Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Anatomy of a Messer

First printed in Design Magazine 2002

In our Politically Correct times, just about everyone can be, somehow, correct.  Short people are just "vertically challenged" and the bald are just "follically-impaired."  Though it wasn't always so, there are many voices stating that its perfectly okay to be left-handed, or gay, or even hugely fat.  Nobody, they assert, need hide in a closet because of the way they were born.

Still, there is one remaining closet group that has yet to come out.  No voice defends their alternate life-style and there are no statistics to prove that they were "born that way."  These oppressed people are represented in every culture, gender, and society.  Though found in every large city and each tiny hamlet, society forces them to contradict their basic natures and conform to imposed standards.  These are people who tend to be messy.

That they have a genetic predisposition is the only explanation for why two children from the same family could be so wildly different.  One, Heidi Tidy, is careful to keep her shoes lined up like piano keys on the floor of her closet.  As she grows, she writes schedules and sticks to them; she organizes, alphabetizes, and compartmentalizes her whole life through.  Her brother, Messy Jesse, simply ignores the disorder he creates. He happily careens through life, littering, rumpling, smearing, and spilling as he goes.  A creative soul, he might be happy if it were not for the disparaging comments that he constantly hears about his orientation... or rather, disorientation.  His parents wail in bewilderment, "Why are the kids so different? Where did we go wrong?"  The answers, respectively, are; "just because" and "you didn't."

Perhaps the true problem is that the neatniks of the world have had a stranglehold on society for generations.  They relentlessly impose their life-style on everyone, whether the fit makes sense or not.  It is as illogical as hammering horseshoes on a ballerina.  There is no freedom of choice, no quarter for individuality, and no allowance of an alternate life-style.  The tidies and trashers of the world simply operate on different wavelengths.

Imagine a beautiful fall day with a nip in the air.  The leaves are turning colors and and falling from the trees.  The messer, who is often free-spirited and zestful will exclaim, "What a perfect day for a drive in the country!  We could look at the fall colors an maybe even jump into a pile of leaves!"

The neatnik, on the other hand, will consult the calendar and state, "This is the day we winterize the garage, put up the storm windows, and replace the furnace filters."

Such people are always well organized and orderly, but they are no darn fun to be around if you are not of like mind.  It is hard to know exactly what your mind is, in view of centuries of "tidy propaganda" which prescribes neat, clean and organized as the only approach to life.  This simply is not so.  Some of the homilies we have heard all of our lives could simply be rewritten:
  1. Plan your work and work your plan.  This little formula created the Personal Daily Planner mentality.  But messers, or PDP-ophobes, hate being tethered to a schedule, be it paper or electronic.  For them, the only reason to write a work plan is to put off actually working.  A better slogan might be, Live in the meantime.
  2. You can't beat old-fashioned elbow grease.  Not true. Messers firmly believe they will get the gummy patch off the corner of their desk only when they pick up that solvent advertised on TV.  They believe in products that promise to get "everything sparkling clean in a jiffy, with no rubbing, no scrubbing" because they desperately want to believe. Messers buy jigs, gizmos, and gadgets... anything that looks like a amazing rates.  They are not to be censured, but admired for keeping the economy going.  Their credo: Hold out for the miracle in the jar.
  3. An ounce of morning is worth a pound of afternoon. Meant to encourage people to attack their disagreeable tasks early in the morning; this homily promises, "you will then have the rest of the day to do things you enjoy doing!" The hitch is that there is no rest of the day, which the messers learned long ago.  They find it more reasonable to do the things they enjoy in the morning and do chores later (if later unfortunately occurs). Their motto: "I really must do that later."
  4. Cleanliness is next to godliness.  The Bible doesn't actually say this.  Anywhere.  Not in Exodus, Jeremiah, Matthew, or Luke.  Pious types who haven't read the Bible have been clobbering others with it for a long time.  They would be well-advised to read the Bible, don't just dust it.
 After the world's messers rewrite damaging homilies and expose the false scriptures, they may yet find a voice of their own.  Sadly, even then, they may never truly come out of the closet.  Old tennis rackets and discarded clothes would make their door impossible to open.

Midge Nielsen

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