There’s a video making the Facebook rounds showing a couple of men eating really loudly in a college library. It’s an obvious attempt to irritate people. I say obvious because it goes through a few different variations of annoying, beginning with eating handfuls of potato chips, to eating a watermelon with their hands, to taking massive bites from heads of lettuce. There are burps and slurps and everything else you would imagine from the most infuriating roommate imaginable. The sounds are what really get you. And there’s actually a term for it.
According to Mental Floss, “That deep lump of rage welling up inside you at the sound of someone’s obnoxious gum-chewing or lip-smacking? It has a name, and for some people, it may be of clinical severity. Misophonia — a term coined by researchers studying ear ringing in the early 2000s — means ‘hatred of sound,’ but it generally refers to a hatred of specifically human sounds. These are often related to eating (like lip smacking or chewing)[…]. These sounds don’t just annoy, they cause extreme distress and anger, often resulting in the patient lashing out verbally or physically.”
So if you watch the video and want to punch this guy in the face, this may be your condition.
However, for me, as a man, this video feels like a mile marker. When I was in college, I probably would have done something very similar. I might even have — I just don’t recall. But the thing is, we didn’t record it and post it on YouTube. And I’m not saying this with remorse, like I wish I’d taken the time to get a digital camera (pre-smartphone era) and record myself acting like an obnoxious ass clown in a quiet space. It’s more that I’m just grateful there’s no evidence.
If you are like me, you watch something like this and imagine slapping that head of lettuce out of his mouth. You think about how wonderful it would feel, kind of like if you caught someone in the act of scratching your car in a parking lot. But in reality, that’s what these guys want. They want a reaction. They want someone to get pissed off and yell, or scream. So there really is no way to win. And perhaps that’s the most maddening part. No matter what happens, the man eating the food wins — at least in the moment.
But more than anything, this video has been viewed millions of times. It’s irritating, yes, but it’s also recognizable, especially to me. It reminds me of a time when I was 20-something and immature and super-obnoxious, but carried myself with enough confidence to overshadow all that.
Because the thing is, as crazy as it sounds, chances are this guy is going to get married and raise a family. Someone will take him. They will find him funny or charming, and at some point, he’s going to do something really annoying in front of his significant other, and they will put him in his place. They will tell him to grow up, that he is being embarrassing. This will happen a number of times until this guy develops shame.
I know this because I had to go through the very same transformation. I’ve been married for almost 13 years. I was 22 when I got married, and those first few years, I was pretty immature. I still thought farts were funny. I thought making a scene in a grocery store was funny. I thought a lot of things that embarrassed my wife were funny. But there is something about trying to get attention only to find out that you embarrassed the person you love the most that really helps a man mature. To take a step back and think, “Perhaps I shouldn’t do that. It might embarrass my wife.”
And perhaps that’s why I’m so irritated by the guy in this video. He reminds me so much of myself. Watching it makes me want to go back in time and kick my own ass. Tell myself to stop being so irritating. To grow up a little more. To be a little more mature. Not that I hated myself, more that I’m just a little embarrassed by some of my former antics. And I honestly wonder if, 10 years from now, this guy won’t watch this video and have the same reaction.