As I have mentioned, I have my 15th year high school class reunion coming up. I was thinking about this and feeling somewhat anxious and morose about how I've fallen well behind making various life transitions that most other attendees will have made: e.g., marriage, children, home ownership. I don't feel down about this very often, and even when I do I never feel all that down. It's certainly not like I'm sitting here weepy in the RVSRC* or anything remotely like that. But, while I was thinking about this, I suddenly realized I was doing so while chewing on the end of the Sharpie pen I was holding. And I thought: my God, Jeremy, aside from your Ph.D., do you ever successfully make the transition to the latter stages of anything?
In case you've repressed your boilerplate Freud, his five stages of psychosexual development are the (1) oral, (2) anal, (3) phallic, (4) latent, and (5) genital. Failure to successfully resolve all the various conflicts caused by a particular stage will cause you to remain fixated in that stage in all kinds of ways that manifest themselves ever after (or until you go through several years of psychoanalysis). A Freudian would just be able to take glance at my fingernails and declare me to be a categorical Stage One Failure. I have bitten my nails my whole life, down through the cuticles and beyond, and I regard the habit as so ingrained that I've never seriously considered setting myself up for the massive failure that would ensue if I tried to quit. I consider it achievement enough that I no longer bite my toenails, although that might be attributable to a loss of limberness as much as a gain in self-control. Anyway, what I'm saying is, as is the cardinal sign of oral fixation, I have my whole life been a chewer. Consider:
- When I was in kindergarten, I would pull the collar of my the T-shirt into my mouth and chew on it until all my shirts looked like my dresser drawers had been infested by some ravaging rogue hamster horde.
- When I was in second grade, my mother bought me this little tourquoise-and-red stone ring that she wanted me to wear. I chewed it until it was so completely mangled that was shaped like a twelve-sided washer and a couple of the stones fell out, and then I remember several days dreading when my mother would notice this. A couple years later she bought me another ring, and while I didn't chew it nearly as much, there were still certainly various teeth marks on it. If I ever do get married, and that marriage does involve a change of rings, I have no idea what I will do to attempt to stave off the seemingly inevitable absent-minded-chewing-up of my wedding ring.
- I've chewed pens my whole life. I've twice surreptitiously bought new pens identical to ones I've borrowed from others so that I could return a pen without teeth marks. Sometime around my junior year of high school I had chewed the cap of the pen I was using so much that the top half of the cap had basically been shorn off. A teacher noticed me chewing on the bottom half in class, asked me where the rest of the cap was, and I told her that I had, ack, just accidentally swallowed it. I thought I was obviously-enough joking, but it was one of those jokes the other person doesn't recognize as such and so then becomes A Lie because it seemed too awkward to try to explain how I had actually just been joking. Anyway, let's just say that the teacher later told the principal and then the principal immediately called my mother and urged her to take me to a doctor after school.
* Recreational Vehicle Social Research Compound