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Turn Your Head and Cough #19
by Jason Torchinsky

I realize that in these modern, scientific, rational, low-sodium times of ours, it is frequently hard to believe in a higher sort of force that monitors our actions and alters our life accordingly. Still, one periodically hears reports that would seem to support the claim that there is something greater out there. Usually these reports are of a very positive nature, involving some helpful or enlightening kind of force, and, perhaps sadly, usually these claims are delivered by lunatics or freaks, though membership to either group is not required, just recommended.

Now it seems that I myself may have cause to believe in a higher power that meddles in our lives. But my view is slightly different, for though certain so-called "doctors" may claim me to be a lunatic or freak, my experience differs from the norm, and, of course, normal, in that my experience was not positive. Yes, like Melville, I have come to realize a higher power, and it doesn't need any of my crap.

You see, the other night I grew convulsively sick and began to engage in a lot of vomiting. This is actually true, not the usual me-getting-violently-ill-ramble I enjoy babbling about- but more on this idea later. Anyway, I eventually reached the point of dry heaves, which I feel is far worse than vomiting because you have nothing to show for all of your labor. There's nothing to point to when it's all through and bellow with pride, "this is something I created!" Anyway, I eventually got so dehydrated that the next time I gagged, a tumbleweed came rolling out.

So, as I'm hanging exhausted from some bathroom fixture 'twixt stomach spasms, here's what I'm thinking: I guess, somehow, I'm getting what I deserve. Perhaps it was for making that pedantic reference to Melville a paragraph up. No, wait, I hadn't done that yet. Oh, I remember. Perhaps, according to some system of logic I can't ever hope to understand, like the Metric system, all of my weekly ramblings about my implausible, though, to many of my relatives, desireable physical mishaps, misfortunes, and Miss Vermonts, are coming back to haunt me. It seemed as though some overseeing spirit had been keeping up with my columns (spirits don't have a daily column of their own, I'm told, because it's so hard to type when you have no mass) and thought to itself "You think it's real funny when you get mangled beyond recognition, don't you, Laughing Boy? You like that, don't you? Huh? Yeah, let's see what you really think of some pain..." and then the spirit would wiggle its fingers at me or something, and, next thing you know, I look like Jimi Hendrix in his final moments.

It is hardly my wont to let such a disaster taint my general outlook; I am always ready to find the positive side of any situation I am in and make the most of it. For example, this past summer when I mistakenly placed my collection of oily rags and volatile fluids too close to a power transformer, causing a series of explosions throughout the city, leaving most of the population without power for several weeks, it was I who not only brought up the savings to be incurred from abstaining from electricity, but also pointed out what a valuable educational tool this would be to show the community's children how the Amish live. As the old saying goes, when life deals you lemons, make chili.

So, in keeping with my philosophy, I decided to put my time to constructive use, in this particular case, brooding incessantly about a phrase I find particularly bothersome. I do not feel that it is foolish or wasteful to brood about such things as phrases, as I feel that words are very powerful. Anyone who disagrees has obviously never played Scrabble. Why, if it wasn't for words, this very column you are now engaged in reading right now would be very difficult to plow through, though I believe that the basic gist would be the same.

Anyway, words can serve to be a good mirror for our society, though if you try to fix your hair in some adjective then you invariably get called vain by low types. This is why I find it so distressing when a particularly goofy word comes into general acceptance. The word that I have been ramblingly leading up to is "anal."

Recently a colleague of mine complained that she being "anal." I knew what she meant, of course, she meant 'anal' in that Freudian way, meaning overly neat or fastidious. But I wasn't happy that I knew what she meant. I would have felt far more civilized if I gave her a look of disgust, a grunt, and a suggestion that she seek her clergyman and make him earn his six bills a week.

But I did know. That's what's so terrible. Not three years ago anyone who used the word 'anal' so frequently would be in severe danger of being held down by several peers and having his or her mouth washed out with soap, or perhaps Zest, if they didn't want that disgusting film soap leaves. Now, oh, now, everybody talks about someone or something being anal. Is this really the only word to use? One would think that a good rule of thumb for normal conversation would be the less times the anus is mentioned, the better. Not only is the word fundamentally nappy, but any time the anus is to be brought up for real emphasis, it now has that much less impact.

Why this fascination with 'anal'? The childhood thrill of getting away with saying something really gross, a joy which, I confess, I would be a hypocrite to deny. Still, fun's fun, this is just sick. Besides, nobody has the guts to giggle after they say it.

Along with "anal retentive," the parent from which the adjective "anal" was spawned, our buddy Sigmund Freud came up with a bunch of other "Psychosexual Stages," as he called them. Apparently he saw the need to divide the stages of life into divisions based on some orifice or body part or function or anything else he could think of to make people look at him with confusion and disgust. Here, I'll tell you the rest: oral, our pal anal, phallic, latent, and genital. That's quite a variety, and I'm sure that if we concentrated our efforts, most of us could cram some friend or loved one into the twisted criteria of one of these groups. So why do we only hear people calling others 'anal' instead of say, 'oral,' or 'latent?' How come no one ever gripes about their 'oral' or 'genital' roommate? Why does the anus get such preference? Since when are people so happy to remind themselves of their orifice that jettisons waste?

I don't get it. So what can be done? I suppose I could try to stop all this anus stuff from the source, but my several calls to 411 have led me to conclude that not only is Freud dead, he's in Austria. I didn't even know he was sick. So even if I could get to him, all I could manage to do is kick over his tombstone or something, an act which would really serve no useful purpose save for finally gaining respect in the eyes of my parents.

I guess all I can really do is issue a plea: stop saying the word 'anal,' unless you have absasmurfly no other choice or a doctor's note or something. Please. It's for the benefit of us all. Someday you'll thank me. And, on that day, I might add that a fruit basket is always in good taste. Solidarity.

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