What are your pet peeves?

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What are your pet peeves? Photo of young African American plus-size woman holding recycling wastebasket with plastic bottles scared and amazed with open mouth at seeing her partner's peeves.

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What are your pet peeves?

Kathy Stephanides, a blind writer, reflects on pet peeves in relationships during the covid-19 quarantine.

To keep my creative juices flowing during the covid-19 quarantine, I contemplated the idea of pet peeves. I define pet peeves as minor irritations, annoyances, things that “push your buttons” or get under your skin. I decided to focus on some of my own peeves and then to gather information from family and friends about theirs. While most responded with a list of their peeves, one had to have the term defined to answer, and another simply could not wrap her head around it.

The former asked me, What is a peeve?, to which I clarified, A pest or annoyance, to which she promptly provided a comprehensive list. The latter said she did not focus on things that separated her from others based on their differences and declined to provide an answer. I realize that my pet peeves are personal, and I take ownership of the fact that they are mine and do not require agreement from others. However, I came to understand that some of my peeves were similar to certain family and friends.

My own pet peeves are pretty easy for me to identify. Most of them concern aspects of cleanliness or my expectations for kind and socially acceptable behavior. When I first pondered pet peeves while I was a single young adult, I read that leaving toilet seats up or down and toothpaste caps left on or off were two of the most frequent issues that couples quarreled over. Fortunately, those two never entered the peeve contest for me since I usually lived with other women, and even after I got married, this was never an issue with my husband. Once I began to lose my vision, I required my own toothpaste tube since the only way to reliably get toothpaste on my brush was to squeeze it into my mouth instead. To save Ted from my germs, we subsequently use separate tubes placed on separate vanities.

Appearing first on my peeve list, is my dislike for grimy and slimy deposits behind the handles of the stainless refrigerator doors. Accompanying this annoyance is a similar dislike for the kitchen sponge being water locked and not wrung out after use. Sponges and washcloths become my necessary tools to wipe down the granite kitchen counters at least once or twice a day to make sure that they are smooth, clean, and free of any crustiness. Along with my other peeves in the kitchen, is my desire to have the black kitchen towel for hand drying always folded in half vertically, since I think it looks better on the oven handle that way. This peeve has been with me since I could still see the patterns on the towel, but now I just feel to make sure it has been spread out or folded correctly.

Another particularly bothersome behavior to me is my husband’s loud chewing and chomping on gum, seemingly with his mouth open. I am usually in a good place to hear these deafening sounds since I sit right next to him at our kitchen bar while we eat. Whereas most of the other clean-freak requirements that I have can be modified by me alone rather than with constant nagging, I always point out his earth-shattering noises. Unfortunately, I know that they will persist —since he must eat to live, and he most likely will always have a full set of strong teeth. Between us, we both enjoy a medley of crisp fruits and vegetables, so unless I move him to a soundproof booth, this tumult will continue.

I identify more significant peeves when I consider my house’s general cleanliness, my laundry, and the interior of my car. Soiled kitchen linens, bathroom towels, bedsheets, and pillowcases trigger an automatic and restorative action on my part – to get the laundry done. When my adult daughters visit, each of them knows my/our expectations for keeping common areas clean and uncluttered. They dutifully, and I believe without resentment, wash their dishes, and load them into the dishwasher, throw their laundry into their respective hampers, and take out the garbage/compost when it is full. I am grateful that they adapt to our ways when they are in our home. They recognize it contributes to family harmony when the physical environment is in order, especially after my vision declined.

Rude, harsh, or entitled public interactions irritate me. This includes something as momentary as a driver’s dangerous move into my lane, or someone cutting in front of me in line, or a person being disrespectful to service staff. I am usually not a passive participant in these situations, and I will simply and quietly point out others’ bad behaviors if I witness someone being mistreated. While my eyes may fail to observe all the interactions around me, my ears do not miss a beat. I also find it important to know my limits and boundaries for political rants, arguments, or insensitivities. Sometimes for the larger issues, I may adopt something as simple as changing the channel or TV station or limiting the timing and frequency of watching the news.

Since I strive to understand where my pet peeves fall in the general kingdom of peevishness, I compared my own peeves with those that I have gathered. By challenging myself to learn more about other’s pet peeves, this exercise became less of a flimsy attempt to collect data and more of a deeper understanding of what bothers my friends and family. I promised anonymity to my respondents, so there would be no judgments cast.

Common pet peeves

One of the most common pet peeves had to do with chewing or other disagreeable mouth noises:

  • ‘…chewing with your mouth open; smacking lips; loud eaters…’
  • ‘…picky eaters; wasting food; older brothers; smacking lips…’
  • ‘…people chewing and popping gum with their mouth open; snoring…’

Another common pet peeve also had to do with auditory annoyances, such as repetitive sounds or the way people communicated:

  • ‘…any artificial, repetitive sounds like drilling, sawing, and the beeping sound that trucks make when backing up…
  • ‘…people talking too much or are bossy…’
  • ‘…overhearing other people’s loud cell phone conversations… I don’t want to be in the middle of all their business…’
  • ‘…people who talk too much, not including family…’
  • ‘…people who use complex vocabulary just to sound smart…’
  • ‘…not being listened to; people on their phones when you are with them…’
  • ‘…barking dogs…’
  •  ‘…people who talk over others…’
  • ‘…people who talk too fast…’
  • ‘…repetitive sounds; the sound of people chewing bananas; frequent throat clearing; loud talkers; when you ask a question, and the person gives a vague, evasive answer; nonstop talkers…’
  • ‘…improper grammar, especially when people on the news or on TV use poor grammar it is like squeaky chalk on a chalkboard to me…’

Another universal pet peeve among the responses had to do with the inconsiderate natures of other people and their transgressions:

  • ‘…stupid people; being late; lazy people; hypocrisy…’
  • ‘…people who litter or leave trash; clutter and disorganization…’
  • ‘…older sisters; bossy people; being asked to do things…’
  • ‘…I can’t stand it when someone wants to eat or drink something I’m having…’
  • ‘…slow walkers…’
  • ‘…people not cleaning up after themselves; being rushed…’
  • ‘…leaving the light on in a room; door slamming; mean/bossy people…’
  • ‘…anyone inside or outside touching my (clean) windows and leaving a smudge or slime on them…’
  • ‘…drivers not using their turn signals; pedestrians moving slowly and not showing any sense of appreciation after you brake for them when they dart out into the crosswalk…’
  • ‘…wasting food; wasting energy; people who only see one side of things; extremists or fanatics; people who obsess about their weight or exercise; people who invade personal space; collectors or hoarders…’
  • ‘…people who game the system — for example, ignoring jury duty summons because they do not want to be inconvenienced or involved; unauthorized use of an accessible parking placard …’
  • ‘…periods of anger and depression because of selfish protesters when healthcare meat plant workers and others are dying…’
  • ‘…plastic; canola oil; speciesism; the constant use of the word literally; a hair stuck to someone’s sweater…’
  • ‘….having a different thermostat than my spouse; my need for solutions to problems instead of wallowing in the problem; people that drive slow on the freeway; drivers not stopping at stop signs; whining; walkers that don’t pick up their dog poop or poop left in bags on the side of trails…’
  • ‘…spam calls at dinner time; calls answered by an automated operator that offer menu choices that link to more menus that never get you to a live operator; mail-ordered clothes manufactured abroad that don’t correspond to the advertised size or color; people who take up two parking spaces…’

As I wander through my common pet peeve list and of those around me, I discover similarities and differences. In addition, some people’s pet peeves may seem trivial, whereas others represent more significant complaints. When I experience these minor irritations and annoyances, what really matters is how I deal with them (like wiping down the dirty refrigerator handles) so I can move on to more pleasurable parts of my life beyond the complaint. I recognize that peeves do not govern my life or speak of my values, but rather contribute to a more superficial part of my life that helps point out the spectrum of being human – what annoys me, what comforts me after these annoyances, and how I come to terms with them.

During this piece’s creation, I noticed I have shifted from my usual mode of solitary introspection to involving others in my process. As I work on developing my memoir, I have been focusing on myself, and I have not incorporated outside voices. It comforts me to know that I share similarities to those in my social circle because each person contributed something that speaks to themselves and their preferences.

I recognize that I can accept them despite my feelings or judgments about their peeves. This survey of peeves, so to speak, brought me more into contact with other people because of the questions I asked them about themselves. This helped mitigate my sense of isolation during this time of quarantine that is so intense, so protracted, and does not have an end date in sight. I feel some warm fuzzys experiencing this shift from me, myself, and I to I, you, and we.

Article by
Kathy Stephanides

Kathy Stephanides resides in Oakland, California with her husband and she has two grown daughters, one in LA and one in Oakland.


"My own pet peeves are pretty easy for me to identify. Most of them concern aspects of cleanliness"