I was on a bus. An old woman in the seat across from me was chewing loudly with her mouth open. I considered the situation. The trip would only be about five minutes. Could I survive five minutes with that sound continually jabbing into my sanity? She chewed again. Nope. No way in fuck. I moved to the middle of the bus. Opposite me was another old woman chewing with her mouth open, a certain “don’t fuck with me” stare directed straight into my eyes. A few seats in front of her was another woman chewing loudly. Escape was not an option. I spent the next five minutes twitching involuntarily.
Misophonia, as it’s called, is weird as shit to experience and creates a total mind-fuck of social vs sensory tension. I’m not sure how others handle it, but when I hear that chewing noise it sets my mind alight. The soft salival smack of lips coming together drives me mental. The crunch of open mouthed chewing feels like karmic punishment for whatever crimes I committed in a past life. It becomes impossible to think about anything else. My mind is laser focused on that godawful sound. It consumes me. My mind turns into a torrent of rage and it takes all that I have not to lash out. Concurrently I run into the barrier of social decorum and can’t handle it.
Here’s the thing. I’m an adult. Most of the people who I interact with are adults. I have a hard time believing that I have the right to tell another autonomous adult how to behave. Where would I get off telling people that the way they’re eating is wrong? Or correcting their behaviour because it suits me better? I’d be a dick to point out “oh sorry, but the way you chew is fucking disgusting and it makes me want to rip the lips off your face with my bare hands”. It just doesn’t seem proper, right? Even politely mentioning “look, I know this makes me sound pedantic, but I have a real issue with hearing the sounds of open mouth chewing. Do you mind eating with your mouth closed?” IT MAKES ME LOOK LIKE A TOTAL ASSHOLE. What am I supposed to do? Infringe upon the rights of others to make myself more comfortable? That flies in the face of the manners with which I was raised (manners which included being taught to chew with my mouth open, I might add). I’m being glib, but also more serious than I think I’m letting on. It’s really difficult for me to point out others’ rudeness, because I’d feel rude for doing so.
This means that, like the bus, every once in a while I’m stuck in a situation of extreme discomfort and can’t do anything about it. The guy who sits across from me at work, for instance, eats baby carrots. 11am every workday he opens a plastic container filled with 30 or so carrots and starts chomping hard, mouth open. I’m whipped into a swivet and reach for my headphones to drown out the sound. In a panic I throw on something, anything (though in a pinch it’s usually Spacehog’s “In the Meantime”). The other day I was playing Magic at someone’s place and there was a bowl of skittles in the middle of the table. A guy diagonally across from me started chewing them, open mouthed. I could hear the saliva swishing around in his mouth. My game started going all fucky as I lost sight of my lines of play. All I could think about was the fucking sound of his chewing and how much I wanted to wrench his jaw apart and pull out his tongue. Then my opponent began chewing skittles with an open mouth and I borderline lost my shit. THESE ARE ADULTS FOR FUCK’S SAKE. NOBODY EVER TAUGHT THEM TO KEEP THEIR FUCKING MOUTHS SHUT? But I was at someone else’s house. I didn’t feel like I had any place telling them how to act in a space that wasn’t my own. So I drove my game into the ground and decided I’d had enough, that I needed to leave. Post game I packed up my things and headed on out. It was easier than dealing with that sound any longer.
Is there a solution? I don’t know. I could get better about establishing my boundaries, finding an inoffensive way to let people know just how much it affects me. Then if they continue to do it in spite of my issue, I should have no qualms about jabbing my fist right down their throat and pulling out their uvula.
Or maybe I try hypnotherapy. It’d probably come with fewer manslaughter charges.