It’s happened to everyone at some point. You’re at the new Thai restaurant when the adventurer of the group tries to shows off and orders Thai black glutinous rice for dessert. To everyone else this is clearly a terrible mistake. The dish is presented to the table and looks unfortunately like a dark puddle of goo.
Silence. Stares are exchanged around the table between each other and the bowl of black slime. The daredevil laughs it off and goes in for a bite, strings of goo stretching from the spoon. Still chuckling confidently, she puts the spoon in her mouth. Suddenly, her face goes completely blank. Her stomach drops and cuddles with her bowels. Her face crumples in horror at the substance she’s ingested. Just like everyone thought and as the name itself suggests, the Thai black glutinous rice is disgusting. With everyone watching, the sad victim swallows bravely, gasps for air, and then says, “This. is. foul. Do you guys want a bite?” Everyone says yes.
Why do the others want to taste this obviously disgusting dessert? Haven’t they learned from their friend’s experience? This same phenomenon also occurs in cases of particularly nasty stenches or weird things you can do to your body to make it hurt.
In my capacity as a rational being, I understand that one should not want to eat unpleasant food, smell something that will makes one salivate yet also wish for death, or inflict harm upon one’s body, and yet I go for the bait each time.
The thing is, even though I know something tastes bad, I will never know how bad it is unless I experience it myself. Is it sawdust wafer cookie bad or partially raw meatloaf bad? Is it stale pop tart bad or putrefying chicken bad? How disgusting is it? Will I want to vomit or just laugh it off? Will a drink of water be enough or will I claw at my tongue with my fingernails? Will my eyes water and my nose run? Will I perspire from the hands? The armpits? To what extent will my gag reflex be activated? To what ring of hell will I descend? I have to know!
And I’m not the only one. I know others out there seek to understand just how repulsive life can be. That’s why these bizarre cultural things exist.
How will you fully understand everything a hamburger can be if you don’t eat a fancy $20 dollar one from a restaurant, and a sixty cent one that is inexplicably slimy from Peaches Cafeteria in West Virginia? Can you truly appreciate the sweetest of perfumes without stumbling upon a pile of gym laundry that has remained damp for 6 months in the corner of a male locker room? What does a feather pillow mean to you if you haven’t been afraid your entire nose is going to crust up and fall off because of the severity of an oozing sunburn?
Yes, these things are disgusting, but they are a part of life, and I embrace them. In some way or another, we all do. These dances with repulsion build solidarity where we experience everything life can be. I believe they even add to life’s beauty.
On that note, do you want a bite of this gas station hot dog?
P.S. My apologies to anyone who likes Thai black glutinous rice.