It has taken me a long time to break through my denial, but I have finally admitted my addiction to stains. As with any addict, I rationalized my behavior, tossing it off as normal even as I envied others capable of keeping their clothing stain free until ready for the rag bin.
It started innocently enough as most addictions do; A drop of salsa on a well-worn t-shirt at home, evolving into globs of guacamole on a full-priced Talbot’s blouse at a party. At my lowest point, I was dribbling grape juice down the front of my choir robe on communion Sunday.
Every addict needs an enabler and Patrick stepped into this role with aplomb. He sharpened his stain removal skills, allowing me to hide my character flaw behind the façade of a woman who was confident she could handle food and quality clothing without any adverse consequences.
Hidden behind a pocket square or sequestered in a cigar box, Patrick carried a weapon that gave him a fighting chance to erase a stain while fresh: a Tide Stick.
Naturally, he couldn’t keep his eye on me every minute, so there were occasions when hours after a euphoric evening of gluttony, he discovered a stain of unknown origin. He honed his chemistry skills to release the mystery blotch from its captivity utilizing everything from club soda to hydrogen peroxide in his impromptu laboratory.
Frustration with my unbridled sloppiness intensified his efforts to control my actions. He hid my white blouses and told me they were ‘at the cleaners.’ He insisted I order menu items that matched my outfits – marinara sauce with a red dress, gravy with brown slacks. He packed a yellow slicker and demanded I wear it at picnics even when there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.
He nagged me about my high-risk behavior: perching my plate on the edge of the table, lifting the beaters while they were whipping, drinking red wine without a sippy cup.
I caught a glimpse of the extent of my problem the night we went out to dinner in Portland, and I wore a new top I bought at J. Jill earlier that afternoon. Patrick cautioned me to tuck my napkin into my collar to fully cover my front. But buoyed with the bravado that comes from wearing an outfit made in China while drizzling Russian Dressing on fresh greens under dim lighting, I told him I could handle it.
Later in our hotel room under the scrutiny of a 60-watt bulb, a grease spot the size of a dinner plate was soon splattered with tears. Through my despair, I promised I would stop staining; I was aware of the toll it was taking on our relationship and my clothing budget. I confessed that I wanted beautiful things, and no amount of slobbering over buttery bread and oily salads was worth the price of dressing like a hobo.
You would think that would have been the night I hit bottom, but after Patrick restored the new blouse to pristine perfection, I went back to my slovenly ways, staining with abandon from my early morning bacon to my late night Klondike bar.
The weekend he sent me packing to the National Society of Newspaper Columnists annual conference, Patrick finally admitted he couldn’t cure my stain-oholism. He washed his chapped hands of my laundry issues and breathed a sigh of relief he wouldn’t be witness to my public humiliation.
It wasn’t until I was home, basking in the glory from the weekend conference, that I faced the truth about myself. The NSNC released the conference photographs, and there I was smiling into the camera, standing between Pulitzer Prize winner Maureen Dowd and NCNC president Lisa Molinari. With a stain on my blouse.
This incident jolted me into admitting I was powerless over stains, that my laundry had become unmanageable. I believed that a power greater than Dawn detergent could restore me to cleanliness, and became entirely ready to turn over my soiled spots for permanent removal.
After being stain-free for twenty-nine days, I had the courage to go to dinner wearing a white blouse. I declared when we got home that I was proud to have made it through the entire evening, even gobbling a chocolate brownie sundae, without a stain.
Patrick said, “Check your left wrist. I saw you drag it through the mushroom sauce.”
Alas, no thirty-day chip for me. But I’m back on the chuck wagon. Wearing a yellow slicker.
Anyone else ready to admit to this addiction? I need a sponsor.