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Obsessive-Compulsive Customs

This is what happens when you haven’t shaved since Christmas.


Yes, my face has all but disaBEARD. Aside from causing occasional difficulty when eating mess-prone foods, my evolving jaw fur has been nothing but rainbows—from the silent amusement it brings when friends can’t help but double-take, to the private joy my bathroom mirror beholds when I step out of the shower looking like a wet Scottish Terrier, to the fuzzy humor strangers hurl at me, like that sarcastic fellow who drove by me the other day and honked “Hey, Jesus!” as I was out walking my beard.

Lucky for him, my laughter and scorn were concealed beneath a curtain of stoic whiskers. His remark did prompt a daydream, however: a fancy of donning a crown of thorns, white robe, and sunglasses, standing in front of the Hollywood sign with a massive cross propped in my sidecar, charging tourists for photos.


Apparently, I wasn’t the only bearded guru on the road that fair day with visions of bilking passers-by. Moments after being accosted by the Jesus heckler, I was approached by a man in a turban with a thick Indian accent. He introduced himself as a face-reader. Honing in on my scruffy muzzle and advancing forehead, he volunteered a few positive personality predictions. He then offered to council me through some mystic turmoil that my features supposedly bore… for a small fee, of course.

From Jesus to mug-reading parking lot prophets, I wonder if these sorts of souls actually believe they have superpowers, or do they merely have faith in the credulity of fellow mammals? I’m not sure which is worse, but I suppose that both clergy and congregation alike suffer from a form of OCD; a belief that by ascribing meaning to ritual, they can wield control over that which is uncontrollable. Based on the abundance of psychic storefronts and media horoscopes, it’s a big club.


While I’m unimpressed by those who pretend to have supernatural knowledge, I also suffer from issues of control that often provoke equally bizarre habits.

A woman I dated years ago had a music stand in the center of her apartment. Hanging from the stand was a silver medallion; a sort of swinging necklace for the supported sheet music. Whenever I visited her, I was compelled to place the dangling medallion onto the lip of the frame from which it was strung. Each time, after I’d left, she’d drop the medallion back into the hanging position. This swaying vs. seated dance continued throughout our relationship. After a spell, she confronted me about my obsessive medallion meddling, which I was unable to stop since most of the time I was unaware I was even doing it.


Over the past few months, even my beard has provided a bit of an obsessive-compulsive playground. I’m constantly stroking it, hunting for inconsistencies. Unlike the hair atop my head, my cheek and chin sprouts an array of colors and textures—from fair to coarse to red to blonde, and even a few ominous gray arrivals. My favorite variety, however, are when a cluster of hairs fuse together and grow from a single pore. It gives me great satisfaction and a sense of control to find and pluck these wiry nonconformists.

As a motorcyclist, I’ve been introduced to many of the road rituals specific to the cult of two wheels, including superstitious guardian bells. Bikers hitch these thimble-sized, jingle-makers to their bikes as ringing representations of guardian angels watching over them as they ride.


I don’t believe in magic spells, beans, or bells, but I have two guardian ringers tied to my motorcycle. These protector chimes were gifts from people important in my life and I find their gesture and the symbolism comforting.

So… what strange rituals do you perform to get through the day? Palm reading? Numerology? Do you wear an assortment of charms? Do you refuse to wash a certain outfit because you’re afraid of breaking a perceived streak of fashionable luck? Do you have to eat food in a certain order or avoid stepping on cracks in the pavement? Have you observed others with strange tics or found instances where your behavioral quirks clashed with those of another? Spill your neuroses in the “Comments” section below.