Tag Archives: nonsense

The Issue of the Tongue Scraper: A Conversation

I have been away for a while, often physically, mainly mentally. But I have decided to come back, at least interwebically.

My sister gave birth to her second sprout, a wee lass called Rosemary. She is not cute at all. She in fact looks much like the previous sprout (named Henry). The good news is that all my sibling’s kids have been complete uggos on entry to the world and then, magically, sometime later, they turn into these devastatingly cute urchins I quite like to show people pictures of (like it somehow reflects well on me).

Anyway, to commemorate this wonderful occasion I thought I’d relate a conversation I had with my sister, Cecil, a few years back in London. I wrote it down afterwards then forgot about it only to find it just the other day.

M: (upon returning from the bathroom) ‘What’s that triangle on a stick thing in your toothbrush jar?’

C: ‘A tongue-scraper.’

M: ‘When did you get a tongue-scraper?’

C: ‘I’ve always wanted a tongue-scraper. I went hardcore on my tongue with a toothbrush for years until I discovered how well a flannel worked so, understandably, the tongue-scraper was a complete revelation.’

M: ‘So now you just use the tongue-scraper?’

C: ‘Nah, all three. It works a treat.’

M: ‘Um, okay. Thorough. So, let me guess: the brush, followed by flannel, then the tongue-scraper.’

C: ‘Nope, after experimenting I’ve come to recognize the superiority of the scraper, flannel, brush regimen.’

M: ‘… I guess I can see the first two, but why finish with the brush? Kinda rough.’

C: ‘I see the brush, with toothpaste of course, as a kind of disinfectant or, yeah, a deodorizer. Fresh and minty. So it goes last. Logical, eh?’

M: ‘Right. Of course. And I imagine it gets the taste of flannel out of your mouth.’

C: ‘Actually, I’ve come to like the taste of flannel.’

I’m quite fond of that conversation; it captures something essential of my sister. Also, as an aside, I think ‘tasting flannel’ would be an excellent euphemism for lesbianism: ‘One might, if one were so inclined, taste flannel.’

Static on my Gaydar

My gaydar sucks.

“She turned you down?! Probably a dyke…”

“Um, well… technically she prefers women to retaining large amounts of water.”

I went through a period, in my late teens and early twenties, when I developed a succession of crushes on unsuspected lesbians. I’d get all smitten and full of crush only to discover (once quite embarrassingly) that it just wasn’t going to be. And while this is a surprisingly ego saving method of rejection (it’s not you exactly, more your penis) it seems to have left its own particular scars on my psyche. Until I have proof (of the undeniable variety) I assume that anyone I like is gay. If I hear the term ‘partner’ instead of ‘boyfriend’ from a girl I get suspicious and, depressingly, a little turned on. If after that point of ‘partner-dom’ I later hear reference to a previous boyfriend, I move them into the ‘possibly goes both ways’ column – which is a cool column, in theory if not practice.

I’ve had a couple of girls change teams after being in a relationship with me – something I’ve always presented in as positive a light as possible when it comes up at parties.

“You turned her gay?!”

“Apparently I was the pinnacle of her masculine experience so, resultingly, she’s had to broaden her gender horizons in hopes of attaining more expansive experiential peaks.”

That starts to sound hollow after seven or eight repetitions.

The world likes balance. Thus it makes sense that gay men have developed a succession of crushes on me. I can’t blame them for this, apparently. According to some commentators a history of dance training and an ability to articulate myself is tantamount to wearing leather pants and growing a handlebar moustache.

“Dude, it’s your hair” said my brother, “it’s just kinda happier than other hair”.

I thought this was a ridiculous theory but as my hair has slowly disappeared from my scalp, my arse doesn’t get pinched quite so often. So I had gay hair. Which, ironically, my arse paid for.

This balance of liking and being liked by various gay elements of society seems to have affected my gaydar. I’m fairly good with men, which doesn’t help me, but suck at women, which really doesn’t help me. ‘Are you a lesbian’ is not a great ice-breaker – trust me.

I’m told that the upside is that such ‘depth of character’ gives me the appearance of sophistication. Women really like sophisticated, articulate men who can dance. This, I’ve discovered, is because such men are engaging, graceful and non-threatening.

Because they’re gay.

People wonder why I don’t go out much.

Me vs. Brain

Memory can be a funny thing.

I want to lead a better life. I don’t mean that I want to refocus my efforts, give more to charity, rescue wee kittens from smelly old ladies or change the world. I mean to definitively lead a better life. To instigate change in myself and through that change find new possibilities and practices that allow me to better harness whatever innate qualities I possess, thus creating a better quality life. One, of course, would hope the consequences of these metamorphoses would lead to a few saved kittens and maybe even some soap for the aging smelly ladies (and wouldn’t that be a better, changed world?) but, unfortunately, focusing on the ends often defeats the means.

We’re made up of our memories. And we all have a stable of significant memories that we nurture and harvest for the sake of our self-image. Many of these memories aren’t helpful, can in fact be destructive, as the values and beliefs we appraise them with cause us to take meanings from them that aren’t real. That construct a self image that is flawed and impedes evolution or growth of a sustainable and fruitful existence.
So we travel up and down the time-stream of our lives evaluating our memories and thus ourselves, trying to divine what is true, what is not and how that affects us. But memories don’t cooperate.

I read a thing about memories a while back, about their storage and access. Basically there are three parts to the brain: the cerebrum, the limbic system and the brain stem. Memory storage is as you would expect, filed with the book-keeper of the brain, the cerebrum, where all the cool, higher functions take place. But emotional interpretation happens elsewhere, in the limbic brain, the emotional core of our beings, which is adrift in significant ways from our reasoning centre in the cerebrum. The funny thing being that the limbic brain has absolutely no sense of time. None. Total fucking goldfish, man. When you access memories that are powerful, stored in the cerebrum, they are interpreted by the limbic brain as ever new and original. When the limbic brain experiences a memory it is always for the first time. The catch is that the limbic brain is plugged straight into the brain stem, and thus to our nervous system, and our bodies always believe the limbic over the cerebral, making us physically and emotionally eternally present in our reaction to memories. But wait! It always starts with our thinking. Our emotional response is a secondary reaction to the cerebral importance we place on a particular memory. When traumatized we don’t suppress our emotions, because we just can’t, so we suppress our cerebral memories because without those the limbic brain can’t react, all mad goldfish stylz, to the horror.

To put it simply, the limbic time traveler in our head can’t cope with the constant and insistent immediacy of an ever-present experience. So you bamboozle the book-keeper by fudging the records.

Done? Nooooo, never that easy, baby. The emotional impact is still there, waiting, you’ve just stripped it of the consistent cues it needs. And since it has nothing to attach to, the books of memory being all smudged up, you never know what cues, through weird swings and roundabouts of association, will bring a sudden flash of memory, setting off the limbic time-traveler in your head. Boom. So the potential emotional impact just floats, anchorless and perfectly formed, around your head.

Cool.

The upshot is that if you don’t deal with the memory, understanding it and what it actually means (It’s not your fault Will Hunting, it’s not your fault) to you as a singular entity, then you’re totally screwed, dude. It’s like juggling buttered toast and trying not to get your fingers greasy.

I have a new found respect for the psychiatric profession.