Not too long ago, I was sitting in Pay ‘n Take when someone brought up the subject of disgusting internet videos (ok: it was me). I had just read an Esquire interview with George Clooney, where the reporter had shown George some of the “facts” that were available about him on the web. (I especially liked George’s reaction to the “George Clooney is gay, gay, gay” page: “I’ll take the first two, but I resent that last ‘gay.’”). At one point, perhaps bored with looking at stories about his subject, the reporter had shown George what he felt was the most disgusting video out there–it was so bad that George ended up calling his publicist over so that he could watch it with them; obviously he wanted to see the reaction of a professional BS artist.

What I was lamenting in Pay ‘n Take was the fact that even though the article had given the name of the video, I still hadn’t been able to find it online; at this point several twenty-something guys sitting at the bar all started urging me to cease my searching: they knew the video that I was referring to, and to a man each declared “You don’t want to see it. It’s too disgusting.”

This got me to wondering about the subjective nature of a word like “disgusting.” Although I did, in the end, quit looking for it (I think I looked up Mika on wikipedia instead), I was still intrigued by the idea of something being “too disgusting to watch.” “Too disgusting” for whom? Certainly not for a mother, because, when it comes to disgusting, no one is better able to handle it than a mom. Take puking, for example: no one deals with puke better than we do. I’m trying to think of some of the other options: a Las Vegas street sweeper, a chambermaid at the annual bulimia conference, an elementary school janitor? True, they’re probably pretty good at handling vomit, but then again, they should be: they’re getting paid to do it, and if they really get tired of it, they can always just punch up their resume and find a (presumably) puke-free occupation somewhere else.

A mother, on the other hand, is an unpaid puke professional. She has to be: from the time when her children are infants and she has to be able to determine whether her baby is simply “spitting up” (a delightful euphemism–I don’t know why drunk people don’t use it more often) or actually “vomiting,” all the way up to the time when they are school-aged and have forgotten to do that week’s book report (“I think I should stay home today; I threw up”), a mother has to be an expert on puke. (My personal puke rule, by the way, is that to stay home from school you have to have puked twice; anyone with a moderate imagination can make themselves puke once. Puke twice and you’re either really sick or you deserve to stay home so you can work on your novel.)

Some people would have you believe that it is motherly instincts that make woman so adept at handling the puke thing–your overpowering love for your child renders their every action a delight to your senses. Whatever. I say it is simply the result of desensitizing: get puked on enough and it just doesn’t matter anymore. I know this is true because I have been puked on by kids I didn’t even know, and still had the same blase reaction: it just doesn’t matter. Actually, that’s my theory about all those disgusting internet videos as well–I think that they were all actually made by mothers who have figured out a way to turn a profit on their cast iron “mothering” stomachs. Either that, or the world is even more full of freaky people than I thought.

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