Calling all the crouton petters.
September 27, 2014 3:41 PM   Subscribe

So when asked if I had any weird habits or quirks, I said “I don’t like cooking a single jacket potato as I think it looks lonely.” Dean Burnett explains what he calls Lonely Potato Syndrome, which Metafilter is quite familiar with.
posted by cmyk (62 comments total) 48 users marked this as a favorite
An interesting article, if a bit lightweight, but I'm glad that it gave me a chance to revisit one of the most favorited comments on the blue ever.
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:06 PM on September 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

Well, that's what you get for calling it a "jacket potato," like you're bundling it up for a chilly walk to school. Potato children are safer in numbers.

Here in North America, a "baked potato" doesn't mind getting baked solo, maaaan.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:40 PM on September 27, 2014 [21 favorites]

Kids do this as a matter of course at a certain stage of language acquisition - at least, in my experience. Both my girls went through a phase of saying "bye, sponge" when leaving the bath, say.
posted by iotic at 4:43 PM on September 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have two microscopes for work, my main one that I call Darwin, and a traveling microscope I call Huxley. Half the time my feelings about my scopes are incredulity that I have feelings about my scopes, and the other half of the time I'm anxious about their feelings.

I work from home, so that's where my scopes live. Huxley has his own little special box for traveling. And when I'm not using Huxley, I get anxious about Huxley being in his box. Like, can't sleep at night anxious. I've gotten up in the middle of the night in hotel rooms to take Huxley out. At home, I just can't take Huxley out of his box - I have to set him next to Darwin. Even though there is no room and it's a huge inconvenience. And when I'm gone, I worry about Darwin. Being lonely. It's a contraption of light and mirrors, and yet I can't go to sleep out of anxiety that it might be sitting alone, wishing it was being used and fulfilled by its sense of purpose. It's preposterous yet I can't help myself.

So I've called my husband in the middle of the night to ask him to check on Darwin. That is one of the most ridiculous conversations one can have - Hey honey I know you were sleeping but can you please check on my microscope to see if it's feeling okay? And you know what love is? Love is my husband saying, Ok, sweetheart, your microscope is okay. I set your Einstein doll next to it and turned your desk light on, so it isn't all alone in the dark.
posted by barchan at 4:47 PM on September 27, 2014 [156 favorites]

One of the sincere problems we have in psychology is that actual operational definitions are extraordinarily difficult. Interior experiences are not sharable, though an enormous quantity of contemporary art and media is dedicated to that purpose. The DSM attempted this and found that drawing from a narrow band of humanity created a document that is profoundly bent, not just by the narrowness of the scope but also by the assumption of this narrowness being universal.

A second problem is that separating a person from their environment is functionally impossible, leading to the "if too natural, not scientific" and "if too experimental, not generalizable" mirror problem. A lot of the push/pull between narrative and experimental psychology is because there are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches. This is something which appears in other branches of science a lot, but the public perception of science is that it only tells us What Is True and What Is False, and when you have something as complicated as how humans exist within the context of their environment the Platonic Ideal of True and False become complicated.

Another problem is that, like writing and singing, almost everyone has an emotional attachment to their own style/ability/approach to their own psychology and the psychology of the people they know, and it all feels familiar with the topic while having no systemized understanding of it from a broader perspective. Common in the history of science is the invalidation of things 'everyone knows', and in few disciplines is it easier ignored than in psychology.

For example, the disorder I'm most familiar with, schizophrenia. The name comes from the Germans, and was originally plural because the symptoms were so divergent they assumed it had to be a family of syndromes, not a single 'illness'. There are three characteristics that appear to be semi-common - hallucinations, delusions, and thought disorder of some sort.

Hallucinations are the easiest to define... kinda. Things the person perceives that "aren't really there." Like, there weren't body parts in the floor the way one of my clients told me - I knew that because I was looking at the same spot. The edge cases are things like whispers, high pitched sounds some people may hear while others can't, interpretations of existing sounds (is that bang a car, or a gun shot - depends a lot on context), and defining self-talk. See, a lot of auditory hallucinations are "normal." People complain a lot about earworms - music that repeats in your head without an external source. Hello hallucination. In addition, there are syndromes which involve auditory hallucinations like tinnitus, where it's a physiological cause, or Charles Bonnet Syndrome, where we're not quite sure what's going on, but it appears to be organic...ish.

The differentiation is usually in the beliefs around the hallucinations; my client who heard the gun shot will call 911 saying there was a murder, but most people will check to see if it was a car backfiring first (or in a neighborhood where this is routine, will avoid the cops and keep their head down). My client who hears god and the devil to tell him to do things "really believes" that god and the devil speak to him.

So now we're in delusion land - and let me tell you, as someone who deals with them all the damn time, my sense of what is reality and what is not has taken several broadside hits. Delusions are beliefs which differ significantly enough from the beliefs of the people around the "delusional" person that they are considered "wrong."

Back in the early days of my job, a client started telling me about the vacation she was going to take with her family. The majority of people in the system with schizophrenia have been abandoned by their families, and delusions about fun stuff in the future that will never happen is really common (think about how heartbreaking that is!). My co-worker was convinced she was delusional. I did my usual 'wait for more data' practice that I do for the first year or so of knowing my clients. She went on a cruise two months later with her whole family and had a blast; turns out her family is very involved despite the difficulty. In contrast, another client of mine has been 'about to move and get more money' for five years now, and besides a quick check to make sure he hasn't gotten anything written in the mail which might be an eviction, I mostly ignore it.

Further darkening this entire situation is that people with schizophrenia are highly likely to have their claims dismissed because of their mental illness - which ironically makes them a target for criminals who get their cover through social engineering, like rapists and abusers. Likewise, "delusional" is rhetorically used to dismiss people who have different beliefs or experiences. A black man being targeted by the police might be dismissed as delusional by people who don't know the facts of a situation, but in reality black men are disproportionately targeted and recognizing that is categorically not paranoia (a subset of delusions). Psychology has long been used by a narrow subsection of humanity to diagnose and treat people for being functional but divergent from the 'norm', and just because we've removed homosexuality from the DSM doesn't mean that there aren't both gross and subtle flaws remaining.

This doesn't even touch the whole minefield of is it a metaphor for a felt sense - that would take me weeks. Suffice it to say, defining delusional is, in and of itself, likely a delusional practice.

Ironically, for me, the easiest to spot and track is the "thought disorder" end, and that's where I tend to draw my 'schizophrenic / not schizophrenic' line, rather than the more flashy hallucinations and more intricate delusions. Confusion. Difficulty focusing. Difficulty parsing sentences. Connection between wildly unrelated things. Idiosyncratic word choice. Even the words we use for it - flight of ideas, word salad - reflect the powerful experience of looking at a page of words which seem to have leapt across each other in confusion and listening to a sentence that starts in one place and ends three countries over, drinking a mojito. I find hallucinations in myself and others who have weird things their brain do. I find delusions all over - which of us is truly rational in our deepest held beliefs? I've met no one yet. Thought disorder is it's own thing, though, and strikingly unique. "I was watching the trees, and there was an ambulance, so do you think my mom is ok?" Nothing like it, and yes, his mom was ok; he spoke to her that morning.

This is one idiosyncratic perception of schizophrenia, though - and I have no reason to think it's more accurate than the lines drawn by hundreds of other people. I have narrow experience - two dozen people, most of them white. All of them came with labels on them. All of them will remain labeled until death, and those labels will effect how people interact with them, view them, etc... including me. There is no objective way to know how accurate these labels are, though - the operational definitions suck, and may reflect rational responses to how they are treated more than things organically part of the mental illness. Schizophrenia-like-symptoms are acute in some other cultures; they're chronic in ours - the contrast is striking to me.

And so yes, lonely potato syndrome could become a disorder if it spread to enough people and affected their lives detrimentally to a large enough extent. It appears to be a quirk of our mirror neurons - the part of our brain which is related to/causes(?) empathy, but quirks can become pathological and they tend to be common. Believing something is a disorder can also cause it; medically speaking, the support for the placebo effect is intense and consistent, and conversion disorder is essentially a psychological placebo effect, as we define it now (to clarify for people who define placebo effect as 'not real', conversion disorder is often related to traumatic events which aren't processed/discussed and thus is very 'real' despite the symptoms being untreatable medically).

My biggest concern is how we tend to dismiss these things as "not real". They are part of what make us human - our thoughts about things, and our thoughts about our thoughts, and how those thoughts and thoughts about thoughts affect our behavior and by extension our culture, which by extension alters how we relate to each other and what other people are taught about is.

I believe that "practicing" love on inanimate objects is a wonderful thing, even if it gets goofy sometimes.
posted by Deoridhe at 4:55 PM on September 27, 2014 [97 favorites]

Perhaps my favorite small detail in "Moon" is a shot of the control board where he has named the four harvesters Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John -- but John is scratched out and in different color ink is written "Judas". There's the backstory of his job in a single screenshot.

With regards to the article though, it's definitely not just mental illness this applies to. A quick browse through WebMD will convince you that you have an amazingly large variety of diseases.

The human mind's greatest talent is pattern matching and we seem to be thrilled when we learn a new pattern that makes sense out of existing data. It is the part of jigsaw puzzles or mystery novels that everyone can enjoy. Suddenly the pieces fit.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:36 PM on September 27, 2014 [7 favorites]

I first noticed this about ten years back when I had trouble purchasing brands of cat food and cat litter that had either cute cartoon mascots or happy, hopeful-looking cats on the bag. I was worried that if my cats didn't like what I got for them, we'd be failing the happy cats on the bag and we'd have to throw the bag out and there would the cheery Johnny Cat mascot with his little collar and bell and happy meowing face on the bag in the trash, right there smiling up at me from the trash can even though I was consigning him to a useless fate, and OH GOD

I called this feeling object empathy and it turned out a lot of my friends have had it over the years. One friend told me about how, on the evening of an elementary school play, she was getting dressed up for her role as Third Munchkin on the Left and the hairdryer broke, the hairdryer she'd used for many years, and she was completely devastated to watch her mother so callously throw away the faithful hairdryer in the trash can that she was inconsolable throughout the entire play. It had happily dried her hair for so many years. Watching it get binned was like watching a friend die. Or maybe just get really really hurt and abandoned.

Yeah. People got it. And of all my friends who said they'd had it, not a single one said they'd ever heard about anyone else with it.

I still have trouble buying kitten food today because there are happy hopeful kittens on each can and I bet they grew up big and strong and happy and if my kittens get sick from this food WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO OH POOR HAPPY HOPEFUL KITTEN I KNOW I TRUSTED YOU AND YOU ARE SO CUTE

I am going to make a mug of warm milk and lie down for a bit.
posted by Spatch at 5:40 PM on September 27, 2014 [19 favorites]

I have a plant-specific version of this, in that after my indoor plant collection reached a certain size, I started to have problems with discarding cuttings that I knew could be rooted and turned into new plants. Something about seeing it all down at the bottom of a dark trash can, knowing that it would be down there trying to photosynthesize as best as it could, knowing that if a piece of a plant can be said to want anything, it clearly would want to continue being alive.

In the end, I compromised: some cuttings got rooted even though I didn't necessarily want more of that plant (which has since sort of paid off in that I've been selling them). Others I threw away. Some stuff I delayed cutting back, so as to avoid having to make the decision.

And as of this afternoon, I have 1,185 plants in the house. Plus some unknown number of cuttings and seeds rooting in various substances.
posted by Spathe Cadet at 5:57 PM on September 27, 2014 [19 favorites]

It seems a terrible waste of energy, heating an oven for an hour just for one potato.
posted by Flashman at 6:03 PM on September 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

A propos: Sad Voyager
posted by thrind at 6:05 PM on September 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

Flagged as fantastic, Deoridhe, and oh do I want to pick your brains now.
posted by cmyk at 6:10 PM on September 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

I can't help but remember Philippe, and his adventure to the Transfer Station (long story, few interruptions, many clicks, but simply great) to save the couch he loved. If you aren't familiar with Achewood, all you need to know is that Philippe is five, he's an otter, and he's adorable in such a way that even cynical and generally whimsy-opposed me can't help but enjoy.
posted by chambers at 6:19 PM on September 27, 2014 [10 favorites]

I first noticed this about ten years back when I had trouble purchasing brands of cat food and cat litter that had either cute cartoon mascots or happy, hopeful-looking cats on the bag.

I get weird about cat food and cat litter, too. Except in my case, I get sad when I see the cheap bottom-shelf cat food, because I start imagining all the cat owners who can only afford the kitty equivalent of ramen, and then I tell myself to knock it off because cats don't care how much their food costs. But, like, one of the cheap brands has a cartoon cat that looks like my cat and he's licking his lips excitedly and why am I sad about a drawing of a cat I don't know.

It's a weird intersection of my two sadness triggers: cats (I got really sad at a picture book of kittens I saw at Target once, and I get sad during that old Sesame Street short with the cats in the dollhouse) and cheap things (I feel pity for cheap crappy objects because it's not their fault they were poorly made).
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:23 PM on September 27, 2014 [5 favorites]

Flagged as fantastic, Deoridhe, and oh do I want to pick your brains now.

Pick away; I love the sight of my own words. ;)
posted by Deoridhe at 6:42 PM on September 27, 2014

See, a lot of auditory hallucinations are "normal." People complain a lot about earworms - music that repeats in your head without an external source. Hello hallucination.

Holy cow, is that actually clinically considered hallucination? I occasionally get/have AVH and I feel like it's a very different experience from having music stuck in your head.
posted by dorque at 6:48 PM on September 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

There's an episode of that sitcom The Middle where the family tries to clean all the useless crap out of their house, and the sweet awkward kid, Sue, can't bear to throw away her old electric hair rollers because she's convinced they'll feel abandoned. And of course, I got all teary-eyed watching it, thinking of Shelby and Ricky the Roomba.
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:48 PM on September 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

If this is a problem for you, definitely do not put googly eyes on anything you may have to throw away later.

posted by louche mustachio at 7:18 PM on September 27, 2014 [26 favorites]

and little mr. happy beer can
posted by louche mustachio at 7:19 PM on September 27, 2014 [4 favorites]

Huh, so my books really are my friends.

posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 7:27 PM on September 27, 2014 [5 favorites]

I have friends whose hoarding is fueled by this.
posted by persona au gratin at 7:30 PM on September 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

An interesting article, if a bit lightweight, but I'm glad that it gave me a chance to revisit one of the most favorited comments on the blue ever.

My old roommate had a Furby. One day I was in the house alone and had to get a book off the top of a bookcase. The Furby was sitting on top of it and I knew that if the pressure was removed by lifting him, he would wake up and squawk at me plaintively for a half hour or so. So I ended up grabbing another book and doing my best Indiana Jones roll against dexterity by sliding the replacement book underneath to keep him from waking up.

I failed miserably and he did indeed squawk for a half hour.

I can totally understand the personalization of such objects, but I had no such issues with that damn Furby.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 8:02 PM on September 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's funny, I used to have more of this quirk in my makeup but seem to have grown out of it. Though I do have flashes of guilt for all the toys my son never plays with that sit sadly in the closet. But I feel like I can blame Toy Story for that.

I don't know whether to be relieved that I don't anthropomorphize more, or worried that I am lacking empathy.
posted by emjaybee at 8:29 PM on September 27, 2014

Holy cow, is that actually clinically considered hallucination? I occasionally get/have AVH and I feel like it's a very different experience from having music stuck in your head.

Not really. Neither is negative self-talk. Kinda. Maybe. I'd imagine some people have described their negative self-talk and depending on the circumstances had it defined as "hallucination". Both earworms and negative self-talk are examples of us hearing something that no one else can, though, which reinforces that how we define "hallucination" has a lot more to do with assumed shared experiences than people often like to admit to.

"Clinically considered" is also a really tricky sort of thing to define. A lot depends on your assumptions about what is going on with the other person and how they answer a bunch of questions at a given time. Clinicians are usually expected to diagnose after a half hour to hour meeting with a person for the first time; I know one case where it was fifteen minutes, and the clinician was a total noob. I usually don't feel comfortable making a clinical judgement about what is going on with someone until I've known them three months, six months if they are suspicious, and at least a year if they've had negative experiences with clinicians in the past. Keep in mind, this is seeing them at least once a week, not once a month, and often for longer than an hour a week.

I have someone where we're coming up on a year and a half and all we agree on is "anxiety, definitely; something hinky with the family; idiosyncratic language which may or may not be delusional". On paper, schizophrenia. In practice..... uh.... lacking a lot of things which would make me comfortable with that diagnosis. Definitely not just anxiety. Lets hang out for a while in "I dunno" land, it's nice here.

Someone else: hears voices - check. Delusions - nope. Mental confusion - turns out that was medical (only took us FIVE FUCKING YEARS to figure out). Diagnosis on paper, schizophrenia. In practice, I'm leaning toward slight intellectual retardation due to childhood brain injuries, with something weird going on with the temporal lobe to explain the voices, and acting accordingly.

Just like the personalization of inanimate objects both is and isn't "delusional" (we're all being completely clear we don't quite believe it, and yet it is emotionally true and affects behavior), the hearing of voices both is and isn't "hallucination". Peoples is complicated, yo.
posted by Deoridhe at 9:06 PM on September 27, 2014 [16 favorites]

It's not often that commercials get it before the experts, but I think it's safe to say that the ikea lamp commercial was all about this phenomenon.
posted by Phredward at 9:20 PM on September 27, 2014 [11 favorites]

I'm not too prone to this, but I was just thinking this morning about my truck being happy to get to drive the really shit road I was driving it down, since it was actually fulfilling its purpose at an age when many of its peers have been recycled.
posted by wotsac at 9:48 PM on September 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

Spathe Cadet, I have the same issue, except with potatoes. You know how if you have really neglected a bag of potatoes, they'll not just have sprouts but long tendrils that have curled and pushed and sought the light? I feel so damn BAD throwing them out, they've fought so hard to live.
posted by tavella at 9:52 PM on September 27, 2014 [6 favorites]

Love is my husband saying, Ok, sweetheart, your microscope is okay. I set your Einstein doll next to it and turned your desk light on, so it isn't all alone in the dark.

Someone is chopping onions in here I tell you. That was just... you are blessed. Seriously.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:13 PM on September 27, 2014 [11 favorites]

I think the Verizon commercial about trading in your iPhone is also working with this phenomenon as its basis.
posted by bgal81 at 10:14 PM on September 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

barchan, you made my eyes leak. Not at all cricket.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 10:24 PM on September 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have tears too but it's because I was laughing so hard at "I'M SORRY MR. WINE BOX WITH YOUR LITTLE WINE SNOOT" that I no-shit began to cry with laughter.
posted by KathrynT at 10:33 PM on September 27, 2014 [11 favorites]

Look. It can't get any worse than this: When I was younger, I used to save dryer lint and clothing tags because I felt bad for them. I wouldn't eat animal shaped pasta, chocolate bunnies or gummi bears because I didn't want to kill them.

I am 34 years old and have 50 or so stuffed animals... and when I've had to pack them, I make sure they're in a box that isn't sealed all the way. I rotate my pens at work so none of them feel left out. I feel bad for crappy looking valentines stuffed animals and sometimes buy them to ensure they have a home. It just goes on and on...
posted by KogeLiz at 11:39 PM on September 27, 2014 [4 favorites]

When I packed away my stuffed animals I made sure to seal them up tight because surely they would rise up and kill me in my sleep.
posted by emeiji at 11:54 PM on September 27, 2014 [4 favorites]

I'm beginning to feel totally embarrassed by my lack of empathy to food-in-the-shape-of-animals. I usually start with the head, and sometimes giggling and cackling is involved.
posted by Deoridhe at 1:53 AM on September 28, 2014 [5 favorites]

My wife feels sorry for fancy candles which go unlit. The idea of them living unfulfilled candle-lives makes her sad.
posted by gnuhavenpier at 2:14 AM on September 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

This thing was a near-crippling condition for me as a child, between about grades 1 and 5. For me, it was rocks. When I was walking, if I kicked a rock, I would get awful pangs of guilt for having disturbed it and moved it out of its peer group. To make it right, I would silently tell the rock that it was my friend, and that we were adventuring together, and kick it along with me all the way to whatever my destination was--usually school or home. When I arrived, I would try to just walk away, but the rock would plead with me to not abandon it. So, naturally, I would gather the rock and place it in my pocket or bookbag, depending on its size.

I had a pencil box (actually a cigar box) in my classroom desk with nothing but small rocks in it. I had another at home for the same. When the school box filled up, I would bring it home and introduce all of the school rocks to all of the home rocks, and recall being anxious over the possibility that some of the rocks may not get along well. Of course, I alleviated that concern by recognizing the possibility that perhaps some of the rocks knew each other previously--before being disturbed and ripped apart by my carelessness--and so would experience a joyful reunion when placed in the pail I kept to empty my boxes into.

I always felt horribly self conscious about the whole enterprise. It was something between shame (for having disrupted the lives of rocks, but also for being so foolish as to believe that rocks had lives) and embarrassment (for engaging in all of the effort to keep this thing going), and I rarely allowed my behavior with the rocks to be seen by anyone.

I still have some of the thoughts that caused all of it, decades later. I still, for example, will commit to kicking the same single rock for the duration of a journey if I happen to kick it once. I've developed the strength to leave them at the destination now, but still will feel little twitches of guilt over it.

I don't know how it feels, really, to see similar things acknowledged in and by others, as an adult. I've talked about it with friends as an adult myself, and it seems lots of people had similar childhood things ("goodnight, Sponge!"). Still, though, I don't know if it's indicative of something fundamentally good in humanity, or something fundamentally broken in humanity.
posted by still bill at 2:29 AM on September 28, 2014 [17 favorites]

I should add: one of the myriad things that makes me totally in love with my partner is how much of this empathy for objects she shows. She imbues all of the mundane things around her with a sympathetic spirit, and treats them accordingly. I don't know if I love it because it echoes so many of my own feelings and tendencies, or because it just makes things seem abstractly 'nice', but it really does give me a warm rush of adoration to even just think about her doing it.
posted by still bill at 2:35 AM on September 28, 2014 [5 favorites]

I don't care this much about people and now I feel like a monster.

Well, I say feel....
posted by fullerine at 2:37 AM on September 28, 2014 [4 favorites]

I still, for example, will commit to kicking the same single rock for the duration of a journey if I happen to kick it once. I've developed the strength to leave them at the destination now, but still will feel little twitches of guilt over it.

Rocks enjoy travel, but only the fortunate few get to do so. Some are tossed about by waves, some hitch a ride in the tread of a tire, and a very few are kicked along by someone who is walking down the road. They also make new friends very easily.

You have to be careful which rocks you befriend yourself, though. Mr. Mustachio found a pleasantly oval pebble which he thought would be a fine fellow to set on the window ledge of the bedroom. He woke up in the middle of the night because it was staring at him.
posted by louche mustachio at 3:24 AM on September 28, 2014 [16 favorites]

I thought my rock habit was mostly behind me, that I had successfully kicked it.

Within minutes of posting my above comments, I noticed a pebble on my floor, probably tracked in by the tread of my boot. I picked it up to toss it outside, and heard a familiar voice deep in the recesses of my head, calling on me to have mercy.

The pebble is now on my bookshelf, and I predict it will stay there for a few years, until I finally toss it while feeling completely guilt stricken.
posted by still bill at 4:00 AM on September 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

The only time a rock gets to fly is if you throw it...
posted by louche mustachio at 5:14 AM on September 28, 2014 [7 favorites]

"The only time a rock gets to fly is if you throw it..."

This is a serious game-changer!
posted by still bill at 5:30 AM on September 28, 2014 [7 favorites]

I have tears too but it's because I was laughing so hard at "I'M SORRY MR. WINE BOX WITH YOUR LITTLE WINE SNOOT" that I no-shit began to cry with laughter.

posted by louche mustachio at 5:55 AM on September 28, 2014 [6 favorites]

posted by MartinWisse at 7:00 AM on September 28, 2014

I think the Verizon commercial about trading in your iPhone is also working with this phenomenon as its basis.

Kind of. I think it backfires. I get the impression the people behind the ad didn't believe it was a thing, and play the concept for laughs... when what actually comes across in the commercial is "if you trade your iPhone in, you are cruelly abandoning your old phone, and you don't deserve to have nice things."
posted by Shmuel510 at 7:27 AM on September 28, 2014

I have never had these feelings. I wonder how much of this is cultural.
posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 7:45 AM on September 28, 2014

This is an issue for me right now. The farmers market is in full swing and the gent and I are eating vegetables like crazy, not to mention chopping and freezing them for winter. (No canning equipment.) Now the freezer is getting full. We can only eat so much at a time and the cat turns up her nose at them. And STILL, no matter what my intentions are, I can't walk away from those bright, happy vegetables. Today it was the carrots I didn't need. But they were so cute and fat! And they were purple! Gah! If they ever start putting googly eyes on produce, I am in deep shit.
posted by Orange Dinosaur Slide at 9:23 AM on September 28, 2014 [4 favorites]

I get this pretty badly. It feels akin to the way I feel towards pets. Like the objects are unable to communicate how they feel, and if I pay too much attention I have no choice but to advocate for them. Designers putting cute faces on everything in the world has not helped.

It's why I could never actually eat a teddy bear looking rice with panda eyes, though I love the idea of bento. Or why my childhood Avon jewelry (mostly just plastic ice cream cones with cute faces) still sits propped up in a drawer. Or why I can't look at stuffed animals for too long or too closely.

And it's not just things with faces. It's office supplies, barrettes, mittens, the virtual pet I got in a Christmas stocking from some totally normal, unsuspecting people (Brian was cute, fun giraffe, btw. I so, so relate to Nattie's comment linked above). It's space heaters, my glue gun, certain pencils I don't want to ever sharpen totally away. The trick is not to hook into it.
posted by marimeko at 9:51 AM on September 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oh my god. I feel like I have come home.

When I was a boy, I used to pick up crisp packets from the floor and put them in the bin. Not because of an early conscientiousness about the environment, but because they were lonely, and if I put them with the other litter, they wouldn't be any more.

Can be bad if you paste something into a word processor and end up with two identical pieces of punctuation by accident. Which comma do you delete? The old one that's served you so faithfully, or the new one that you have just brought into the world?

It's a complicated life.
posted by reynir at 1:50 PM on September 28, 2014 [12 favorites]

I have so much love for all of you now, you have no idea. I'm saving this as a warm fuzzy thread, fo'srs.
posted by Deoridhe at 2:17 PM on September 28, 2014 [5 favorites]

This is my favourite thread now.

Once I get the oscilloscope to correctly trigger on a complicated signal, I tell it "stay." If I'm using something as complicated as MATLAB simply as a calculator because someone borrowed mine and I don't like the Windows calculator, I feel horribly guilty. (Don't even get me started on the times I use one of the closest things we have to an expert system" as a calculator/unit converter.) I talk to the components I'm soldering.

Let's not... even talk about my car. I'm kinda still apologizing for the paint-scratch-on-garage-column incident.

And I'd say I feel better about all those things having read these now, but I don't think I ever felt bad about them, so there's that.

And Deoridhe's comments are indeed fantastic.
posted by seyirci at 2:38 PM on September 28, 2014

I read this yesterday, and felt a mixture of "ha, isn't that funny" and "oh, you poor saps".

But now I'm scared to turn off Mountain, because I worry it'll be sad when I deactivate him it.

And maybe I will it will get lonely.
posted by pmcp at 2:45 PM on September 28, 2014

I have a habit similar to reynir's. In a clothing store, I will feel sorry for garments that have fallen off their racks and rehang them while internally saying a small "comforting" phrase that I will not share here because it is too ridiculous. I am not being thoughtful to the retail workers, although I'm sure they are lovely people; I'm doing it for the object. I wonder if this is because clothing resembles the human form and curious to see if sharing this here will exorcise the behavior going forward.
posted by Morrigan at 2:46 PM on September 28, 2014 [5 favorites]

An interesting article, if a bit lightweight, but I'm glad that it gave me a chance to revisit one of the most favorited comments on the blue ever.

Oh my goodness that comment is amazing!
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:34 PM on September 28, 2014

My kid and I constantly struggle over this. I believe the toys have feelings. He tells me "they're just toys, mom, they don't care". No matter how many times we watch Toy Story or I read him The Velveteen Rabbit he still won't believe me.

I try to tell myself that this is because he doesn't need the toys to be his friends like I did, but I can't help but feel like he's missing an important part of his ... life? ... psyche? by not feeling that his toys care if they're under the bed or get stepped on.

He does have a 'special' bear, and they do have adventures, but it's clearly not the same as it was for me.
posted by anastasiav at 7:34 PM on September 28, 2014

Years ago I was in a junkyard while a friend pulled something off a truck to fix mine. It was raining lightly, it had that old grease and upholstery smell that junkyards have, and even though I'd held the umbrella for my friend, he still had a hard time with the stubborn car part and got all muddy and wet. We were walking back to the building to pay up and leave when I saw this car lined up among all the others - but this car had a teddy bear on the front windshield, standing on his feet and facing into the car. He was soaking wet and filthy but he didn't care - he was looking for the child who had been in that car when it wrecked. I'd already walked way past it when I knew I had to go back and get that bear. I talked to him when I picked him up and showed him the inside of the car and explained that the child wasn't there any more - hoping all the while that I was right - but I also told him the child would want him to be in out of the rain, so he was going home with me. He was one dirty bear but he got washed and clipped and fixed up and he's been on my dresser ever since. Shortly after that my granddaughter rescued a little teddy bear from a mud puddle and he got the same treatment. The two bears are together.

The bear story makes sense - or at least some sense, but I'm glad to know I'm not alone about inanimate objects having feelings. I've always felt that things are comfortable when they're where they feel right and uncomfortable when alone or separated from others - if there are two shoes, they belong together, right?

I think your child will meet the right stuffed animal one day and his whole world will change. In the meantime, you'll take care of them for him. Well done.

Oh, my - the microscope story. Beeeeautiful!
posted by aryma at 11:01 PM on September 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

Deoridhe, would you please be my psychotherapist? I love the idea of having a therapist who has no problem with I-dunno-land.

I have a number of these eccentricities, and/or had them as a child (sharing packages of gum with my dolls, so that I only had half a stick left for myself to chew, etc.) Now, the lonely potato is mostly an inability to purchase a single book. I realized recently that buying one book at a bookstore feels wrong to me, and it's not because I dislike odd numbers. It just feels incomplete. I also recently bought two pairs of jeans when I had thought I was going to buy just one, and I don't know if that's related. That can be an economic problem as much as an emotional one.
posted by janey47 at 1:33 PM on September 30, 2014

janey47: I recommend looking for a therapist with a Jungian background if you want someone who doesn't mind the unknown. A lot of Jung's basic ideas about humans involved thesis, antithesis, and waiting with the tensions for a synthesis to emerge. A chunk of the rest of the time you end up trying to figure out your own shadow so you can correct for it, and tracking transference and counter-transference. You end up used to unknowns. It's no where near as testable or experimentally valid, but I find it deeply valuable for understanding all sorts of people.
posted by Deoridhe at 1:02 AM on October 1, 2014

Deoridhe, it would just be easier if you would move to San Francisco. For me, I mean. Easier for me if you would move to San Francisco. Heh.
posted by janey47 at 12:46 PM on October 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm convinced that the copier in my office jams so often because the office Copier Keeper isn't nice to it.
posted by Sara C. at 11:46 AM on October 2, 2014

Still Bill, my littlest has a Dora the Rock who lives with her rock friends downstairs and will add to the rock family with other rocks (mostly chunks of concrete tbh) she picks up. There is some weird internal calculation going on because not every rock is a Rock. And it is annoying to have to pause when walking by the nook where she has piled up her rocks and debate with her over whether the rocks want to go on an adventure today in her pocket or are happy chilling out under the hedge with each other.

I'm glad to hear it lasts. Could you explain why some rocks are Rocks though? I can't figure it out.
posted by viggorlijah at 8:46 PM on October 2, 2014

janey47: You are very sweet, and very funny, but I like where I live.

As to how some things are lower case and others upper case - I've found there are two means. One is what is put into something - e.g. a container of sand from where my grandparents lived and where my mom was born becomes Upper Case because I collected it and brought it home. However, sometimes things come with an upper case and it's a felt sense; the two enormous shells I found on the beach when I moved to the town I'm in now both seemed significant which is why I went after them.

Scientifically, I can only assume there are a number of variables, many of them unconscious. From a mystical standpoint, I believe some things in the world wait for us and greet us as we approach, and if we cultivate paying attention to our surroundings we will hear them.
posted by Deoridhe at 3:22 PM on October 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Speaking of weird habits and potatoes: Woman's ill-advised use of a potato as a contraceptive had unintended consequences
posted by homunculus at 11:12 AM on October 4, 2014

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