This is going to be a long, rambling post about disgust (fair warning!) although it will wind back around eventually to perfume. The fact that I’m publishing this on the eve of our shit-show of a presidential election is pure coincidence, I swear.
See that photo to the left? That’s a pie we left out on the stove overnight, and it was attacked by a rat, or maybe two rats, or who knows? Maybe they had a rave and all the rats came. Note the ratty footprints on the pie surface. I posted it to my FaceBook page and we all had a collective shiver-giggle. My daughters and I had a conversation that involved statements like, well, I guess we’ll have to burn the house down and move to Mars! In truth, though? My main reaction was irritation – this will have to be Dealt With – and anxiety – how to do this? I don’t want to throw poison around willy-nilly. But I am not that psyched to come downstairs and deal with a dead/injured rat in a trap either, and snap-traps for rats are scary to set, you can easily break a finger. My landlords are careless idiots; I’m not calling them. I have little dogs, so whatever I do will need to be strategic.
I got to googling for solutions and came across this gem of a story from someone who (carefully) put out poison in their basement ceiling and ended up with dead rats and a plague of blowflies right out of a horror movie. That gave me pause. The same googling trip lead me to today’s topic – because there’s a detailed, complex test you can take that measures disgust. How cool is that? The test has been refined and studied upteen times, measuring correlations to all sorts of things – gender, anxiety, culture, family, political conservatism, etc.
What surprised me is that I turn out to have a low score on the disgust scale, despite my gender and anxiety issues. I got to thinking about this. I’d put it down to the fact that I have kids and pets, because kids and pets are gross, frankly. If you have kids or pets, you’re going to be dealing with poop and barf and partly consumed dead animals and impacted anal glands and parasites and what have you. That crap-covered toilet isn’t going to clean itself, you know?
While the rat drama was unfolding at home, we had mouse drama at work. (Yes, it was quite a week.) I work in a huge downtown office building, and one morning I came in to a flurry of emails about all the mousetraps in our office suite. The building put them down at night and forgot to take them up in the morning. At first I thought, based on the level of hysteria, that there were dead mice in the traps. But there weren’t. Just a bunch of empty traps freshly loaded with peanut butter. The building management apologized and promptly sent someone up to retrieve the traps, but of course they missed a few, and I dealt with it by picking the last few traps up myself, tripping them, and tossing them in the trash.
I checked in with a few co-workers later, trying delicately to discern the origins of their reactions. Was it the traps themselves that grossed them out? Or the idea that we had vermin at work? (Both.) This fascinated me, because I’ve trapped mice this way, off and on, my entire adult life. This time of year they come inside, and I set mouse traps, and I throw them away (mouse and all) without thinking about it too much. I don’t use glue traps, which are horrifying and cruel, but I’m sure some of my coworkers would feel horrified by my mouse-trapping if they knew. One of my coworkers has a catch-and-release thing going with her mice, which I find hilarious, although I didn’t say so. Who am I to judge? And I am the biggest bleeding heart in the world. I’m the person who picks up the earthworms off the sidewalk so they don’t get squashed, and carefully returns bees to the great outdoors. But flies and mice? Not so much.
Now I’ll switch directions and point out that when I started working at my office (50+ people) I’m the person who first ordered hand soap for the office kitchen. I wash my hands in the kitchen when I get to the office (I commute on the subway,) before eating, after eating… yech, who doesn’t wash their hands regularly like this? Well, lots of folks, clearly, which is disgusting. Our hand soap lasts a really long time, because I’m one of maybe three people who use it. But I don’t use those toilet-seat tissue covers at work, and women who squat and leave their pee-spray behind on the seat piss me off.
So I like some funk in my perfume, no surprise there, I guess. I’m a big fan of civet. Getting a little ass-note in there adds dimension. It’s possible to cross that line for me – remember Human Existence, that one that smelled like the sewer from the Mugler coffret for Perfume? No thanks. And Secretions Magnifiques, the one that smells like milk and menstrual blood? Nope, none for me. But most other funky frags…. I’m a fan.