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must you really chew that loudly?

April 7, 2016


You guys, I am writing this blog post in the worst possible conditions. The woman sat next to me is doused in perfume — I think maybe she was suspended over one of those dunk tanks at the fun fair except that the tank was filled with Exclamation! and the ball hit its target one too many times — and she’s tapping away on her Mac with her fake fingernails like a bloody triceratops. These are two of my least favourite things, things that make me want to hulk out.

Now, before you start to unfriend me on Facebook, let it be known that I don’t hate perfume. I hate bad perfume* and too much of it — less is definitely more in the world of fragrances. I’m always amazed at how people can walk around in a corrosive, eye-burning cumulus cloud of perfume, completely unaware that folk are dropping like flies all around them.

*Side note: cheap perfume reminds me of my days as a flea market sales assistant, when I was 16 and worked for a dirty old man who had a little stall in a massive warehouse and I had to get up at the butt crack of dawn every Saturday to make a few bucks. He sold generic Shalimar (the smell of Shalimar, to this day, makes me vomit in my mouth) and cheap plastic toys that made all sorts of annoying sounds and porn on VHS, which meant that I technically sold porn but I directed customers to him for payment so that made it okay (imagine the days when you had to rewind or fast forward porn to the good bits?… who has that kind of time?). The grilled cheese sandwiches at the canteen were good though and the hot chocolate kept my fingers warm. I make it sound more glamorous than it was. But that’s a story for another time.

Anyways… in case you hadn’t noticed, I’m one of those hypersensitive people. Sensitive to noise, sensitive to smells, sensitive to too much of anything. It’s very uncool, I know. However, I read somewhere that hypersensitive creatures are often highly creative so maybe it’s ok. I’ve always known this about myself but it became even more apparent when my sister, who is also averse to certain noises, visited us last week. The number of times our husbands exchanged knowing looks, shaking theirs heads as if to say “I feel your pain, bro”.

The truth is, I hate being so easily irritated by sounds. The noise is amplified in my brain to such a level that I can’t ignore it. “Sorry, you were saying?”, spoons clinking. “Yes, the situation in Syria is heartbreaking.” Who the fuck keeps banging their spoon? Is there a one-man band in here?

So, to make light of it – don’t they say you should put an arachnophobe in a room full of spiders? – a cathartic post about sounds that annoy me. I loathe the following noises with the single-minded devotion that Trump haters hate on Trump (with bloody good reason). You’ll notice a trend here: masticating, or any mouth noises in general, sets my hair on fire.

  1. Hearing people’s music through their headphones. You’d think I’d prefer to hear Kanye West somewhat muted and muffled through a big set of cans but the truth is, I don’t want to hear Kanye at all. I would not like to hear him here or there. I would not like to hear him anywhere.
  2. The crunch of crisps (chips in America). I don’t care if it’s Lay’s or Doritos or if they’re hand cooked in organic olive oil. They all sound the same to me. Crunch, crunch, crunch. And no, eating one crisp at a time doesn’t make the pain go away. You are only irritating me for longer. I’m not saying that all crisps should be banned. I’m just saying they should come with a warning label: eat at your own risk around people with misophonia.
  3. Chewing anything while talking on the phone. You might as well pull out a megaphone then hit me over the head with a hammer for good measure.
  4. When someone is talking and they obviously need to clear their throat and all their words reach my ears through a layer of phlegm like static on the radio. And don’t even get me started on loogie hocking.
  5. My husband’s Star Wars ring tones – Chewbacca for text messages, Darth Vader for incoming phone calls, R2-D2 for new emails. It’s like we’re living on the fucking Death Star over here. (I love you, baby)
  6. People who talk during movies at the cinema are probably the same people who fart on airplanes**. No respect. Hell hath no fury.
  7. When Wren has a spectacularly shit day and whines incessantly. I love my child more than anything else on this planet but her all-day-whining is the aural equivalent of a mosquito buzzing in my ear.
  8. Noisy next-door neighbours. Last year we lived in a first floor flat, which is like being the cheese in a noise sandwich. That doesn’t even make sense. But you get the idea.  Downstairs lived three children who clearly had lead feet and jumped, every single morning at 7am without fail, from one end of the house to the other (back and forth, and back and forth). And upstairs lived a couple who wore their shoes (clogs, I’m convinced) at all hours of the day. And I’ll never forget the neighbour who blasted Unbreak my Heart by Toni Braxton 32 times in a row one Sunday morning in 1997. She’s now buried in the back yard of that apartment complex.
  9. Really piercing laughs. I love laughing. I believe laughing is God’s gift to mortals. But the kind of laugh that makes you jump out your seat, a machine-gun burst, an explosive howl that leaves your ears ringing? Not my super favourite thing.
  10. Spoons clanking against bowls, forks scraping on plates.
  11. Loud electronica – the kind of music that escalates until it hits the highest frequency on the sound spectrum – when I’m eating. Eating is not a sport. I don’t need to get pumped up to eat, nor do I want to.
  12. Open-mouthed gum chewing. Are you a camel? No. So why are you chewing your gum in a figure-8 pattern?
  13. Slurping. Makes me want to yank my cochlea out with a fork, like a mussel from its shell.
  14. Loud motorcycle mufflers… that wake my kid up from her nap. RAGE.
  15. People talking loudly on their mobile phones on public transport. I don’t need to hear your halfalogue. “Ok, but like, what did she even mean? No, but like, did you tell her what I said because it’s, like, super important? Can you hear me? Can you hear me now? OMG! Shut up! She did not say that?” If I wanted to listen to a bunch of dim-witted valley girls, I’d watch Gossip Girls.

If I sound annoyed it’s because I am. I’m so sorry you guys. This woman’s loud tapping is making me feel the opposite of zen. My coffee tastes of her perfume. I literally want to high-five her in the face. I was aiming for funny but I think maybe I’ve only given you the urge to punch something. So to soften the blow, here are some sounds that I love, sounds that make my ears feel like they are being wrapped in a big bear hug.

Thunderstorms, spring peepers, crickets, cicadas, red-winged black birds (all of these remind me of Canada on a hot summer’s day), steel drums, ocean waves, crackling fires, the styrofoam-like crunch of snow underfoot, church bells, coffee brewing in the morning, toast popping, Joe’s heartbeat, rain drops on my bedroom window (especially in the middle of the night when I’m cozy under the duvet and there are many hours to go before dawn), seagulls, foghorns, whale songs, the scratch of old vinyl, the sing-song of a Jamaican accent, overhearing kids talking (just now on the tube: “nobody wants to hear your diarrhea songs, Jesse”), Morgan Freeman’s voice, symphony orchestras, the warbling song of the wren, leaves rustling in the wind, train whistles, the shutter on my Pentax K1000, synthesizers, lawn mowers strangely (reminds me of being a kid), Tibetan chanting, silence (does silence have a sound?), brass bands, the sound of om at the end of a really good yoga session, music, music, and music. And Wren’s giggle, which is just about the most heart-warming sound I have ever heard. I’ll never need earplugs for that… unless it turns into one of those annoying explosive laughs.

**Full disclosure: I’ve totally farted on an airplane, maybe even more than once. I didn’t mean to, you guys. Cabin pressure is a bitch.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. April 8, 2016 2:59 am

    Sometimes I am ULTRA sensitive, other times, I can block anything out. I find the more chaos the better I am to block out. It is when one of my kids are humming or singing that I want to murder them. But only if I am working. OH. AND. Tapping. My son needs to taptaptap something on something else incessantly. OR stick handle in the house and shoot at a chair. UGH. I don’t want to hear other people’s music either, but I do like to overhear conversations–two sides of conversations. Phones bug me too. mmm.mmmm. AGH.

    I love crickets too, and rain on the roof. Ice skates on ice, my husband when he tells a story. My dog telling me what’s what….not the barking….the stuff that sounds like talking. The barking drives me straight over the edge.

    Loved this post, sorry about the long nailed lady. I am impressed that you lived to write the whole post! xoxoxoxox

  2. April 8, 2016 12:23 pm

    Coming out of lurkdom to say “I feel your pain, bro”. I annoy my family so much as I complain constantly of smells and sounds that get right on my tits but they all think I’m ridiculous. The leaky headphones one, could it be grounds for divorce?
    Added to the good noises, and they are all brilliant, I bizarrely like lying in bed hearing the hunting dogs howl at night, strangely comforting…

  3. April 8, 2016 10:18 pm

    oh dude, you make me LOL (but hopefully not at all like #9, though even your sensetive ears prob’ly can’t hear me from there), and fall in love with a whole lot more. and miss you even more than that.
    can we skype soon? preferably before you go to jail for high-fiving the stinky triceratops in her face?

  4. April 9, 2016 10:44 pm

    No Jeanine – you definitely hit funny! I laughed so hard and I’ve sent this on to my sisters who also struggle with the same disease. I’m new here – I found you through my friend Xanthe Berkeley – and so glad I did. I’ve fallen off the reading blogs bandwagon but you’ve just hit my favourites list and will check in regularly. Your writing is GOLD.

  5. April 10, 2016 1:37 pm

    Aargh! I’m the same. Ultra sensitive to sound. I can’t concentrate on a conversation if something else is playing/going on at the same volume. It’s why I was never really a clubber! Yes to it all but one of my biggest ones is when people obviously have a LOT of snot in their nose and they snort it up. Usually on public transport. No handkerchief in sight! Oh, it’s revolting! xx

  6. April 14, 2016 4:18 pm

    Oh, how I love your beautiful writing. I just want to curl up in it!

    And I have to confess that I am the same – but with smells. It’s getting worse the older I get, too. Or maybe I just have less tolerance. Either way any kind of (what I deem to be) unpleasant smell makes me want to crawl out of my own skin. I actually change my clothes when coming home from a restaurant, I so badly want to rip open other peoples windows (doesn’t everyone air out the entire house at least twice a day?) and some smells make me feel physically sick. On the other side there are smells I love so much I’d like to breathe them in all the time. I consider this my Olfactory OCD.

  7. saspetherick permalink
    April 15, 2016 7:36 am

    *takes Kayne West music collection back to the store*
    *thinks about new birthday present*

  8. May 6, 2016 9:10 pm

    Omg yes! I feel your pain on #14! How dare you ruin my time of silence and dark chocolate (that I don’t have to share with a nosy 11 month old) with your loud muffler!
    Another one that bugs me is loud bass music (usually from cars). I hit my height of bass music hysteria when I was 4 months pregnant and a ‘gentlemen’s’ club moved into the neighborhood. They were open from 4pm until 6am. Every. Night. We tried all kinds of soundproofing but it never worked. We’ve since moved.
    Also, the band Disturbed would say yes, there IS a ‘Sound of Silence.’ 😉

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