Moist Ointment Crunching… by Steve Safran

A one-word text launched this discussion.


I had no idea why she texted it, or what it meant, but a quick Google search made it clear. I share this strange quirk with a relative, and she found that our mutual desire to pummel you for loud snacking has a name.

Misophonia— literally “hatred of sound”– is a neurological disorder in which negative feelings (anger, flight, hatred, disgust) are triggered by specific sounds. Hearing crunching noises makes me angry. This isn’t mere annoyance; I’m not bothered. I want to hit. Eat all the chips you want, just not near me. I can eat chips. The sound of my own crunching doesn’t bother me, which is odd since, presumably, it’s loudest inside my own head. Misophonia might also mean “irrational asshole.”

We didn’t even know we had misophonia until just a few years ago, when she casually mentioned that the sound of her husband eating nuts made her want to throw them (and presumably him) across the room. Poor guy just wants to have peanuts while he watches baseball.

It’s not quite a psychiatric disorder, at least not according to the DSM-5. And that thing thinks everything is a disorder. Consulting the DSM-5 about a disorder is probably listed as a disorder. This bit of nuttery lives in its own netherworld between normal and “Seek help.” And it’s so obscure, spellcheck continues to insist we have “mesothelioma.” I’ll pass.

Are we rare birds, those of us who want to throttle peanut crunchers? I put it to the crowd, launching the query on Facebook and Twitter about sounds that make people equally as crazy. I was fascinated:

“Crinkling water bottles. I’ll threaten to throw a kid out of class for that,” wrote an otherwise normal friend.

“Other people eating bananas make a very mooshy sound. Ugh,” wrote a woman I’ve known since I was five, around whom I almost certainly ate bananas.

This column could have ended there. But the conversation became even more compelling. People started bringing up certain words that bothered them. I didn’t even know words could make people cringe. I’m not talking about dirty words, words about gross things, or words about naughty bits. I mean words like:

“Moist.” “Squirt.” “Taffeta.” “Shirk.” “Panties.”

Dave, a guy I’ve known since Kindergarten, can’t stand the word “defrocked.” And he’s not even Catholic.

But Debby wins for Most Misophonic. It turns out she’s a self-described Rain Man savant of bothersome words. Just have a gander— a moist, crotchety gander:





“Mayonnaise” (And I’m starting to wonder how she orders lunch…)



And also, “Something about ‘envelope’ makes me uncomfortable.” There might be a chapter in the DSM-5 for Debby.

Alice doesn’t like “titillate,” possibly because it starts rudely. Ditto Gina with “crotchety.” It’s probably the same problem Heidi has with “penal.”

Ken is offended by “offended,” but he has no problem offending me. Lindsay wrote: “‘Penetrate’ and ‘Penetration.’ I can’t watch football because of it.” Dan added: “My mother hated ‘buttocks’ for some reason.”

The two threads brought in 165 comments. 165! The only time you even come close to that number is when Facebook forces friends to observe your birthday.

I will carry on in life with my untreated misophonia, giving Dorito-eaters wide berth. And I’m enlightened now about all these unsuspecting trigger words. Around me, do not crunch. Around women, do not bring up “panties.” And around Debby… just don’t speak.


Simple Things Are Hard for Me

It’s not that I’m especially stupid, or even terribly averse to new technologies, but I’ll never be that cool girl all jazzed about a new iThing. I’m the girl who inadvertently turns off the phone while it’s in GPS mode and we’re circling an unfamiliar city block with he-touched-me-stop-looking-at-me-are-we-there-yet boys in the backseat. I’m the girl who doesn’t know which icon to tap, or why the screen is black again, or why all queries lead back to iTunes. I’m the girl who asks the 8 year old how to take a screen shot and email the picture… exasperating said 8 year old in the process. So when my (first generation, I-hate-change) iPhone began to act all wonky, I attempted to hide it from the husband for as long as possible.

Him: What’s wrong with your phone?

Me: Um, it just kind of turns black if I send too many texts. Or check email.

Him: Is it the battery?

Me: (blank stare)

Him: You need a new phone.

Me: (crestfallen)

I’m assuming most people tear open a box from the Apple store rather immediately. Not me. Because I know that whatever is in there isn’t going to work. Well, it’s not going to work right away, or for me, or without a lot of cursing from the husband.

Him: Was the phone delivered yet?

Me: I think so.

Him: Did you look at it?

Me: I looked at the box.

Him: Go plug it in and follow the screen prompts to activate it.

Me: (radio silence)

Poor Bernie. After ten solid hours of surgery, husband returns to home and hearth and the ineffectual phone upgrade attempts by blonde wife. It was no surprise to either of us that my old phone did not appear anywhere on the computer after 45 minutes of spinning icon. I’ll never know where I sent all of my phone numbers, and funny texts, and fuzzy (first generation!) pictures of report cards and lost teeth. But kind, exhausted husband doesn’t balk at this, and does something with a Cloud and now the new phone looks like a shinier version of the old one and so, yay!, new phone, right?

Him: Now, just follow the instructions on the screen to activate the phone.

Me: It won’t let me type letters.

Him: There aren’t any letters in the activation code.

Me: There’s a “K.”

Him: Oh my God.

Ultimately letter-free codes are found and new phone is all spinny icon and the computer promises me that it will send me a chipper email when it’s all done. Alas, no email. After 8 hours the shiny phone is still all spinny icon. Husband, racing for airport in the wee hours, tells me to I’ll have to talk to customer service people. Because current strategies of haphazard icon clicking and magical thinking aren’t working. Dread. Customer service people have questions I cannot answer. I know how it’s going to go already.

Them: Hi, how can I help you?

Me: The new phone looks like the old phone, but it’s still all spinny icon and I didn’t get the email.

Them: Let’s start with your order number.

Me: The one that starts with a “K?”

Them: Could you put your husband on the phone?

They start fielding calls from dolts like me in fifteen minutes. I feel bad for them already.

Fantasizing about bygone days and corded electronics that don't make me feel stupid... but glamorous.

Fantasizing about bygone days and corded electronics that don’t make me feel stupid… but glamorous.


*weekly writing challenge