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I floss daily, brush after every meal, and trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries.

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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Interlude: tickle = torture

I was hoping to return for another installment of my post series on too much to do and not enough time, but I'm too busy. (Ironic, non? C'est la guerre.) But I've got a word to say about tickling.

My Non-Fiction Writing students are keeping blogs this semester, and today one student's post was on tickling, how it's really no fun at all if you're truly ticklish. I couldn't agree more. I honestly think it's torture to tickle a kid for more than about one second. Seriously.

When I was a little kid I used to be subject to this torture of being tickled for long, agonizing minutes, and it was so horrible and such a chronic problem that I consciously worked on a way to get grownups to stop it. The maddening dilemma of tickling is that you want to say "No, you asshole! Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!" but all you can do is laugh, which seems to send a message along the lines of "Oh, what fun I'm having!" It makes the tickling so much worse, this way that your own body seems to be betraying you.

And so, as a very young child, I taught myself to convert the involuntary laughter my body produced when I was ticked to tears. There's a switch in there somewhere, and if you can trip it, you stop laughing and start crying. It was the only way I could get my uncle Joe to stop tickling me for torturous minutes at a time. I know he didn't mean to be cruel, but it was cruel. And he felt terrible the first two or three times I cried when he tickled me hard after I figured out how to cry while being tickled. But I didn't care; I was just so relieved to be able to stop the torture.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I finally escaped the torture of being tickled by my older brother (I think you can guess which one I mean) by literally forcing myself not to react at all, and telling him to go right ahead and try, but that I was no longer ticklish. After a time or two, he evidently decided to believe me, or else the game was just no fun for him any more.


7:53 AM  
Anonymous DoctorMama said...

Can you still do it? Cry like that I mean?

My mom had an evil boyfriend who used to tickle for torture (literally) and I learned how to not react. Perhaps a useful mind-over-body practice.

6:07 AM  
Blogger E. said...

I can't just will myself to cry (though I am easily moved to tears, 'cause I'm a sap). But I think if anyone tickled me silly, I could probably still covert the uncontrollable laughter into tears if I needed to. Except I wouldn't need to because I'm an assertive adult who's taken several good self-defense classes, and if anyone tried to pull the tickle-torture move on me (esp. a guy) I would do him severe bodily harm and then run.

I am impressed with both you, mom, and you, DoctorMama for this still of not reacting to tickling. I never had that option, and still don't. It's a reflex. The other day Roo gave me a little tickle under the arm and I just writhed and shrieked. I wish I could go all stoic. That would have helped me as a kid. But the covert-it-to-crying move served its purpose.

7:38 PM  
Blogger What Now? said...

Could not agree more! My reaction to tickling when I was a kid was to yell "stop" and then to punch my tickler, which was very successful although sometimes seen as socially inappropriate by my ticklers.

11:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've always disliked being tickled. I think I tolerated it, perhaps recognizing it as something that was supposed to be social and fun. I'd try to say "stop" but it'd be mixed in with some laughter-like noise.

One day my dad started to tickle me and I let out a blood-curdling scream. I was probably about 5. I don't remember this very well but my parents do. I think they still feel guilty about not having realized that to me, being tickled is painful. They never did it again and made sure no one else did either.

As an adult, I do my own enforcing. (Boyfriends have been kicked out of bed and almost dumped.) And I'm wary of tickling children. They have to beg me to do it before I'm convinced it doesn't hurt them.

4:57 PM  
Anonymous Purax said...

some people just don't know when to stop when they're tickling you. They talk your enjoying it, when in fact they are torturing you -__-

12:26 PM  

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