Nothing reminds me how disgusting I am like the common cold. When I get sick, both my entire body and everything I touch become covered in a thin layer of mucus in some really twisted and slimy version of the Midas Touch. I get breakouts from cold sweats. I put what little hair I have into what can only be described as a “man bun.” I am physically repulsed by the thought of putting on pants that are not pajamas. When my nose is runny, I have to carry around an entire box of Kleenex and a plastic bag. I recently ran out of tissues, so I’ve been carrying around a roll of toilet paper everywhere. When my nose is stuffy, I’m incapable of eating or drinking without pausing every five seconds to take a breath. It’s a harsh reminder of my own body and all of its processes, all of its yucky painful processes.
In a weird way, though, I kinda like getting colds. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t love not being able to breathe through my already messed-up nose (Thanks, deviated septum!) or waking up to pee three times in one night. I don’t love sickness, I just sorta like being sick.
Hear me out: I think there’s an unabashedness to having a cold. As in, there’s something liberating to being explicitly gross and doing so in public. I stand by the belief that most people are pretty disgusting in general, and that we’re socialized to hide all the disgusting stuff we do (hence why that stuff disgusts us in the first place). But when you’re sick, all those social norms seem to go out the window. So what if you’re in Libe Cafe and you have to double-fist orange juice after using a roll of toilet paper to wipe your leaky-faucet nose? You’re sick. You, the gross, disgusting, beautiful human being, are justified in being … that way. You’re sick, and visibly so. You get a free pass.
I don’t like to think of myself as particularly self-conscious. I once walked around my high school for an entire day dressed as Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction, mustache and all. Still, I think everyone — even those who seem the most unapologetic in their own presence — are deeply insecure. It’s impossible not to be, especially when we’re constantly under scrutiny, thanks to both the public nature of living at a college and the ubiquity of social media. Admitting you’re insecure is hard; it’s essentially admitting you don’t fully and wholly love everything about yourself, even if you really try to. And we do really try do, don’t we? All these Dove-Love-Yourself-Or-Else campaigns paradoxically make it more difficult to admit that, despite all your efforts to accept yourself, sometimes it’s still tough.
Whenever I’m sniffling and coughing and using my Mucus Touch, I’m reminded of how it takes some sort of external justification (other people knowing I’m sick, and them knowing that my grossness is because of being ill) for me to accept my disgustingness in public. I wonder if I should care less about how I’m being perceived in public spaces. Maybe I care too much, or too little, or maybe I care a healthy amount.
Or maybe none of anything I just wrote made any sense and this entire column is a result of me being drugged up on Nyquil. Did I actually write this, or is this another one of my surreal dreams? Who knows? That Nyquil stuff’s powerful.