When in doubt…Improvise!

My little cousin has chosen today’s subject.

It is a very controversial subject about the norms of human society, and what is and isn’t allowed by the masses. It questions ethics of pushing the boundaries of social limits, and the consequences of breaking free of unwritten rules.

It is about manual cleansing of the nasal cavities.

At a young age, most children living in first world countries are instructed not to remove bio-waste from their nasal cavities, no matter how relieving it would feel. They grow up with this restriction in mind.

There are many health issues that can arise from manually removing nasal droppings, including infections and skin disease. However, children most likely do not know of these issues and probably would not care about them. So why is it that removing nose excretion is considered taboo?

I believe that the reason lies in two different facts to consider: first, early conditioning by parents, and two, nostrils are the gateway to the brain (or at least we seem to believe so)

There are many instances where somebody might find something disgusting, even cringe instinctively when the subject is mentioned or brought up. What’s a good example of this? How about, say, flies? Some people will find the idea of a fly landing on your food disgusting, and it just might be. Flies carry a lot of diseases that get caught on their “bristle” and their method of eating, dissolving the food before consuming it, leaves opportunity for bacteria to infect the fly. But think about this, of you didn’t know this, what makes a fly so bad? It seems rather harmless, It might land on your food but it soon flies off again if you wave at it long enough. Why cringe at the thought of eating food a fly has touched for just one second?

It probably has to do with our memories. I, a relatively middle class Chinese child living in first world Canada, grew up with a mother who always started moving suddenly when a fly was spotted. I remember being startled and worried when my mother moved the way she did, swatting the air and saying bad things about insects.

The point is, perhaps the reason removing nasal excrement through with one’s appendages is considered disgusting is not because of what we know about nose picking, but because of what we remember. We remember our parents reprimanding us about it, and telling us in detail why it was so disgusting. We instinctively try to avoid clearing our nasal passages in public as much as possible.

But perhaps there is another reason why it’s so disgusting? Is it better to use a clean, cloth substance to clear our nasal passages because, in the end of the day, it is the insertion of foreign, or even not so foreign substances (such as our fingers),  within our bodies that detests us so? Probably, but then why is the use of Q-tips for cleaning our inner ear canals (you’re not supposed to, but many people do anyway) acceptable?

The answer might be simply because the nose is where the face is.

The three main sets of passages on the head to the inside of your body are the nostrils, the mouth, and the ear canals. Now, the mouth is already used for consuming edible materials. We are used to putting things into it.

But we are not used to sticking things up our nasal passages or ear canals. We are afraid to do so because they are not designed to have solid things put in to them. We fear they might travel into our brains and extensively damage something.

Now, the ears are much more sensitive than the nose is, and is closer to our brain. And more serious damage can be dealt to the inside of the ear than the brain. Yet, why do we stick things into our ear canals to manually clear it’s cerumen, when we are so afraid to do the same for our nasal cavities? the answer is because we are, figuratively speaking, our face. We put more identity on our face then the sides of our heads, where our ears are.

When you stick something into your ear, you are carefully cleaning a part of your body. But when you stick something into your nose, you are sticking something into you, which is much more personal and unwanted. That is why we fear sticking things into our noses.

This has been my blog post about…nose picking. Thank you Maxim Lieu, who is currently in fourth grade.

(incidentally, these are the sources I’ve used for this blog post)








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