I've always tended to compartmentalize my life. A lot of people do this, but I admit that maybe I take it to extremes.
I like to keep my social life separate from my work life. I like to keep my work life separate from my romantic life.
I like to keep my friends separate from each other. Or, if it's already a group of friends, I like to keep this group of friends separate from that group of friends.
I like to keep my friends separate from my girlfriend. And I certainly like to keep my girlfriend separate from my wife.
I like to keep my children separate from each other. I prefer to hang out with them one on one. I like to keep the cat away from the dog. My son has a hamster and a turtle who have never even seen each other.
I like keeping my mother separate from my father. They seem fine with this.
At work, I've moved my desk from the communal work area into the janitor's storage closet, though I never associate with the janitor. And I will not do conference calls. Just let me know what it was about and I'll call up everybody individually.
I've even compartmentalized my brain. It was a risky, experimental surgery, and I had to go to Mexico to get it. My mind is now divided into seven color-coded sections. The green section is for anything involving money: work, gambling, pyramid schemes, etc. The red section is for love. The pink section is for sex. It's very important to keep these last two sections separate, of course. The orange area is for all things bright and sunny. This section is usually empty. Blue is for my dark side, where I store my suicidal tendencies. The yellow section is for health and personal hygiene. The brown section is for miscellaneous crap, like dry cleaning.
Up until recently this system worked well for me. A place for everything and everyone, and everything and everyone in their respective places.
Then I got a new secretary named Ursula. Within a week she was my new girlfriend, and the next thing I knew I was in love with her. That's three separate compartments - work, love and sex - compromised right off the bat. And while she brings sunshine to my life, I'm also sad about messing up my system. That mixes my orange and blue compartments. That's five. And as far as health and personal hygiene are concerned, I've developed a mysterious rash. So, that's all six major compartments spilling all over each other.
Plus, she recently asked me to pick up her dry cleaning!
They say my surgery is reversible. Maybe I should go back to Mexico and have it undone, and just be happy to have a sloppy, uncompartmentalized life. Other people do it. Control can be a burden. And as I've learned, ultimately it doesn't work.
My parents will just have to learn to get along. Obviously, they did once.
My wife and my girlfriend; that's another story. I guess I'll have to choose.
And what harm can a hamster and a turtle inflict on one another?
No more harm than I've inflicted on myself with my foolish, foolish ways.
This story originally appeared in Narrative magazine.