Rhinotillexomania?

After taking over two years off, I decided I was ready to show up at a Memoir class again. Somehow I feel compelled to write about my life and some incomprehensible decision-making that affected all those who I love. But, without the structure of a class, I could easily find better things to do than to immerse myself in memories

Our first assignment was to write a poem or story in which each line begins with “I am.” Then either alternately or separately write a piece with each line beginning, “I was.”

I don’t know what seemed so complicated about that parallel format, but it gave me consternation. Somehow, the prompt just seemed too sophisticated for me.

So I cynically thought about writing,  “I’m old, and I don’t have my shit together.”

Then I could pile on with, “I was young, and I didn’t have my stuff together.” I would never have used “shit” back in those days because I packaged myself in faith and responsibility so tightly that I couldn’t see the mess inside.

Clearly, a life lived amidst confusion and disaster was too much to tackle without going on, and on, ad nauseam. So, I changed gears to a narrative that was more manageable, but still slightly nauseous.

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I am a nose-picker.

I was a nose-picker. And until very recently I’ve thought nose-picking is something I should get around to changing.

The most severe stab of deficiency around this issue occurred a few weeks ago as I was riding in a car with friends. A woman who often seems to have a lot of practical wisdom mentioned, with punctuated amazement, that some adults hadn’t outgrown nose-picking. She added, “I can’t believe that I’ve seen drivers stopped at traffic lights picking their noses.”

Bam! I had issues.

I knew that I had been a picker in a car if some booger is annoying me a lot. As I hang on to the steering wheel with a little package of dust, pollen, or crud twitching inside me, I may wait until I’m stuck in traffic or at a stoplight, and then flick it on the floor. Done with the irritant. Maybe at the next stop sign, I’ll grab the hand sanitizer from the console, but maybe I won’t. It depends on convenience and has nothing to do with propriety.

So now when irritation tickles my nostril, I may want to consider whether or not someone is looking and saying with disgust, “Oh my gosh, look at the supposed adult.” I guess I would prefer that to, “Look at that old lady. She has lost all inhibition!”

That thought about losing inhibition in my old age had already come to me. A few weeks before the incident in the car, I picked my nose while I was reading and then got up to deal with the proceeds and to wash my hands. I thought about what might happen in my even more confused old age if I got too lazy to get up and just flicked the booger on the floor. I imagined my children or caregivers being disgusted with their eyes rolling as they turned away from my decrepitude.

I also thought of my mother who always had a hankie at hand to take care a drying mucus as well as her sniffles. I’d watch that hankie get worked over throughout a day, and I realized that it might have provided civility, but little sanitation.

I don’t like disgust coming my way, so my thoughts concluded, “I need to break this habit!” But I hadn’t tried.

After the comment from my friend about revolting adults who pick, I wondered if I was a gross social outlier. I did a little reading at Widipedia’s fount of quick-read knowledge and saw that one study reported that 75% of respondents admitted to nose-picking. One researcher even provides evidence that eating the proceeds may help our immune systems. Yucky!

I also found out in during my quick dip into picking research, that there is a name for compulsive picking, “rhinotillexomania.” I can’t remember physical damage to myself from picking, so I don’t qualify with the mania, just crude behavior and thinking about it way too much recently.   

Since I have always suspected that I wasn’t alone in my bad habit, I’m a bit of a germaphobe in public places. I can manage to glide up and down stairs without touching a handrail unless I’m desperate for something to steady myself. Doorknobs often get opened with my sleeve or just a pinky finger. Hand sanitizer is as likely to be with me as lipstick, and honestly, I will use it more frequently.

Yep, I guess it is a small step to acceptance to say that I was a nose-picker, I am a nose-picker, and I will be a nose-picker as long as I have the where-with-all to get a digit to my face when annoyance strikes (and I think no one else can see me). However, I haven’t evolved to the point that I will be candid in admitting all this if I’m trapped in a car with adults who seem like they have their mental shit (and their snot) well under control.

Nope, I’ll stare out the window and let the discussion of grossness continue without me. And I’ll wonder, “If I can’t admit to something lots of other people do, how I’m ever going to write about prior decisions that I now find so incomprehensible?”

And then I will smile, and tell myself the memoir will get written by sitting at my computer, picking my nose, and writing one story at a time.

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