Monday, May 17, 2010

I'm Not Talking About the Hip Hop Artist of the Same Name

I'm guilty of holding onto the misconception that everyone is perfect except me. To my myopic eyes, the entire female population of most of the United States is, like Mary Poppins, "practically perfect in every way." My rational brain knows this is false, that none of us are perfect (well, except for her, unless you count a dropped stitch every now and then). One of my personal, um, quirks is a bit of an embarrassment, has been most of my life, and probably isn't going away soon. I'm a woman of many faults, like some sort of neurotically cloudy Hope diamond; I'm hopelessly A.D.D., self-absorbed, a total flake, vain...but the one I'll mention here, because it makes a better story, is about my Q-tip addiction.

Now, listen Q-tip employee (or Unilever employee), I know I'll get an immediate comment or email about the proper way to use a Q-tip. I'm well aware that the way I use them (the way most of us use them) isn't the proper way and in no way does Q-tip brand endorse, condone, or promote it. I know, I know, I know. My mother and at least four doctors have told me this for forever. I get it. It doesn't cease the fact that it feels good to stick something soft but penetrating into your ear canal. We're human. We like sticking foreign objects into dark places.

I started using Q-tips in earnest after a hearing test in the 1st grade showed me as borderline hearing impaired. You know the tests, right? They rounded everyone up in the school and you filed into a trailer parked in the school parking lot, where they tested your ears and eyes? Remember? Anyway, a note was sent home with me stating that I should be checked out by a specialist. My mother questioned this (probably because specialists were expensive even before healthcare and insurance turned into the Dionysus fest of riches that it is now), and wondered if it wasn't because I might have too much ear wax in my ears. In the bathroom was a glass jar full of Q-tips, that I had never paid attention to except to maybe use when my paintbrushes were too stiff and dried out from my neglecting to wash them out. Mom cleaned out my ears, super gently and stuff, and it felt totally awesome. The next week the hearing/seeing van was coming back to re-check kids who 'failed' before, and my hearing came back perfectly normal. Ten points to Q-tips for being awesome. I started using them every night before bed, sneaking into my Dad's stash while he was watching Quincy, M.E. It was a few seconds in heaven, I was gentle with them at first, relishing what I saw on the used Q-tips, then I got rougher, since my ears were starting to itch frequently as a result of, well, jamming cotton sticks in my ears.

Like most addictions, this one ran in the family. My Dad was a hardcore addict, not only sticking Q-tips in his ears at least twice a day, but jamming his finger into his ear and shaking it with all the force he could muster. This happened every evening, especially in the summers when East Tennessee allergies were creeping into the air-conditioning vents.

Let's journey a few years later, just briefly though, as I'm not sure how much I can really write about this (really). I'm at theatre camp, recovering from an ear infection that's making it hard for me to sing and eloquently perform monologues meant for professionals at least twice my age. I brought a ziploc bag full of about twenty Q-tips, since my addiction has been dormant for a while (I jammed one in way too far when I was ten and swore them off for several years). At sixteen, though, I'm feeling fearless like most teenagers, so I've taken the habit (hobby) back up. Problem was, I had used most of the Q-tips already and still had three days of camp left. The ear infection had caused the addition to rear it's throbbing ear again, and the fact that there was some, (igh) discharge coming out exacerbated the need (want) to jam cotton sticks in my ears. I was so miserable without my little white wonders. The rest of theatre camp was a blur, and not just because I couldn't hear what was happening or what I was saying.

Andy Warhol said something once along the lines of, "Happiness is a Q-tip in each orifice." But don't quote me or him on that, I'm not sure if it's someone I made up long ago or if he really said it. I can't find it on the internet. And if I can't find it on the internet, it's probably not true.

Did you know that Qtips were dreamed up when some guy saw his wife attaching some cotton to a toothpick? I didn't either! But I tried that once when I had run out of Qtips after I had moved out of my parent's house! It seems I was born pre-destined to have some sort of relationship with the Qtip.

Let's move forward a few years later, to college. I was smarmy in college. I was a full fledged active drunk, and yes I know, everyone is in college. Except that they're not. I really was disgustingly textbook back then, emphasis on disgusting. I'm not going to go into too much detail because I know y'all are delicate, but when I dropped out and my parents helped me clean up my side of the hovel I had been festering in we found around fifty used Qtips under my bed. Yep, I had been cleaning my ears while under the influence. And too lazy and lit to throw them out, I popped the used ones  under my bed. I know. Yuck. The look on my mother's face was one of the memories I'd dredge up while trying to get sober. I tried to remember the shocked, hurt, and revolted look that crossed her pleasant face like a murky shadow. Sorry again, Mom. Even when I quit drinking and using, I still abused the swabs, though. I'm still human. Am not practically perfect in every day.

And further along: I am living with my new husband so am probably around 23, and it's the morning of my first day at a new job. I've left the world of being a cleaning woman, and am beginning a career in municipal government. I'm super excited about it, but I have a cold. The cold has made my ears itch. I decide to grab one of my old friends and let it mine around a bit to relieve the itching. I could take a Benadryl or something but that would make me spacey on my first day. Not good. So I proceed. I also proceed to lose the Qtip's tip deep in my ear canal. It's all the way down in there. Instead of spending the morning filling out W4 forms I'm in an Urgent Care, and a doctor is using super awesome medical tweezers to fetch the Qtip. He says it might hurt when he gets it out. It doesn't. It feels good. I'm an idiot. Luckily, the people at the new job are understanding, especially after I fax them the doctor's note excusing me from work. What a dumb ass I was/am!

That wasn't an isolated incident, either. We addicts usually have arsenals of stories like this. I've had swimmer's ear, ear wicks to deliver medicine, punctured ear drums, chronic itchy ears, etc. I try throwing them away but then my husband, who uses them as intended and sparingly, complains  when they're missing. "He's such an enabler." I say to myself as I buy a jumbo pack at Target. "He's just as much at fault as I am."

So where am I now? Still addicted, sadly. Though it's a minor affliction. Like a smoker only smoking one cigarette after supper or something. I only use around two a day. I also love, love, love that ear wax removal foam: for it's crackle sound on impact and total ear canal submersion. Even though I probably stopped having ear wax around 15 years ago, it still feels blissful to me.

Nasty? Yes. Do I think it's wrong and disgusting? Of course! It's my personal medical dumbass cross to bear, though. Like confirmed smokers, I know I'm doing it all wrong, and I don't do it around my kid, and I never, ever give him Qtips. If he gets addicted to them later in life it will prove the age-old question as to whether addiction is hereditary, because so far I've kept my problem a total secret from him.


Anna said...

My ears itched just reading this, longing to run upstairs and grab one! I've just recently figured out that I'm not the only one. I'm also taking another trip to the store to score some ear foam. Sounds marvelous!!

Chrissy Johnson said...

It's called Debrox, and it is marvelous!

Erin said...

My ears just suddenly started itching inside too...

Christy said...

I love Q-tips too! I'm going to admit that I've taken them all around the world...Africa, Israel, S.Korea, etc. in a handy travel pack size. I can't be without them! And I don't really have ear wax either, it just feels good.

Anonymous said...

1. I'm going to have nightmares reading this so close to bedtime.

2. Looking forward to your return to the Lower 48.

3. Perhaps you should try ear drops?

- Mike

Chrissy Johnson said...

Mike, I have ear drops in varying formulas! They feel super good too! And let me just tell ya'll I am so glad I'm not the only one. Christy - let's make this a book, Christy and Chrissy and the Sisterhood of the Travelling Qtips.

Chris Osborn said...

I am so with you on this. I don't feel clean if I haven't used a Q-tip in the last 24 hours.

Chrissy Johnson said...

I think it's funny and telling that my personal Q - tip expose has created a relative (and I say relative because my blog is hardly TMZ or Huffington Post) firestorm of supportive comments. Hello, Chris! I know what to get you when I arrive back in Knoxville!

Christy said...

Chrissy, I love the book idea! Let's do it, hahaha!