Saturday, March 13, 2010

Fun With Pathetic Fallacies

I am weird about inanimate objects. It started when I was a kid, with Cheerios. I always felt compelled to finish every single one in my bowl, not because I was hungry or because I didn't want to waste food, but because I imagined that the Cheerios were all related, and that if I left one or two or sixteen alive and ate the others that would be cruel. What if I separated a baby Cheerio from his parents? Best to just let them all reunite in my tummy, I reasoned.

I prescribed similar human feelings to my stuffed animals. Over the years I amassed five or six, and since I could only sleep with one comfortably I made up a schedule and rotated them every night so that none would feel neglected, even though my secret favorite was my Pound Puppy, Harold. (When I brought Harold to college with me I still felt guilty about abandoning the others, and when I quickly decided that a Pound Puppy had no place in my dorm room, I agonized over my decision to stuff Harold into a cardboard box in my closet. I felt just like the grandma in Flowers in the Attic, only I didn't leave Harold any siblings to have gross incest sex with. My junior year I tried to clean him in the washing machine and he came out with only one eye. Soon after his seams started to rip open. Now he lives in a box at my mom's house. It's like Harold is starring in his own personal version of Hostel.)

Last week I got on the train to go to work. The train was packed except for one seat, which was occupied by a single Mento (is that the singular of Mentos?). This happens all the time in New York: someone will leave a candy wrapper or a newspaper on their seat and everyone else will let it be, opting to stand as if the newspaper might have herpes or be wired to a remote detonator. I mean, I get the 9/11 paranoia; I still get freaked out by paper bags left beneath seats. But a Mento seemed pretty harmless. I picked it up and held it for the remainder of the ride (if I had put it in my bag, odds are 99% I would have found it months later, thought it was mine even though I haven't purchased Mentos since 1996, and eaten it) and threw it away when I reached my stop.

It only just occurred to me that the Mento might have been riding the subway for the first time, on his way somewhere, when I thoughtlessly kidnapped him and then disposed of his body.


There's probably some kind of medication for this.

P.S. "Pathetic fallacy" is the actual medical term for people who treat inanimate objects like they have human feelings, but it seems a tad judgy, no?

P.P.S. Hot Probs answer blog coming soon!

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54 comments :

  1. Sassy,

    I too find myself looking out for inanimate objects. When I was a child I would sort all my toys according to the type of toy. I thought the other toys didn't have anything in common!

    I myself would also feel bad for ruining the ride of a Mento's life, however, when a door shut a window opens. The Mento might have been a tasty lunch for a starving animal! Dream fulfilled!

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  2. I have this too!

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  3. I have a thing about photos of people. I always imagine that they are looking back at me and it creeps me out.

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  4. I feel that way about bananas that I never get around to eating. Their whole purpose in life is to be peeled and consumed, not to sit around, turn brown and get thrown out, so I always wonder if I will be held accountable for abandoning them.

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  5. I'm really bad about stuffed animals ever since the Velveteen Rabbit. I cannot shake the feeling that they are secretly alive. I am very good to my babies, and though some are in a shelf in a closet, none are boxed yet. I'm 35. That's pathetic.

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  6. i definitely had this with my stuffed animals. i took my bear, bubbles, to camp onas one year, and he fell out of the tent. it was horrifying. plus, i ruined him with puff paint, playing doctor on him once. but, he still sits on my nightstand and has moved everywhere with me.

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  7. Poor mentos! No longer the freshmaker!

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  8. You must be some sort of blog psychic! I wrote a post about inanimate objects earlier today (involving one small plastic frog)! I feel similar curiosity about where all sorts of random objects come from. Although, alas, I apparently do not have the kindness in my heart to save them. Does that make me a bad person? I hope not.

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  9. Someone has to watch out for the pathetic fallacy objects, so it might as well be you. We all have our crosses to bear -- but don't worry, to prevent the feeling of abandonment, my crosses all travel in pairs.

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  10. oh man, i'm the same way. on the nights when my husband has to work i sleep with my stuffed bear & on the nights when my husband is home i feel guilty about putting said bear on the pillows on the floor...
    basically, its nice to know i'm not alone in this. :)
    great post.

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  11. I wasn't sympathizing with the mento at all until I saw the sad little graphic you made. Poor li'l guy. Maybe in the trashcan he made pals with some old chewing gum.

    Can I assume from this admitted disorder that you are a Toy Story fan? Having a two year-old, I pretty much have the first one memorized. Can't wait for Toy Story 3 to come out!

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  12. Ever see "Wonderfalls".

    That show took it a little further into psychosis. The objects actually spoke to her.

    Let me know when they start suggesting things.

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  13. LMAO And all this time I thought I was the only one who would ever feel that way about random objects...it's been my secret shame for years! LOL Thank you for bringing it to the light. =) I agree with the assessment of their "medical terminology" for it...why do we have to be pathetic?? o_O Very much "judgy". But as always, I ended reading your post with a smile on my face and a laugh finishing off. Thank you so much for that, as today has been of the "terrible horrible no good very bad" variety.

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  14. LOL singular for Mentos=Mento

    I do feel for my pillow for having to bear the weight of my head whole night.

    I hate flat pillows anyways..

    Another great post!

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  15. I have a thing about the rubbish bins in the office... if i notice one has no rubbish in it, i will go out of my way to dispose of something in it, just so it doesn't feel left out. WEIRD!!

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  16. Chrisy in Chicago5:51 PM

    Una you continue to crack me up :) I hardly ever laugh outside my head and you manage to make me literally laugh-out-loud a least a couple times a week. Thanks!

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  17. I often wonder how you can be so friggin hilarious any random subject. I finally figured it out!
    You are one twisted sister...

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  18. When I was younger, I used to always think that skinnier grapes had less self esteem than fatter grapes, because fatter grapes were more desirable.

    I used to marvel at the irony of life, and how if only I were a grape, I would be so happy. My doppelganger grape is somewhere very happy right now.

    Gogol has nothing on me.

    Anyway, I am a teacher now, and for a vocabulary test, I wrote a sentence about this very concept of grapes feeling like they were worth something. The kids all teased me mercilessly. Sigh.

    Things have not changed much for me. :)

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  19. I don't know where to begin on this one!! Absolutely hilarious.. and I have to admit.. as a closet pathetic fallacy person, yes - my stuffed animals were an issues back in the day. Now - as a 37 year old adult - I tell people to NOT purchase things like that anymore (especially with sweet little faces and beads for eyes.. LOL.) As for the mento.. I could not stop laughing.

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  20. We are twin sisters separated at birth! Oh Ok-I'm your much older sister then.

    I used to believe exactly the same things about my stuffed animals and dolls.

    Now I believe it with socks. Can you imagine how upset socks are when their mate goes missing? Of course that might be explained by it being a tragic sock divorce thing. Just saying.

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  21. I thought I was the only one with this problem, and didn't know it even had a real name. Man! The worst is when I throw away fast food garbage, and make sure that the cup and lid and straw all go in the garbage together, because, you know, they all came together and therefore must be a family.

    My husband makes fun of me for it all the time. Good to know I'm not alone.

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  22. i can't believe that i'm not the only one with this problem - i had the EXACT problem with cheerios, it is unbelievable that you wrote this. i just love that i'm not alone.
    i have to put a spin on everything. i see a grocery cart on the edge of the parking lot, and used to think it was lonely. now i tell myself it needed some alone time. the deal is to do the pre-spin - don't wait til after you save the mento. when you see it, sit with it, share the moment and say 'godspeed, enjoy your adventure' when you leave it on the seat. it truly helps. thanks for sharing, i am still shocked over the cheerios.
    and avoid the garbage disposal - there is no pre-spin that helps.

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  23. This is somewhat unrelated, but you rooting around in your purse and eating a loose mento brought to mind the time I found a piece of ground beef in my belly-button ate it without thinking. I only realized what a gamble I had taken while relaying the story to a friend who asked "How did you know it was ground beef?" and my answer was "Because I ate it"

    Slightly embarassing.

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  24. stuffed animals are the worst bar none!

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  25. There must be a 12-step program for people like us. If there isn't, then the next step is "Hoarders".

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  26. I think I now understand why our son-in-law told our grandson to eat all his green beans or they'd be lonely. The grandson was 2, and he cried--so he's probably got PF syndrome, too!

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  27. Pathetic fallacy does sound totally judgemental!

    Ummm....I like to name a lot of my possessions, i.e. my camera, cell phone, the office cart...and my stuffed animals of course.

    I will also make sure I eat everything on my plate because the Chinese (i.e. my mother) tell their children when they're young, particularly girls, that if they leave any rice behind in their bowls, their future husband will have spots on their face. Or be unattractive. Something like that.

    And I just realized I accidentally called you "Uma" in a comment the other day! I'm sorry, Una! I hate it when people spell others' names incorrectly. I have become one of them:S

    Come check out my blog sometime - I get pretty random: http://venividigiosy.blogspot.com

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  28. This is a serious condition. But it's kinda' cute though. So don't seek treatment.

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  29. I had this with stuffed animals as a child, except it was more fear that they were alive and would go Chuckie on me if they felt I mistreated them. They all got 3 kisses at night, 3 kisses in the morning and they all had to be arranged comfortably on the bed before I could leave. Also, they all had to sleep with me. Screw my comfort. I wanted to live.

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  30. i too am a victim of anthropomorphism.

    i did the same thing with my stuffed animals...only if i didn't tell all 100 of them goodnight they would kill me in my sleep...although i did wake up with mystery bruises...and my socks would be missing.

    >__>

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  31. Do you remember the song about the meatball? On top of spaghetti... all covered with cheese? When it becomes nothing but mush, I tear up... to this very day... in fact it begins when it rolls out the back door... I just know it's doomed. I always imagine it's left a soulmate meatball atop the spaghetti...needless to say, I feel you...

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  32. I once read one of those "dear abby" type things and this women told her that she does the same thing with inanimate objects. She said that when she would choose a spoon to eat her cereal with, she would feel bad for all the other spoons. She asked for Abby's advice.

    Abby told her she was a narcissist and should get over herself. So, you're right, people can be a tad judgy. Luckily for you, and me, we've found an outlet for our narcissism. Blogging.

    zxq - just wanted to make sure those letters didn't feel left out.

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  33. I once emailed Mentos to find out exactly how the Mento/Mentos thing worked for singular plural.

    They never got back to me.

    It still haunts me to this day.

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  34. Jordan, I'm not sure I even want to know how you got ground beef in your belly button. You're either the messiest chef on the planet or you need to stop going to the Taco Bell naked at 1am.

    The mento was probably tormented at being a second-rate, underconsumed, sugar laden junk food. Really, you just put it out of its misery.

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  35. i used to have thoughts like this too lol, i must be too stressed now to worry myself lol

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  36. I didn't realize that there was a name for people like us who treat objects like they have personalities.

    I've been known to speak to my food, or my plants, or pretty much anything. I suppose if they're not talking back, it's okay. :)

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  37. I do the same thing with candy. When Sour Patch Kids are stuck together I eat them both at the same time because I think they're married and they need to be together. When I get a double peanut M&M, I separate them believing they are conjoined twins and I am a surgeon.
    I thought I was the only one.

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  38. Hey! I wrote a little item about your blog - check it out! I know I have several followers who will flock to your page!
    http://nicoleabdou-destinationunknown.blogspot.com/2010/03/things-you-will-never-see-me-blog-about.html

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  39. I once packed a Snickers bar in my luggage knowing I'd on a plane for awhile. I ended up not eating it the whole trip - when I returned home I didn't want to eat it b/c it was special having been to Tokyo and Seoul. The most well-traveled Snickers bar ever I reasoned.

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  40. First off, Flowers in the Attic reference FOR THE WIN! Also, it does kind of sound a little German S&Mish, when you put the whole Harold thing in those terms. All of this I found absolutely hilarious. You're great!

    Second off, I do that too!! I have amassed a ridiculous amount of stuffed animals because I feel truly bad parting with any of them. If my husband got rid of them behind my back, I might even be able to deal with that because then it wouldn't be my fault. But getting rid of one myself?! It would be like stabbing the poor little stuffed toy in its non-existent heart! It would be like telling it I didn't love it anymore!!

    I blame all of this, of course, on the Velveteen Rabbit. If I hadn't learned about the feelings of stuffed animals through that little book, I'd still be a functional human being...

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  41. I consider myself objectist because I am incredibly mean to inanimate objects.

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  42. I have countless of times imagined that my stuffed animals come alive at night, while i am asleep and have tons of fun. I have also wrapped countless of pennies, in papers saying i'm lost, and slipped them into bags at subways and such. Its so much fun!!

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  43. Hahaha! I have always had that since I was a kid, too. I started reading Tom Robbins books, soon after high school...the man literally made a career and cult following with this very syndrome! If you haven't read Still Life With Woodpecker, Skinny Legs and All, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, etc., I think it's HIGH TIME! That's not only an expression...it's also foreshadowing the feeling you get whilst reading him:)

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  44. You've already been left a million of these stories, but have one more . . .
    When I was in primary school, when we were given those colouring/cutting activities that basically consisted of colouring some printed animal picture and then cutting around the shape so it could be pinned onto a cork board or something for display. My colouring was a bit below averaged, so there was always a bit of pencil on the outside of the lines. When it came to cutting out I felt sorry for the bits of colour left behind (my coordination skills not really being their fault and all), so I always used cut around them.
    I ended up getting sent to various councillors for years, to try and diagnose whatever learning disability I had that prevented me from being able to work scissors out.

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  45. I always felt the need (ok, sometimes I still feel the need) to chew the same number of times on the left side of my mouth as my right. I felt it was only the humane thing to for the food. And I slept in the middle of the bed with my stuffed animals lined up to the very end on either side of me (same number on each side), because I couldn't bear to leave any one of them out! Ahh...memories...and current life!

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  46. Ahhh a girl after my own heart. I'm 27 and I made my 5 year old son cry when I told him off for segregating one of his teddies explaining that they would be upset and how lonely segregation is. (Please note that I made him cry whilst teaching him a very valuable life lesson so hopefully son't seem quite so bad a mother)

    I also feel the need to sleep with his favorite bear when he goes to visit his dad so that he doesn't feel lonely at night. We also leave 'big bear' in charge when we go out.

    We also organise my sons toys, not for tidying up purposes but because this way all his toy cars can be with their little toy car friends and all his toy soldiers can be with their corp so as to have something in common.

    I also get very upset at the mobile phone adverts for outdated phones where they say about sending your old unused mobile phone for recycling. I feel sad for the old phone and I talk to it saying how it will be ok which is slightly crazy.

    But for me the most bizarre is my books. Sometimes I have to apologise to them for being badly written because clearly its not their fault but the authors and I advise them that I don't like them any less for being badly written I just wont read them so often.

    I think I need therapy but I'm British so I suppose i'll have a cup of tea instead (in my special mug that I dry with a certain tea towel because, you know, its worth it.)

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  47. I am so glad it's not just me.

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  48. This must be a very common problem...I have it too. Everything must be in pairs otherwise it will certainly be lonely. Perhaps we should start a support group?

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  49. i <3 this blog entry i thought i was the only one lol

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  50. I'm so glad I came across your blog... I now have a name for this. I've done it my whole life, and apparently I got it from my ma! Do you think this is how those packrats who let their houses fill with garbage get their start!?

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  51. My daughter and I both are afflicted with this 'disorder'. "Pathetic fallacy" doesn't sound very nice but it certainly describes my own worries of neglect towards my own stuffed animals as a child. My daughter's is similar to yours and brances from stuffed animals to food. Thank you for giving us a 'diagnosis'! :)

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  52. I totally have this same problem, and I am genuinely offended that it is called pathetic!

    My boyfriend has it even worse, he physically cannot eat odd numbers of candy. If I offered him his favorite candy in the world which he could never eat ever again but only gave him one- he would not eat it. Has to be at least a pair. And if they are the same color it's even better. It applies to all food smaller than a walnut actually. Super annoying.

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  53. Um, I found my cabbage patch kids when my parents' crawl space flooded and I felt so guilty about them being stuffed in a dank concrete dungeon that I partially filled the washer machine then placed them in there as if in a hottub.

    I still feel the guilt. I think they are properly arranged (and now clothed) in the closet of my old bedroom at mom & dad's. Hopefully they haven't been put somewhere bad... now I need to check.

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  54. I'm just freaking out because I'm pretty sure my teddy bear has seen me masturbate.

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