Look Away

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic

I gotta look away


I gotta to look away.

More and more I am doing this.

I have always been a sensitive soul. Unable to handle anything unpleasant or off putting. Sight or smell, and certainly not touch. Not even on a dare. I know it’s not a real bowl of eyeballs and just peeled grapes. I am not putting my hand in it.

The years have taught me to deal with my sensitive sensibilities by simply avoiding and/or ignoring grossness.

Most of the gag worthy tasks have been removed from my life. I own a dishwasher and refuse to wash manually. A lifetime of cleaning up after siblings, at the restaurant jobs and later my own family it seems my youth is filled with endless hours at the sink. The memory alone of dirty water and germy sponges brings me to gag.

This aversion to grossness is also how I discovered I could never become a journalist.  In year two of my broadcasting program a new journalism instructor was brought in. He had worked for CNN and had seen it all. Mid nineties he lectured us in loud assured Hungarian accent of the Bosnian war and ethnic cleansing, of Rwanda and genocide. He would detail each atrocity demanding we understand what the world is capable of and how we are to report on what we may encounter. I learned two things from this class. One, sit by the door and case you need to dash to the toilet. Two, I couldn’t report on a car accident without crying let alone any kind of real human suffering.

Which brings me to my love of reading and writing. Can I write about the grossness? I don’t know because I have never tried. I have never felt the desire to detail in words what dishwater looks like or what plunging a toilet smells like or how plucking a chicken might feel. I do not know this last one, but I have seen it done, before I looked away. I can tell you that when I happen upon a particularly gruesome scene in a novel, I will skip over it. I can get the gist of what is happening I don’t need the details. It is the same with tv and movies. I just cover my eyes. Watching most of Game of Thrones through my fingers and absolutely none of the scenes regarding Theon Grayjoys torture. I have never seen the “bring out the gimp” scene in Pulp Fiction and when I watched “La vita e bella”  back in 1999 I spent the day pausing the tape and leaving the room to cry before coming back, watching a little more repeating the agony until I watched the entirety. The film is burned into my mind, to this day I begin to cry when I think of it, I will never watch it again.

Unfortunately, ordinary life cannot be looked at through fingers covering your face. Motherhood has all kinds of unavoidable grossness. Like when your *child barfs all over and then plays in it, your first reaction is to barf back. Worse, when your child falls and bangs his head, screaming like he is dying, and you must pry his hands away from his face to see if he’s hurt. In that moment you are terrified you might not be able to handle what horrible bloody mess he’s concealing.

Today my son is grown and can take care of his own messes. I no longer wash dishes or plunge toilets (I have a people and machines to do that) yet, still I must look away.  Why? It all comes down to toothpaste and teeth brushing. Yes, I know you all think I’m nuts. Some even think it is normal and acceptable to floss your teeth in public. I actually do not come across this very often but when I do see it, it enrages me.

What is it about the people cleaning their mouths that we just can’t get enough of? Every movie and tv show expresses morning with toothbrushing. They show intimacy between two or more people by spitting paste into the same sink. (omg I almost gag writing about it). I do not share a bathroom with anyone for any reason. I don’t want to see what they do in there in fact I don’t want to see what I do in there that is why I turn my back to the mirror when I brush and floss and try to think of something else. So being privy to a stranger acting like they’re in the privy but on my tv really grosses me out. I can’t get away from it. Is there an acting class dedicated to brushing teeth on camera? Maybe it is just me. Maybe I notice it because I find it so revolting. Maybe I watch too much tv. In any case I want to say to film makers “give it up, its done, move on, have the character pick up the brush and cut to the next shot, we’ll connect the dots.”

I know you cannot spend all of life looking the other way. I know that sometimes you must brace yourself and peer into the face of ghastly and nasty. There have been many times when I had to, and I did.

 My point is I don’t always need to look to know its repulsive. My college instructor once suggested I desensitize myself by continually facing things that make me look away. Do this and over time I would become less sensitive. Around the same time, I began to wax my eyebrows. The aesthetician said if I kept up the routine after a while my eyebrows would become thinner, requiring fewer visits and less pain. They were both wrong. If I can’t handle it, I will look way and if you saw me today with my corona isolation - haven’t seen the aesthetician in months-eyebrows you would look away too.



*the first time I took my kid to the drive-in theater he was grade two. We went early so he could run and play on the swings. He ate popcorn, sat in the front seat and put his head through the sunroof. He was having a ball. The sun set and I settled him into the passage seat to watch when he vomits popcorn everywhere. “oh, my poor boy, do you feel sick? We should go home.” I say as I mop up the mess trying not to add to it with my own. “why?” he replies. He is fine. He eats more popcorn and happily watches the movie while we sit in the stench of a vomit-soaked car.


Submitted: May 09, 2020

© Copyright 2021 p.a.m. All rights reserved.

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