The Paris Review: Dear Lynda: Help! Infectious Boredom and Pee-Hoarding Roommates

“Dear Lynda: Help! Infectious Boredom and Pee-Hoarding Roommates” / The Paris Review / Lynda Barry / September 21, 2017

Dear Lynda,

When you get bored, and you’re so bored you don’t even want to do anything to break up the boredom—it’s that creeping, infectious boredom that’s kind of like an anger—how do you avoid drinking too much?

Thanks,

Tipsy in Texas

 

Dear Tipsy,

Boredom has a hard time letting go of the remote control, so the secret is to get your body out of range so it can’t reach you. The remote control that boredom holds is your phone. Leave it behind, and sneak calmly out the back way. Get a ride to a bar that is about ninety-minutes walk from your place then go in, (phoneless!) and order your favorite drink and pound it. Drink it really, really fast. Then have one more really, really fast. Tip your bartender and head out, thinking of a question that you’d love to know the answer to, big or small. As you begin to walk home (possibly getting a little lost along the way as you are buzzed and phoneless) tell yourself that you will encounter three clues to the answer to this question in the next ninety minutes.Tell yourself one will be in the form of a person, one will be in the form of trash or something laying on the ground, and one will be something located above eye level. When you get back home, sneak past boredom (it will be easy because boredom will be glued to your phone) and get a piece of paper and write down ten things that happened or that you did during your walk. Then look at your list and write down what you were looking at when those things were happening. Pick one of the things from either list and write about it in the first person present tense, like it’s happening right now. Start with your location, describe the setting and then write nonstop for eight minutes. Now write your question and spend three minutes writing the answer. In less than two hours you’ll have a big experience that boredom won’t know anything about because it’s still on your phone, sucked into the vortex you managed to free yourself from for a little while. And boredom can’t read your handwriting. The key is sneak yourself out past boredom like it’s an awful foster parent. Don’t try to talk to it or reason with it because it will just hold up your phone as a false antidote and you will look at the screen and die a little. Escape often. Look for clues. Write them down.

Sincerely,
Lynda B.

PS: If it catches you sneaking out, boredom will try to talk you into taking your phone. If you do, you’ll be taking boredom with you.

*

Dear Lynda, 

I am a woman, and I live with one of my close male friends. The other day, when he did not know I was home, I overheard him showing a friend a strange collection in his closet: the Gatorade bottles into which he pees when he does not feel like going to the bathroom at night. This blatant male privilege would not bother me so much—would that we could all turn Gatorade bottles into modern bedpans!—but then he said that he also sometimes pees in our drinking glasses and leaves them among the unwashed others in our sink. That was a bridge too far. I love my roommate but do not want to wash or drink his pee. How do I confront him about this habit without ruining our friendship or revealing my eavesdropping?   

Yours, 
Pissed in Park Slope

 

Dear Pissed,

Pee hoarding isn’t as uncommon as one may think. Type that term into a search engine and be amazed. It’s not about being too lazy to pee in the toilet. It’s about something else that usually has long roots going back to childhood. I knew kids who did this, who saved jars of pee and lined them up in corners of garages or in bushes. I’m sure pee hoarders have their reasons. What seems to be uncommon about this story is your pee-hoarding roommate’s willingness to not just display his collection to a guest but to admit to his stealth pee antics around the kitchen. You can talk to him about it, but I don’t believe it will change anything. There will still be secret pee everywhere, as there has been from the very beginning of your time living together. You’ve been living with his pee all along and the only difference is now you know. (Or kind of know but don’t really believe it all the way.) A friend of mine had a roommate like yours. The end of the relationship finally came when the roommate’s pee was detected in my friend’s shampoo bottle just a few days after they’d confronted the issue and talked it all out. My guess is your roommate’s complicated relationship with his pee is not just longstanding but brings him great comfort. He can rely on it. His roommates and friends may come and go, but the miracle of his pee will always be there for him. And for you, too, if you stick around.

Sincerely,
Lynda B.

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