things, but only if someone she knew wanted them. She resisted donating. She resisted taking books to a used bookstore. She resisted taking fabric and sewing notions to Artscraps – she wanted the sewers in the family to take everything and use it up. (Anyone who sews knows you never use up everything; there is always something left over.)

    I found a book at the library about people who hoard, and it listed one motivation for hoarding as perfectionism. It seemed sort of counter-intuitive, because you would think of someone who is a perfectionist as being a sort of Felix, with everything neat and tidy. But some people with OCD tendencies have a strong need to use everything perfectly, and keep a lot of stuff around thinking they will find the perfect use for it. That perfectly described my aunt. She kept a lot of clear plastic jars that could easily have gone into the recycling bin, but she thought clear plastic jars had value as storage containers. To her, that was a better use than just recycling. So she would keep them. Sending books to a used bookstore was a less perfect outcome than finding someone she knew who wanted to read the books. So she would keep them.

    Having come to a better understanding of my aunt, I’ve started to recognize that same deviant strain of perfectionism in myself. Yes, I’ve been known to brush some crumbs off a paper plate and reuse it. But who is presenting symptoms of OCD – Felix, who discards the paper plate immediately and fastidiously, or Oscar, who feels compelled to use it more than once to not be wasteful? Or both?

    Liked by 4 people

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