idol survivor | individual immunity #3 | ~1650 words
I am probably one of the touchiest people you'll ever meet, and it has nothing to do with irritability or sensitive feelings.
No, I'm talking about touchiness in relation to the physical world, where all five senses "go up to 11" for no good reason. I'm over-wired and sometimes overwhelmed, and there is no upside to any of it, at least not in the modern world.
It's not like the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale, where the prize for being hypersensitive is marrying a prince (although for years, HalfshellHusband referred to me as his Princess and Pea wife, and he is definitely my prince). Mostly, it just makes the world more annoying for me, which can lead to complaining. And complaining makes me annoying to other people!
Light sensitivity is the least troublesome—I rarely get blasted by sudden, blinding glare unless I go outside, and even then, I'm usually fine as long as I have sunglasses. Otherwise, I'm like a mole. Hearing is a different story—horns, sirens, screaming, yelling, and barking dogs are all painful. I thought it would get better as I got older, because everyone's hearing fades a little then. But the high range hasn't changed at all—it's the middle range that's murkier now, the area where conversations occur. So, the kitchen timer is as piercing as ever, but I have to turn on subtitles for TV programs if the background music or sound effects are too loud. It's the worst of both worlds! \o?
Hundreds of years ago, I might have kept a village safe from intruders, but now I just keep myself from sleeping unless the heavy-duty earplugs are in. Sometimes, I have to sandwich my head between pillows, too.
The increased sense of smell isn't too bad, except where it also causes a stronger sense of taste. Mostly, I smell things sooner than most people and can identify the odor more easily… unless it's the nexus of bleach/oxyclean/mold/mildew. The nasty Oxy ingredient in dish soap started to smell like mildew to me a few years ago, and now they're all munged together. So, it seems like I'm using mildew to remove mildew. Ugh.
But I assume other people know what it's like when perfume or cologne are strong they're three-dimensional, and you can taste them? And surely I'm not the only one bothered by those two spots on the Sacramento bike path that have smelled like a sewer for months now? Though if that's true, WHY hasn't someone done something about it? I am thisClose to putting Vicks Vapo-Rub under my nose before rides now, like a TV detective in an autopsy room.
Now, the tasting issues are the real deal—I can't minimize those. I don't know how to separate them from being a supertaster, either, because there's also that.
Do you remember the scene in "When Harry Met Sally," where Harry says, "On the side is a very big thing with you," and Sally says, "I want what I want"? Being particular is definitely part of it, but usually the reason is about avoiding too much of something.
Too much salad dressing (and its calories). Too much sauce, because while the menu description of the preparation looks good, what if it isn't? God, what if it's so awful that I have to scrape all the sauce off after it's already contaminated all the food around it? Or, if the meal includes fruit… what if the cook dumps the fruit on top of the eggs, pancakes, or French toast, and now those taste like watermelon or pineapple or whatever? Yuck! Lived and learned.
Unless I forget to ask the waiter to leave things "off" the dish. Sometimes, that's guesswork—you'd be surprised what restaurants don't consider worth mentioning on the menu: minced parsley (evil!), onions (and all their relatives, which still taste like onions), cucumbers… Not only do I not want to bite into any of those, I don't even want them there temporarily, since their flavors all "bleed" into everything they touch.
My younger sister has joked for years that I need "army plates" for my food, with separate sections for everything. Yay. But I think I'm just more aware of "cross-contamination" than most people. Some foods taste fine in combination with other foods. Others don't—or I just want to enjoy their flavors separately.
And it turns out that when it comes to cucumbers, my younger sister has exactly the same opinion about their ability to destroy everything they touch, so hah!
I think this is all pretty typical for people whom others consider "picky eaters," but there's more.
While the proportion of flavors matters to most people, which flavors do they mean? For me, it includes things other people usually overlook. Submarine sandwiches all have too much bread—I can hardly taste the contents. Pasta needs lots of sauce, or it just tastes like noodles. I hate rice, so it has to be buried in spice (e.g., Chinese, Thai, East-Indian food) before I'll eat it.
And hot sauce is a missed opportunity, because it almost always uses vinegar as a preservative, and that ruins the overall flavor for me.
You'd think a "discerning palate" would help with cooking, and maybe it does. I experiment with seasonings until something tastes just right, and that works out well for my family. Until HalfshellHusband asks me how much of everything I added in, so he can duplicate the recipe later, and…who knows? I wasn't paying attention.
I also don't know what other people taste, so I'm careful about things that matter to me and possibly no one else. My family probably thinks I'm wasting my time each year when I separate all of the mint-related things and the peanut-butter-related things into separate Ziploc bags before putting them in the Christmas stockings, so their flavors don't contaminate the rest of the chocolate. I mean, I love all of those flavors, but I also like chocolate by itself. And mint and PB together in the chocolate? What a horrible idea. :O
HalfshellHusband asked me just the other day whether I have separate mugs for coffee and for tea, and of course I do! I can use the same mug for coffee and for hot cocoa, but the mugs are usually hand-washed, and tea and coffee have incompatible flavor residue. Yes, flavor residue is totally a thing—at least, for me!
As for the last of the five sense… as with taste, it's hard to separate sensitive skin from being sensitive to touch. My skin bruises, blisters, and sunburns easily. Sunblock is a necessity, and while my mother has never worn socks in her adult life, I get blisters from dress shoes, sandals, and flip-flops. Even wearing regular shoes with good socks will do it, if I walk long enough.
Fabric deoderizers give me a rash, and most toothpastes make my mouth peel. And you can track some of my regular misadventures by the height of the corresponding bruise: bicycle pedal, kitchen counter, towel rack, oven-door handle, door latch. Is it funny or just pathetic? Or both?
But the fact is, a lot of regular touch hurts more than it should. Pressure on the skin over a bone hurts, or sometimes just firm contact. I had the "pets, not pats" conversation with HalfshellHusband again last Friday, because his idea of patting me on the arm or shoulder feels like whomp-whomp-whomp, which does not convey the special feeling he's aiming for…
This could partly be the redhead gene (which is also a thing), but it's hard to be sure. My mom is pretty sensitive to pain too, but she doesn't have the same problems with basic irritation that I do. For instance, she can wear lace (which I find itchy), and her clothes all still have their tags. Tags! Right on the neck over the spine and everything! Most of mine are gone, and I once had a sweater I'd worn three or four times before the tag suddenly became so obnoxious, I wound up hiding in a restroom stall at work and sawing through the threads with the scissors on my miniature Swiss Army knife! That tag had to go.
I developed a hate-on for my underwear while I was out running errands a few weeks ago, because the "tagless" product info in the back had turned into some kind of evil, scratchy plastic. I seriously considered:
1) Going back home to change,
2) Buying new underwear and changing over in a store bathroom, or
3) Ripping the back of the underwear out and throwing the whole thing away later.
Also not the first time I had worn that underwear., but apparently it mutated on me!
Oddly enough, though, as I get older I'm also starting to become more like my dad. We used to say that my dad was so pain-insensitive, he was just a couple of steps shy of having to worry about accidentally burning himself on a lit stove. Where other people needed morphine for post-surgical pain, he would use Tylenol. And he would come in from working in the yard and have a bleeding gash on his arm, but when you asked about it, he'd say, "Oh, how'd I do that?"
So now, while cuts and bruises and banging into things probably hurt as much as they always have… I'll often forget about them, unless they were epically bad or I broke something in the process. Broken bones keep on hurting for weeks and weeks afterward, so obviously, I remember those. But scrapes and gashes, and even typical bruises? Sometimes I have no idea when or how those happened.
Compared to a lifetime of "Ouch!" and having the physical makeup of a delicate flower, that seems like an improvement to me. It's better than the alternative!
Well, probably. I mean, as long as I remember to stay away from the stove…
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