When I was little, I had a hard time eating snacks that came in lots of pieces, like Cheese Nips or peanuts. This is because I assigned personalities and varying degrees of codependence to each piece, and I had to take these into account as I ate.
It wasn’t a big deal if I was eating the whole portion of something myself—a box of Cracker Jack, for example. When I finished, everyone would be back together again in my stomach, and they could hang out with whichever friends they wanted. But what if I was eating chips out of the bag, or sharing a bowl of Cheetos? It would be horrible if I ate a little girl Cheeto and my brother ate the rest of her family! She would be all alone forever, and her parents would miss her terribly.
To avoid this kind of disaster, I had to scrutinize the bowl and figure out which Cheetos were relatives or friends. Then I’d pick up a handful that included as many members of the group as possible. Usually I’d look back at the bowl and realize that I had missed a cousin, so I’d grab him, too, before eating the whole bunch so they could live together happily ever after. At least once my mom caught me desperately trying to wedge one more Cheeto into a football-sized handful and made me put most of them down. Even as a seven-year-old I knew better than to tell her I was trying to keep snackfood families together, so I would set them down really close to the edge of the bowl and eat them extra fast before anyone else could take the grandkids.
Over the years my compulsion to maintain my food's familial bonds has lessened, due mostly to the reassurances I give myself (“M&Ms are happy as long as they get eaten, no matter who does it.” “It’s good for the younger Fritos to get out on their own.”). Now I watch Lay’s commercials and think “Bet I CAN eat just one! If I want to! The others won’t really mind too much!”
I still tend to personify most of the objects I encounter, though. I’m especially prone to see social connections among items in large groups, which makes it emotionally difficult for me to roll coins. The fact that they’re going to be stuck in that configuration for who knows how long means I need to consider which pennies really want to be together. When they’re all milling around happily in a jar, they can talk to any friends they like all at once. But when I stack them up and bind them, they only get to communicate with their immediate neighbors, and would YOU like to be stuck next to the guy with lint glued to his face for the next three years? It’s worse than seating 15 friends in one row in the movie theater, because they don’t even get any popcorn.
Here are just a few of the social factors to consider in sorting change:
Did I mention that my job includes counting jars of change about once a week? At least the quarters are a little easier—they’re not as emotionally vulnerable as pennies. Also, for some reason, they’re all male.