In high school, it was sheet cake, later evolving into a triad of Cherry 7-Up, Ritz crackers and peanut butter. In undergrad, it ranged from rice pudding to guacamole. In grad school, it was fountain Diet Coke and Nantucket Nectars Big Cranberry juice.
Hi, my name is Brittany, and I have what I like to call a repeat 1 personality.
In addition to a lifelong affinity for the stereo button that allows an obsessive freak like me to play the same song in an indefinite loop, this concept ends up applying to all sorts of things in my life: snacks, chocolate, the work of a new a favorite writer, and as a journalist, sometimes my subject matter.
It’s sort of like a temporary hoarding thing in that I tend to consume and/or then discard whatever I was obsessing over. I basically click the repeat 1 button the stereo of life, dive in, and then quickly move on.
Everyone apparently knew this about me long before I did. As an adolescent, I thought it was cute when friends would swing by my locker to eat months-old Peeps that were still relatively unsmushed on that top steel shelf.
Why did I have a shelf full of Peeps? Duh, because I loved them! And then as quickly as I’d been lured in by their little puffy brown eyes, I burned out and was totally, totally over it.
The same thing would happen with music. I can vividly remember subjecting my friend Dan to a continuous loop of Cake’s “Love You Madly” one teenage Saturday morning. When I got out of the shower, I turned the music up even louder, the song blaring louder for yet another round. I guess he thought after hearing the same song seven times in a row, I’d shut it off instead. Wrong!
“Oh my god, would you turn that OFF?” Dan yelled from the other room.
“Ohmigod NO!” I shot back. “Isn’t this the best?!”
And that day, that week, it was. Thankfully, I had (and still have) very patient, easily amused friends.
As a writer and journalist, my temporary obsessions seem like something of a perfect personality quirk. I can find what I consider to be an interesting story, research and write it, get a great clip and paycheck out of the deal, and then never have to think about it again.
If I want to spend an afternoon jumping over shit like a parkour, I can. When researching tips for surviving the airport, like I did last week for a reported story, I was enthralled primarily because I knew my deadline loomed and soon, I’d probably never again think about TSA-friendly underwires or whether a Clear pass is worth it for business travelers.
In my personal life, it’s a bit trickier to navigate. No one ever knows if my latest obsession has ended. When I burn out, I burn out completely. When I’m suddenly no longer interested in lunchtime salads from the café down the street, I never want to think about them again.
Problem is, I’m never exactly sure when my obsessive consumption will peter out. My partner likes to joke, “Remember the Guld bar?”
He’s referring to the time I ate Tom’s Guldkaramelbars (think gourmet Snickers without nuts) for about two weeks straight, suddenly abandoning the craze and leaving the last of the king size candy bars in a refrigerator door tray for weeks until the caramel oozed out of the cellophane onto the shelf and had to be scraped up with a butter knife.
The flip side is that if you catch me mid-obsession, you can be my hero with little effort. My honey had my favorite Chiddy Bang song of the moment ready, when, on a recent trip to visit my grandparents in BFE Florida, I had to hop in a rental car at 1 am after a five-hour flight and steer us toward their place. I was exhausted, but the moment he hooked up the iPhone to the AUX jack was romcom magical.
Since I’m using the repeat 1 metaphor here, it’s appropriate that self-made music compilations are probably the biggest indicator of how this tendency manifests. If you found one of my hig-school era mix tapes, it would probably be filled with songs by my-favorite-then-newly-discovered bands like The Promise Ring and Spoon.
Fast-forward five years to find burned CD mixes of early freak folk artists or dance-punk. If I find an old mix, it’s likely I haven’t listened to half of the songs on it since I gave it away.
These days, if you ask me for my favorite iPod playlist, you’ll end up with a bewildering array of old new wave, even older classic rock, sample-heavy hip-hop, and electro/synth-reliant dance music. The track list is simply called !bestsongsnow, the exclamation point a necessity to keep it at the top of my myriad other playlists.
At least once a week, I swap in and out several songs that, while not necessarily new releases, have temporarily captivated my attention -- songs so good that it seems inconceivable that I’d walk out of the house without them readily accessible. Last Friday I was almost late for dinner with a friend because I was loading Santigold’s “Disparate Youth” onto my phone.
As I was writing this, I looked around my apartment for other telltale signs of my latest obsession. There’s an entire box of chocolate nibs marzipan bars in the cupboard. The stack of Joan Didion books about California life slowly grows with each bookstore trip. In the recycling bin, there are several boxes from one of two local cupcake shops, bits of chocolate cake crumbs in the bottom or coffee toffee icing smeared on the lid. Same flavor every time.
I suppose I’m lucky that the repeat 1 button for every snack or song on which I fixate will eventually be switched off. A girl can only eat cake every day for so many weeks. I'm also lucky that everything I eat, read, or listen to isn't on a repetitive cycle. Some discoveries are just stickier, but also peel away that much faster.
Ultimately, all of my short-lived obsessions are temporary because they’re unsustainable. That’s why they end, and that’s also why they’re so much fun.