Hope your summer has been lovely. Now for a not so lovely issue. I have... a problem. It's so gross I'm having trouble admitting it here, but... I pick my nose.
EWWW I know! I gross myself out with this habit and that's why I'm turning to you! You see, I'm a junior in motherfranking COLLEGE and I still do this. I'm surprised no one has seen me yet (or so I know of, no one has run away screaming yet).
I really want to stop. I don't even enjoy the taste or anything. I just get self conscious that there's something in my nose so I pick at it, and then I have a booger on my finger, and I don't want to just flick it or stick it somewhere, and if there is no tissue nearby then, well... You know. Have you ever read the poem "Warning" By Shel Silverstein? Supposedly there's a sharp-toothed snail waiting up in my nose, laying in wait to chop of my fingers.
Help save me from the snail, Auntie! Or at least suggest how I can stop doing this gross deed, please!
Before I do anything else, Sparkler, I'm going to tell you a secret. A crazy secret. A secret you need to know. And you might want to sit down for this, because it's going to blow your mind. The secret is…
...(looks around furtively)...
Everybody picks their nose.
They just don't do it where anyone can see them.
And really, your letter just goes to show the immense and sometimes irrational power of social stigma: that between the cries of, "Ewwww, gross!" and the cautionary poetry about nostril snails, perfectly ordinary people come to believe that they're repulsive, freakish outliers for something that just about everybody does. (Not that there's much hard data available on this topic, but one study conducted in 1995 had a whopping 91% of participants freely admitting to spelunking for boogers an average of four times per day. Also, in researching these statistics, I found this proposed study by a scientist who believes that eating what you excavate might actually have immune system-boosting benefits, which is so fascinating and disgusting that I can't even stand it.)
Of course, if you feel that you're picking compulsively (all the time, to the point of injury/infection, or without the ability to control yourself), then that's a different story—and if that's the case, write back and we'll talk. But assuming that this is really just about you feeling ashamed and not wanting to be "gross," then... well, you're not. Grooming yourself is a necessary, hygienic activity, and you're just doing it using the tools nature gave you, like all animals do. Consider: cats and dogs have wildly prehensile tongues for bathing themselves; snakes rub up against rocks in order to exfoliate; and humans have blunt, fairly soft fingernails that don't offer much use as tools or weapons, but are perfectly-tailored for scratching, plucking, and picking away at our sensitive hides. When you think about it, the fact that we now have a drugstore aisle full of products just so we can do these things without ever having to touch our own actual body parts is the thing that's really freaky. Q-tips? Are not natural at all.
So please: give yourself a break for being human, remind yourself as necessary that the nostril snail is not real, and recognize that your "disgusting habit" is really just a grooming activity that goes in the same category as scraping your teeth, squeezing a blackhead, or scratching your genitals: if you do it in private, you can do it proudly.
Do you pick your nose? (Don't even deny it. WE KNOW YOU DO.) Go boogie in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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