Notes on Disgust


Rats loved our pumpkin pie.

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.




  • minxknits says:

    Re: rats and blowflies – I used to work for an auctioneer. The auction house was in a 150-year-old row house in which the auctioneer had been born 70+ years earlier. The place was an absolute sty. He was a packrat, and his desk had piles a foot high in places. On his off-days, I’d toss some of the accumulation; when I finally got to the surface of the desk, there were notes dating back to the late 60s on it. Anyway…the basement holding area was even worse, with piles of furniture and other stuff. And rats. There were whole colonies of rats down there. And every once in a while, one of them would die somewhere in the pile, and we’d not only have to deal with clouds of blowflies everywhere – including the front office in which I worked – but also the stench.

    Additionally, the building wasn’t well-heated or air-conditioned, and there was only cold water in the bathrooms. Going to the toilet in the winter was not fun. And if a rat died in the summer…eugh.

    I have never been able to appreciate funky fragrances.

  • MaureenC says:

    Hey March, it’s probably to late to join the rodent fest but I had to say your post managed to make me laugh in spite of being phobic about the bloody things! Pretty in squeemish on all the things child, dog and cat owners have to deal with otherwise. Your comment about the people who don’t wash their hands now that made me wince after years in healthcare. When visiting the US I found it profoundly strange that basic hand cleaning seemed optional in a country with whole isles devoted to vaginal deodorant spray!! Fortunately this side of the pond we are still bigger on the former and the latter has never caught on. As for your subsequent doings whatever their politics serial molesters and serial warmongers tend to make my skin crawl too……….

  • Neva says:

    Hi March, your post actually made me think about which part of the rat/cockroach/spider story makes me feel disgusted and I can say with precision – it’s the killing/smashing/crushing part. I just can’t bring myself to doing it. It literally makes me throw up, the mere thought of it. I know that I have to get rid of the bastard but I know I don’t have the strength to do it myself – because I would throw up all over the place for the next few days…I suppose…OMG!
    Once I found a really huge hairy spider trapped in my bathing tub in the morning and I waited for hours keeping an eye on him so he wouldn’t escape (because then -where the hell can he be? where will he appear again???) until my boyfriend arrived from work to take him far out of the house.
    On the other hand I’m not the compulsive hand washer and I can smell or watch almost anything without getting upset too much.

  • Shiva-woman says:

    I can barely leave a reply, but this post is the only thing that made my lips twitch a little in a memory of a smile. I love stank, hate traps. I can handle poop, not vomit, clean my hands but don’t always use the toilet nappies. Salome I totally forgot! Perhaps I will fortify myself with that at work tomorrow. I wore Portrait of a Lady yesterday and today. Should have thought that one through a bit more considering the novel’s ending.

  • tammy says:

    I’m to the right of Attila the Hun on most issues and I have no kids, but I have a very high disgust tolerance.

    Nothing really gags me…well, maybe boogers/snot stuff to the extent that seeing adults pick their noses is disgusting to me. And I will use toilet seat covers if they’re available.

    But I love me some skanky perfume.

  • Mals86 says:

    “Disgust” sums up my attitude to this entire election cycle. There ain’t *nobody* I’m happy to vote for. NOBODY. I wound up writing in a candidate for the first time in my life.

    I’ve taken that quiz a couple of times, and it keeps popping up that I’m just slightly to the conservative side of dead center. Which might explain how upset I’ve been by the fact that there is no moderate candidate running.

    As for skank… I dunno. I like L’Air de Rien, but it doesn’t smell skanky to me at all. I love that dirty-hair note in L’Arte di Gucci (I mean, I love the rose-patchouli-moss, too, but that costus just Does Something For Me, you know?). Bal a Versailles is gorgeous, and so is Musc Ravageur. But I could not, could NOTTTT, manage the lochia note in Manoumalia, and the rotting raw chicken of death in Tubereuse Criminelle, and let’s not talk about the sex-crime scene of SM.

    Thanks for the post! I’ve been distraught about this election for months now, but this actually helped.

  • rosarita313 says:

    I am loving this post and comments! Love skank in perfume too, and I think my disgust tolerance is pretty high overall. Our house is nearly 120 years old and very tiny with a stone foundation that allows for a mouse army to invade every fall. Last year it was so bad we caught two mice in one trap and yes, there were mouse prints on my kitchen counter after they tore into a bag of masa. Last winter we adopted a big beautiful cat who loves to hunt – he’s caught two so far and very considerately took them into the bathtub to murder, so easy clean up too 🙂

  • rickyrebarco says:

    I am not into most skanky perfumes. I despise Molinard Habanita- ugh!! But I do love Dana Tabu. I grew up on a farm so I actually like the smell of animals and even animal poop, horse and cow poop and sheep and goat poop. Ahhh. That means beautiful animals are closeby! But human stuff, eeeki. Do NOT like that smell at all. And dog and cat poop is gross, but I have had many animals in my life and I’ve dealt with it but I do NOT want to smell it.

    I hate the metallic scent of blood, but I love the salty taste of it. I do not like heavy indoles either. I don’t like to wear much skank.

  • Musette says:

    okay – so in my Original Life my DH managed a funky used-rare bookstore adjacent to a restaurant. Rats invaded. He used to put glue traps down at night, then he would come in early morning and kill them all with a hammer. I swear! That is WAY above my pay grade.

    He also squished a fleeing mouse with his bare hands. Again, that is stratospherically beyond my pay grade.

    We have the occasional mouse here and my dogs couldn’t care less; they are huge guardian breeds and their take is ‘you hired me to protect YOU and this house from Awful People and Possibly Other Dogs. I ain’t studin’ no mice’ And that’s probably a good thing, since my Airedale once ripped out a good chunk of drywall trying to get at a mouse.

    Off to don my pantsuit and pearls!


    • HeidiC says:

      I wore a pantsuit and pearls, too! Along with my “Not Today, Patriarchy” t-shirt and doused in Salome, my nastiest woman scent!

  • Diana says:

    Get yourself a big ole tom cat from the shelter–he’ll take care of the rat! I worked as a Registered Nurse for years and have had to deal with a whole spectrum of disgusting things. However, “bad” smells still turn me off. I’m not a huge fan of any of the traditionally stinky smells being too prominent in my perfumes.

  • Dave says:

    My favorite election day post so far! I won’t share it because most of my friends are in a celebratory mood, Lord knows why. . .

  • cinnamon says:

    Rats. Eck. So sorry to hear that. We had rats … and mice (someone profoundly stupid once told me you don’t get them together, pointing out his “cute” field mice office outside the window). They entered via a neighbour, who had a hole under their door. It took getting the council on them to stop that — and I used the council’s pest control guy to sort the rodents (with heavy duty solid poison — remember that rats produce lots of little rats very quickly). The council suggested using metal trap boxes with poison inside for areas frequented by pets or children. Worth looking into.

    On another note, good wishes with things today. May the force be with you.

    • March says:

      Thanks for the good wishes… we so, so need them. There’s only one reasonable, acceptable outcome.

      Also I came down this morning and the trap had been tripped — and no rat, lol. They’re sneaky devils. My upgraded traps arrive today.

  • Marie says:

    Uh, I can handle spiders, even huge ones, but rats are a no-go. No way. Completely grossed out only thinking about them. I’m really sorry that you had them in your house and hope you can deal with them somehow.

    Btw, I have also had a look into research on disgust and found the connection between disgust and moral judgement quite eye-opening, especially when taking into account political orientation. I believe there even was a study on how conservatives feel more moral conflict and more disgust when it comes to certain topics.

    • March says:

      Disgust and political orientation/conservatism/moral judgement was FASCINATING. Could have done a whole post on that. Again, I guess because I’m a liberal, low-judgment slattern of Satan (whatever), my test results make sense.

      • zelda1947 says:

        “Again, I guess because I’m a liberal, low-judgment slattern of Satan (whatever), my test results make sense.” — March honey, you just made my day with that one. Perfection. And I’m skanking out today with a combination of Tauer Amber Flash and some Creed Vanisia thrown over it. Skanky enuff for now.

  • Interesting you have brought up my one near phobia. Rats! Eek and I found a dropping on our balcony this morning that I’m not happy about and will also need to think of a plan. To be honest the traps don’t work, they’re OK for mice but not their larger friends who seem to be able to wriggle out of even a very large, mean looking contraption. Can I also mention toilets. In France the public bathrooms typically forego a toilet seat so squatting is the way that everyone must go. I suppose it saves money on the seat too. Every culture seems to have a different way to do this. And living in France, the stinkiest refrigerator is the norm with all of that strong cheese contained within. My nose has such high tolerance now, I think it may be a problem!

    • March says:

      See, I don’t mind those French toilets as much… because that’s the norm? I know it doesn’t make sense…. I think it’s because everyone does it and the seat isn’t in the way? So if you pay attention you CAN hover and not get wet.

      In Vienna I went upstairs in a fancy store to the “cheese floor” — you could smell it way before you saw it. It was fantastic. Also the same experience in a big store in Paris, a food hall. Again, fantastic.

  • Claudia S says:

    I always use a toilet seat cover. And if there are none I put toilet tissue all around the lid. Just like mama taught me-lol. Not sure what exactly it protects you from, but there you go. Never had the pleasure of setting a mouse trap or seeing a tripped one. I think a fireplace shovel would be handy to scoop it up!

  • Tara C says:

    I have a weird disgust threshhold. Some things (like even the idea of a person vomiting) will set me off, whereas picking up slimy dog poop with a kleenex is tolerable and not particularly upsetting. I have food issues with visual and olfactory presentation – if either is the least bit off I feel ill and unable to eat the item, but at the same time I love stinky cheese and a bit of skank in my perfumes. Like you, I am an obsessive hand-washer but don’t care about sitting on bare public toilet seats. All very interesting.

    • March says:

      See, I had two whole paragraphs on food that I cut, because this post was already so long. I too am extremely sensitive to things smelling “off” (like milk or meat, ugh), although *appropriately* stinky is fine. And I also have a weird, out-of-character squeamishness about outdoor dining spots. Picture a …. a crab shack everyone drives to, and there are picnic tables set on gravel, and a modicum of trash everywhere, and under the table if you look at the ground there’s a bit of dropped food and crumpled wrappers and cigarette butts…. voila, I just made my skin crawl.

  • Ann says:

    Howdy, dear! Ai-yi-yi, bless your heart, what a to-do with the critters! I have a child (and have had a dog) so I’m no stranger to disgusting stuff. A mouse I can deal with; roaches, spiders, etc., not so much. That’s what DH is for, ha! My rodent tale: Many years ago, we had a mouse in our house. Hubby was utterly terrified, so I knew I would have to deal with it. He set the trap one afternoon, and about 7 the next morning I hear it go off. I disposed of the trap box before he got up, and later told DH that he would owe me big-time. So from then on, if he ever balks at getting an insect-type critter, I’m quick to remind him that “I got the mouse.” And that takes care of that. Anyhoo, hang in there!

    • March says:

      “I got the mouse” lololololol Hold him to it! Even when married I was the mouse-warrior, the ex wasn’t having any of it. We lived in New Mexico, and the two things that made my skin crawl were giant centipedes and black widows in the house. I trapped a few widows and made someone else deal with them. ::shivers:: Man, spiders freak me out. Although I leave the regular, non deadly ones alone, since they keep the other bug population in check.

  • GrandmaGaga says:

    I’ve known all of my life that I have a ‘high disgust threshold’; my persnickety grandmother let me know regularly when, during meals, I would heartily and happily discuss any number of distasteful subjects along with my enthusiastic comments on the roast beef she had prepared. I just don’t feel any need to separate the dainty from the disgusting aspects of being a human animal, and that includes the notes included in my fragrances.

  • HeidiC says:

    You make a good point about higher disgust thresholds for those with kids and/or pets. I’ve also recently wondered, after eating a fantastic local cheese that tastes kind of like a barnyard (in a good way), whether there’s a correlation between those who like funky cheese and those who like some stank in their scent. Speaking of, I’m planning to wear Papillon’s Salome tomorrow, because it’s the nastiest woman scent I own.

    • March says:

      Stinky cheese! There are several mentions of cheese here in comments… I think there’s a cultural/exposure aspect to that as well? We use to have Thai au pairs who could hork down a durian enthusiastically. Durian is like all elements of the bathroom, from deodorant cake to excrement. But the scent of any cheese strong enough to smell (stilton, etc.) was absolutely revolting to them.

      • Ann says:

        Stinky cheese? Oh, mercy! My grandmother loved Limburger cheese, and when she pulled that out (in hot, humid Florida, no less) — man, I had to leave the house for a looong walk. It took ages for that smell to leave the kitchen!

        • HeidiC says:

          My grandmother loved Limburger, too! And lived in Florida! That is one cheese I have not learned to appreciate, so maybe my disgust has limits.


    I am all about disgust as well. And strangely enough, we have a dead rat on the balcony courtesy of our cat. I just don’t have the stamina to pick it up yet so it is lying there rotting.

    Speaking of civet, have you ever tried Ungaro II?