Sunday, January 29, 2012

desensitize yourself.

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Turns out I have more sensory sensitivities than just about any other grown-up I know. Someday I'll devote a post to explaining that if you try to scrub a carpet with a paper towel in my presence, I'm going to erupt in goosebumps and swallow the vomit that threatens to escape. And I'd love to plumb the depths of my lifelong sensory anomalies, including how they affected my motor milestones (crawling, bike-riding, shoe-tying) to the point where my pediatrician warned my parents that my literacy development would be severely delayed. First, though: my (!super-awesome!) psychosomatic response to certain words.

I know lots of poets and writers have visceral reactions to certain turns of phrase or evocative expressions. Maybe this awareness of a word's sensorial properties is hard-wired into the brain of a writer, I don't know. I do remember when my high school creative writing class was obsessed with the word evanescence (and yes, that was before the band). For months, every moody, maudlin poem we churned out incorporated that word. (I was one of the worst offenders in the "moody maudlin" category...see my poem entitled "moonbeam suicide" - title purposefully not capitalized - circa 1997 or so.) But evanescence...ah, it was just so good! Rolled off the tongue, looked pretty (visually, all the letters are on one level...no d's or g's gunking up the works), and had such an angsty definition. Perfection.

Certain sister-wives of mine who spent eight-plus hours a day with me for five years learned a thing or two about my word-reactions. Seriously, certain words affect me like fingernails on a chalkboard affect the general population. Eventually, I posted a list for Kristen to help her remember...just for fun. Not to control her verbal output or anything. Swear. :) Here it is, in all its idiosyncratic, weird-ass glory.

YES WORDS (a.k.a., words of sweet beauty):
  • blue
  • summer
  • happy
  • rainbow
  • strawberry
  • slob
  • baby
  • May
  • slander
  • luscious
  • sunshine
  • flawlessly

NO WORDS (a.k.a., words of shivery death):
  • mug
  • craft
  • snack
  • moist
  • dip
  • cloths
  • meal
  • mealy
  • sac

Some are contextual, like dip. "Delicious ranch dip" is perfectly fine; "take a dip in the pool" is akin to someone chewing on fabric with dry teeth (translation: goosebumps & vomit). Most have nothing at all to do with the definition, like slob, baby, or snack. I love snacks. LOVE snacks. But when all y'all Michiganders announce that it's snayck time, I want to grip your throat and smush your tongue and erase the sound forever. I know, I know - I'm a born and bred Michigander and probably make that long -a just as horrifically screechy as anyone else. But when you do it? SHIVERY DEATH IN MY EARS AND BRAIN. I know that moist is a trendy word to hate, and I do hate it - but not because of its meaning. It's the -oi in the middle, I think. Then again, maybe not; hoist is just fine. Who freaking knows.

Interestingly, I've read a lot on how many people with autism connect words, numbers, or days of the week with emotions, textures, or colors. Daniel Tammet, author of Born On A Blue Day, does an incredible job of explaining this phenomenon. Certainly I don't experience this the way that Mr. Tammet or others do, but I think I've had a small taste of it. If nothing else, his descriptions contribute to my theory that autism is, in essence, an extreme version of sensory dysfunction. That's another post for another day, but definitely one of my favorite topics ever.

Anyway! I don't necessarily avoid any of the "no" words, or go out of my way to use all my "yes" words in a sentence, and I'm not going to crucify you (or hug you) for using one or another. These words just are what they are: awesome, or abhorrent. Maybe it's a sign that I'm more or less evolved than others. ...Differently evolved. Yeah. Let's go with differently.


  1. I actually was thinking about your loathing for a few words literally today...meal, snack and moist in particular. What is interesting is that other than summer, none of your "yes words" fit your pretty visual description like evanescence (letters on one level). Oh the twisted selves we are...:)

  2. I know - they're all less visually awesome, more auditorily awesome. :)

  3. Strawberry . . . Strawberry was on the yes list too, I think!?!

    My socks rubbed the carpet while I changed my shoes at work the other day. I thought of you. That was like time number 48 of thinking of you that day (it was early - still morning). :)

    <3 you!!

  4. noted! and updated! I meant to check it against the official lists you wrote ("official" = on sticky notes labeled YES WORDS and NO WORDS), but I forgot. just did these ones from memory.



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