I think I speak for all of us here at Pajiba when I say that we love our readers. We really do. You’re the best, and we know that because you’re here with us right now! You have excellent taste, is what I’m saying.
But sometimes? Ya’ll scare us a little. To wit: This week’s question comes from a longtime “lurker,” who broke their silence to write in about how not silent they are. When they chew. With their mouth-hole. That’s right! Pajiba is now the destination for people with gross habits who want to talk about their non-problems. The Overlords are divided about this development — but I, for one, am all for it. Keep it coming!
(Seriously: Send us all of your most shameful habits and disgusting secrets at [email protected]! Sure, you should probably phrase it as a question, because this is technically an advice column. But we keep our standards loose around here, so don’t let the “ask” part stop you from sending us declarative statements if you want! Of course, you can also send us REAL problems too.)
Here’s the question:
I have been a lurker and reader since 2005. I studied abroad in Scotland and took a film course while in Glasgow that year. I stumbled across a review by Dustin while looking for sources for a paper on mise-en-scene and now here we are.
I have been told by my spouse of 7 years that I am a loud chewer of food. It gets to the point at times where she will leave the room while I am eating. It is not my intent to gross her out. I try to eat with my mouth closed/smaller bites/slower chews. Even when intentionally minding my chews, I get “The Look”. This issue is a combo of how my jaw/mouth operates, habit, and her sensitivity to wet mouth sounds (It is similar to how some react poorly to the word “moist”).
My questions: At what point do I just chew how I chew and eat where I eat? Never obnoxiously or louder than normal, but without being self-conscious?
*I know we will work through this and it will not even be a footnote in a world with more pressing issues. But I got “The Look” while eating bacon this morning and I hoped Pajiba would provide some funny and insightful analysis.
Let me start with a quick round-up of Overlord reactions to your dilemma, copied from our Slack channel. And I quote:
“Switch to an all smoothie diet, you cud-chewing monster.”
“I’d like to send the wife a cookie basket or something for not murdering this person. CLOSE YOUR MOUTH WHEN YOU CHEW, YOU UNCULTURED SWINE.”
“I recommend shifting to liquid foodstuffs and slurping, until spouse longs for the sound of chewing again.”
“STOP FLAPPING YOUR LIPS WHILE YOU CHEW, SLAPPY!”
“Real talk: Ask your friends what they think. Do they think you’re a loud eater/chewer? Ask your coworkers. If everyone else says it’s not a problem, your wife is a pain in the ass who needs to get over her shit. If everyone else is like DUDE GOD YES IT’S AWFUL then see a fucking doctor or something.”
That last, actually useful piece of advice comes from TK, and it really gets to the heart of the challenge this inquiry raises for us. We (thankfully!) haven’t witnessed your chewing. We can’t assess whether objectively the problem is your mouth or your wife’s ears. All we can do is speculate and, you know, crack jokes. Which we’re fine doing! But people who have witnessed your methods of mastication may be able to provide some more useful context for you.
Also, does your wife ever complain about how OTHER people eat? If she’s so sensitive, I’d think she’d get grossed out by other people as well.
But let’s assume that maybe you’re both at fault. Obviously, as you said, you’ll work it out. You’ve been together awhile, and longterm relationships are built on the mutual acceptance of disgusting personal habits. It also sounds like you’ve tried to be accommodating. I genuinely can’t imagine how you could be too loud if you’re taking small, slow bites and chewing with your mouth closed — so if you ARE, then maybe take even smaller, slower bites or something?
Not eating is not an option, for obvious reasons. So if you’ve done everything you can to eat like a fucking human being, and you know from other reliable sources that you’re not a distractingly loud eater, and your doctor or dentist hasn’t been able to offer any suggestions for mitigating your mouth sounds, then I think it may be time to talk to your wife about how she needs to deal with her own sensitivities. Because while she can’t help being grossed out by the sounds of eating, she CAN help making that YOUR problem (unless she has misophonia, in which case… yeesh).
But that can only come once you’ve established the high ground on this. If there is any chance that you don’t chew like a human, but instead chew like a sloppy monster, then you’re just going to need to try harder. Or get her ear plugs, if this is, like, a genuine physical issue you can’t solve.
Or you can just find a closet to eat inside, where you smack your lips to your heart’s content without disturbing anyone else. After all, there’s no need to feel self-conscious if you just avoid eating in front of witnesses for the rest of your life. Solitude is freedom!