It’s Not Me, It’s You!: Impossible Perfectionist Seeks Very Very Very Tidy Woman is comedian Jon Richardson’s look inside the life of someone with OCD tendencies, specifically, Jon Richardson. The entire 300-page book takes place over just a couple of days, spending a chapter on waking up, a chapter on getting dressed, a chapter on eating breakfast, etc., in order to truly get an understanding of what it’s like to be Jon Richardson. Each day is meticulously scheduled out in a list, including “Wake up,” which immediately gets crossed off each morning. The items on the breakfast table must be patterned out so that there is a sense of balance. He will often have to return home partway through a journey to make sure that he did in fact lock the door. (He now has a memory device where he says something memorable each time he locks up, such as “Jon is locking the car door. Boobs.” Sometimes he is overheard by strangers.)
After trying to live with his friends as his housemates, and becoming the prick who leaves little notes around the house, letting them know it’d be awfully nice if they could do some of the dishes and stop coating the floor with pizza boxes, Jon has moved to Swindon where nobody knows him, and he can live in solitude in a place where everything will be exactly where he left it when he returns. He spends much of his time cleaning the flat, getting distracted by other tasks he discovers need doing, and leaving a dozen or so tasks half finished. If there isn’t enough to do, he’ll pull down the bookcase, crashing everything to the ground and start again. (The downside of this living arrangement is that he has to dispose of any of his own spiders.) Now, instead of spending a night sleeping in his car to get away from the chaos inside the house, he just needs to get inside his home and lock the door, and if he still doesn’t feel safe, he climbs into his bathtub wearing a robe and puts a towel over his head. This is an upgrade from hiding in the airing cupboard when he was young.
But these personality traits surround the larger plot, which is that he is approaching his first date with a young woman named Gemma. Simultaneously, his agent is pitching publishers on Jon writing a book about how he’s impossible to date and will probably be alone forever. He is conflicted because he doesn’t think that he can both date Gemma and write a book about being un-datable.
Richardson’s writing style is a joy. He’s a comedian who takes great value in word choice, and there are many beautiful or hilarious turns of phrases in the book that will tickle your diction aesthetics. And I’m not just talking about his puns. (He says a man who exposes himself in the grocery store is less of a gentleman and more of a genitalman. He calls the ones who got away his “near Mrs.”)
“If I might submit my entry here for the award for most turgid and illogical metaphor in literature: In the giant nightclub that is the universe, the clock will sooner or later reach ten-to-two and the bouncers of time will pick us up off the ground and fling us through the doors of existence onto the pavement of history, and we will be missed no more than a tapeworm is missed by its host.”
The book is sprinkled with Jon Richardson’s perspectives on aspects of life, such as death and solitude. He reckons that the real you is the voice in your head you only hear when you’re alone, lying in bed at night before sleep. That’s why many people drown out their own mind with music or conversation, they don’t like who they really are. But it’s healthy to spend some time with your own thoughts. “Company pollutes the mind,” he says.
The funniest part in the book is where a man speaking loudly into his phone in the quiet carriage on the train gives the person on the other line his cell phone number. Jon overhears and types it into his phone. He texts the man, “Dear Arrogant Business Twat. Please note that no one else in the QUIET carriage gives a shit about your tedious existence, take your call elsewhere. Yours, Everyone In Carriage A (the QUIET carriage) P.S. You look like a cock in those sunglasses.” (Don’t try this at home. The man called back and got Jon’s name from his voice mail.)
The best part of the book, and I don’t even know if it’s true or metaphorically true, is Jon’s flashback to the only moment in childhood that he remembers with any detail. He convinced his mother to buy him bright blue wellies, and while he was walking down the road, admiring the perfection of his feet in these new boots, he realized that there were cracks in the pavement–cracks in his world! He feared treading on them would pass their imperfection to his pretty boots, draining the color, feared that they would corrupt him or his mother who was treading on the cracks all the time. He burst into tears because this was the moment when he realized that the world was not perfect. A beautiful and sad image.
So, does Jon publish the book about his need for perfection? (Well, obviously.) Does he hook up with Gemma despite the book? Do they live happily ever after, breaking Jon’s 8-year streak of being single? Does she dump him? Does he cancel the date? Read and find out.