22 May 2021

From the Horrible to the Wonderful: The Various Lives of Intimate Objects

Tea kettles have to get used to a burning sensation.

It can’t be easy to be an inanimate object. You have no voice to express yourself, no way of hearing or seeing. No agency in what happens to you. I feel sorry for them. One imagines, however, that the experiences of varying objects must range from awful to nice. (I don’t know that any can truly be said to experience bliss.) I thought it would be an interesting exercise to explore the lives of some of the more common objects that people interact with on a daily basis in attempt to imagine what their "lives" are like. Here then are some examples.

Tea kettle. Not a great life, I should think. Absolute searing pain from the heat every morning and sometimes in the afternoon and evening as well. Having water poured in you might not be so bad, but the flame beneath makes it whistle in terror and then it is poured out. Or most of it, anyway. Sometimes you’re left with water that gradually cools. Perhaps an unpleasant visitor as it has only recently suffered a the trauma of being steamed.

Toilet. Unimaginable horror. Best cast scenario someone urinates in you and then you are quickly flushed. Worst case you are defecated upon. You may also suffer the indignity of being vomited into. If you’re lucky someone cleans you regularly. The less said here the better.

Cell phone. This would have to be among the best positions the inanimate object can hope to attain. Of course if you’re shy you have to accustom yourself to being looked at constantly. On the other hand you are held a great deal and not roughly. That's nice. You’re also quite intelligent, possessing as you do, a computer. You are privy to all manner of otherwise private communications which might be interesting. You also get to take photographs and videos. You may even have games on you. You could also be full of music and you're up on the latest doings in the world. Not a bad life.

Toothbrush. You have to go into people’s mouths and clean their teeth. If you’re Margot Robbie’s toothbrush, not a bad gig. If you’re Donald Trump’s toothbrush (assuming he uses one) I pity you. You are fortified with toothpaste which has to make your job a lot easier and maybe even pleasant. The worst part of your existence might be after your bristles wear down a bit and you’re using to clean other objects — sans toothpaste. That’s dirty work and also indicates you’re one step away from the trash bin.

Pencil. This could be anything from tedious to fascinating. If you’re used to take notes in a classroom it could be educational. If you’re making marks for a carpenter, it might not be so much fun. If you are a pencil of color you get to draw. Sometimes you are born with an eraser attached at your end, giving you a companion. Sometimes one is added. You risk being chewed which has got to be awful. There’s also the possibility that you’ll be put in a desk drawer and forgotten or sit in a cup on a desk and be lightly used.

Floor lamps shed light on matters
Floor lamp. That’s a lot of standing, usually in one place. Hopefully you’re being dusted regularly. Generally speaking you have your days free and are again off duty when everyone goes to bed. I don’t know how it would feel to be left on when everyone has left the house or retired for the evening. You have a bulb in that will eventually burn out. Then you receive a new bulb which is stuck into you. That has got to be awkward. But you do bring bring light. Pretty cool.

Spoon. Like a toothbrush you’re going into someone’s mouth so this job definitely has it’s drawbacks. On the other hand you may be dipping into ice cream (brrr) which can be delish or hot soup which can also be tasty but hot. So you’re dealing with temperature extremes. You’re probably dropped on the floor every so often which would suck, but you get washed regularly, perhaps in a dishwasher which seems like fun. You get to hang out in a drawer with other spoons not to mention other types of eating utensils.

Socks. I hope you like feet because you spend a lot of time wrapped around them. You’re also usually inside of a shoe so hopefully you don’t suffer from claustrophobia. Of course the lives of work socks, dress socks, and gym socks are very different. Gym socks in particular have to absorb a lot of sweat, but even the most refined of socks worn during an evening out have soak up a certain amount of perspiration. But you get a good cleaning in a washing machine and then get nice and warm after spending time in a dryer. Hopefully you’re not one of the socks that gets lost in the cleaning process. That happens all too frequently and destroys one of the benefits of being a sock — having a partner. That’s got to be the best part of a sock’s life, you’re born with a twin. No loneliness! You also get to hang out in a sock drawer and if you’re owned by a teenager, there may be a stash of pot in there with you.

Coffee table. Congratulations! You’re the center of attention. You’re smack dab in the middle of everything. You probably have a good view of the TV. You’re considered important enough to have beverages of all variety placed on you, not to mention snacks and even occasionally meals. You likely have books and magazines sitting on you. Maybe a computer. Phones, keys, mail and other sundry objects may take their turns resting on you. Occasionally you have to forebear someone spilling something on you, but usually that’s wiped up in short order. Having such a prominent place in the home, you are constantly being cleaned off, dusted and wiped. Not a bad job.

Bed. Hard to know where to begin here. Obviously your main function is to serve as a place where people sleep for five to nine hours a night. But. Do you have one person or two people laying on you? If two then it is likely that you are also home to some bouts of sexual intercourse. How’s that? It might be that as a bed you accept whatever comes, but could it be that you are particular? Maybe a bed is happy with a handsome young couple copulating on it and has decidedly mixed feelings about older, less attractive or heavier occupants doing the deed on its premises. Of course even an individual might choose to pleasure her or himself while laying atop you. Is that any more or less embarrassing? You could, of course, be a child’s bed in which case you risk being urinated on. That would be awful, you’re not meant for that. In any case most of the time your occupants are sleeping, although I imagine snoring can be annoying for you. Maybe you do your own sleeping when everyone is gone. Fortunately you generally boast comfy blankets, sheets, comforters and pillows. That must be nice.

What I've learned from my imaginings about intimate objects is that their biggest challenge is generally boredom. Many of them spend most of the day doing absolutely nothing. A commemorative mug may sit forgotten on a shelf for years. A Christmas mug comes out for probably no more than a month a year. Then again for many the worst part of their day is when they are put in use as can clearly be seen in the case of a toilet or tea kettle. The cell phone is one of the privileged objects that gets frequent use, only suffers pain by accident and has access to a computer, music and more. Of course there were many things I didn't discuss such as the least fortunate of all objects, toilet paper. One shudders at the thought. I only mentioned a few pieces of furniture. Perhaps in a later post I'll consider the life of a chair, sofa, end table or desk. There are many more objects that live in the kitchen that deserve a look such as the ladle, spatula, frying pan and dishwasher. And what of the washing machine and dryer? Bookcases? Hangers? Dressers? Liquor cabinets certainly must have a different kind of existence. Lots to think about. I hope this tides you over until next time.

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