Thursday, July 22, 2010

Noses - Post 3 of the "picking" series

OK, first of all, try and withhold your initial disgust and revulsion to the title of this entry. I have no intention of regaling you with a tale of nose-goblins and how to find them. My title was chosen because I felt that the “picking” series needed a third and final entry to be complete, and this entry does pertain a little bit to noses and nose-blowing habits.

Now that I have allayed your fears, I will proceed. Today’s inspiration came from my recent sinus infection and a conversation that happened between me and my family. Basically, it consisted of my brother and I reminiscing about the nose-blowing drama of our youth. Before I dive into that can of worms, perhaps I should share a little bit more about one of my idiosyncratic tendencies.

Since early childhood, I have harbored a strong aversion to touching substances that are slimy, sticky or of undeterminable origin. This manifested itself in various ways in my youth, especially in pre-school.

My first example involves paste. I’m referring to regular white Elmer’s paste that comes in the little plastic jars that have lids with the sticks attached. For some reason, this substance has been deemed acceptable for use by small children, most likely because it is non-toxic and children have a tendency to consume art supplies. This paste has the consistency of non-greasy butter and there are frequently chunks of more solid material mixed in with the creamier substance.

Apparently, when I was presented with paste to be used in arts and crafts, I outright refused to touch it. I was (and still am) a very stubborn person when faced with uncomfortable situations. In order to assuage my fears and encourage my creativity, the teacher came up with a solution. I was given a wet wash cloth to keep next to me at all times so that I could take a small dab of paste, smear it on my paper and immediately wipe off my fingers. I have obviously held on to some part of this behavior as anyone who has seen me eat food without utensils can attest. I would definitely not survive on a desert island without several tons of paper towels and napkins.

My second example relates to the rite of passage completed by all 5-year olds of making their mother a handprint picture. It is usually done in finger paints and is accompanied by a touchingly sappy poem reminding mothers that someday this cute little hand will grow up to be large and unattractive. I am the oldest child in my family, which means most major milestones were new and unexpected for me. When I encountered this handprint/fingerpaint ritual, I was troubled. I expect that my teacher was also perturbed as she did not wish to seem a failure and deny my mother this precious artifact.

By way of a compromise, I agreed to have my hand traced in pen. As the years passed and my brothers reached this milestone, they proved not to be as squeamish as I. My mother likes to bring out the three hands as proof that I am far more neurotic than most people realize.

I am not certain exactly what caused this aversion to touching non-solids, but I have a theory. Anyone who has spent time around toddlers recognizes the fact that their faces are often full of boogers. This is just a fact – kids attract germs and they lack the ability to clean themselves and rid themselves of their slime. One of the tricks parents teach their children to combat this occurrence is nose-blowing. Unfortunately, this habit is hard to learn and often leads to a different and more disgusting alternative: nose picking.

My own mother was strongly against nose picking. She was also against runny noses and sniffling. Honestly, if you had asked her 25 years ago to name the noises that annoyed her most, it would have been kids sniffling, my dad chewing and my dad snoring. I know the last two still bother her, but as she hasn’t had to listen to the first one for a while, she may have forgotten. This aversion strengthened her resolve to make us blow our noses on a regular basis. Whenever we would give a tiny snot-tinged sniffle she would come at us with a tissue, push it in our face and command, “BLOW!”

I wish I could say that this method worked. It should have worked. However, my brother and I are strange creatures. We rebelled against this seemingly straightforward and well-intentioned plan. Here is why: we were wussy kids with low pain thresholds and we let our congestion level go too far. Knowing my mother’s low tolerance for sniffles, we would endeavor to hide our stuffiness and pretend we were free and clear. This kept the tissue at bay temporarily, but it led to bigger problems. By the time my mom would catch on, our sinuses were so full that only high-powered hurricane level nose blowing would loosen and bring forth the detritus. Anyone who has attempted this kind of procedure knows that it usually has one major and painful side effect that involves ear popping.

This result was so painful that my brother and I avoided nose-blowing at all costs. This was shortsighted to be sure, but our young minds were not yet powerful enough to understand the cyclical nature of our dilemma. My mother, always a resourceful woman, retained one last weapon to use in her quest to slay the nose-goblins: the snot-sucker. I have no idea where this device originated, but I suspect it was sent home from the hospital after one of our births. It was a bit like a tiny turkey baster with a much smaller nozzle. It functioned largely the same way – by squeezing the rubber container, and releasing it with the nozzle in a child’s nose, the resulting suction could pull out even the most stubborn of snots. It was truly effective, but always a last resort. Needless to say, my brother and I saw a lot of this contraption.

My purpose for this story is to explain the after effect of the snot-sucker. As you can probably guess, the user was left with a rubber container full of child-boogers. It was not exactly a pleasant visual or tactile experience to clean. Not that I had to clean it myself, but I saw plenty of it in my days, and I believe that the memory of it contributed somewhat to my overall fear and dislike of all things bearing a likeness to its consistency.

To conclude, I can proudly say that my brother and I are both now fully capable of handling our own nose-blowing and that it is done in a timely manner, my mother still has the snot-sucker tucked away somewhere ready for the next generation of rugrats, and I still have no intention of ever touching paste or fingerpaint.

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