I Know I'm A Disgusting Mess, But Please, Stop Cold-Shaming Me

by Alexia LaFata

It's January, which means everyone, including you, including me, including your roommate and your roommate's boyfriend who probably started the whole goddamn germ chain, has a cold.

I've had a cold on and off for what feels like months. Some days are better than others, but some days I'm sniffly and disgusting and the tip of my nose is stained with what looks like juice from a red ice pop.

A cold is the worst. It knocks you down so hard but you can't actually use it as a real medical excuse because then you're a little bitch. — Alexia LaFata (@alexialafata) September 10, 2015

I've raided Duane Reade for cold medicine, everything from Emergen-C to DayQuil to Sudafed to Halls Triple Soothing Action (the menthol kind that burns the back of your throat real nice), but nothing I've purchased seems to be working.

Not that I thought they would anyway. My family has never believed in the power of cold medicine, and my dad has always said the only cure for the common cold is time. Time that I just don't have.

I've noticed that people aren't very nice to you if they suspect you have a cold. Just yesterday, I was sitting on the 6 train minding my own business when it suddenly felt like someone had turned the faucet on HIGH inside my nasal cavity. So I did what any normal person would do under that circumstance: blew my nose.

The two people sitting on either side of me recoiled. Like, visibly recoiled, as if I'd just farted noxious gas and they needed to physically get the away from me or die of asphyxiation. And with each expulsion of the contents of my nostrils into my tissues, they leaned farther away, probably assuming that I wouldn't notice because the train was jostling everyone around ever so slightly.

Well, I noticed, you guys. I noticed.

To be fair to these people, the 6 was packed. And quiet. So my trumpet-style nose-blowing was probably a pretty unsettling noise. Just ask the dweeby kid in middle school who got up during a lecture to blow his nose, only to be cringed at by literally everyone.

But I'm not one of those people on the subway you inch away from! I don't smell bad. I am very clean. And I wasn't talking to myself or rocking back and forth in some kind of post-drug-fueled bender. I was just blowing my nose!

The only way you could have possibly contracted my germs is if I made out with you after, and you would have had to buy me dinner first for that to happen.

I know the gooey, sloshy sound isn't pleasant, but if listening to someone blow his or her nose for five seconds is the worst part of your day, well, congratulations to you. You've had a great day.

I've been shamed for blowing my nose before. During my semester abroad in Spain in college, I was having dinner with a couple of new friends in a trendy restaurant. I had a cold then, too, so I politely apologized to my new friends, explaining that I was probably going to be blowing my nose at the table occasionally, and I would make sure to turn around, so they wouldn't get my germs, and was that OK?

"Um, well," they said (yes, both of them). "Do you think you could you go to the bathroom?"

I blinked. Go to the bathroom? "I...guess."

I got up about 15 times during that meal. Half because I really needed to blow my nose that many times, half because I was trying to be a little bit of a dick.

That experience is so ingrained in me that now I make it a point to ask everyone I'm having dinner with if I can blow my nose at the table. I'm happy to report that the rest of my friends aren't as douche-y as those two, and my inquiry is usually met with a "Why would you ask me that? I don't care." So, that's been nice.

But still, my default assumption is that everyone is judging me when I blow my nose. At my job, there's a box of tissues on my desk and a garbage pail five feet from me, but I always feel the need to go hide in the bathroom to blow my nose. And there aren't even tissues in the bathroom, so my choices are toilet paper that's one pixel thick or paper towels that might as well be sandpaper.

I'd rather scrape my raw, fleshy red nose with goddamn burlap than have anyone around me be uncomfortable for a couple of seconds. (This is such a pressing theme in my life that I could write thousands of words on, but that's for another day).

If I do have to blow my nose in front of everyone because liquid is literally pouring from my nostrils and I can't stop it no matter how many times I sharply inhale, I become steeped in shame, shooting people silent apologetic looks for how disgusting I'm being.

And God forbid I make eye contact with someone while blowing my nose. Man, if you've never accidentally looked directly in someone's eyes while forcibly ejecting the contents of your brain onto a tiny piece of paper, you're really missing out what it feels like to have someone be so astronomically grossed out by you.

All I'm saying is that there are far worse things to make people feel bad about doing in public. Like, for example, urinating. Or screaming in a drunken haze. You have my permission to gawk at those idiots.

But please, don't make the girl who's all bundled up in her beanie and scarf and thick black coat feel bad for feeling bad at 8:30 AM on a Monday. It's f*cking winter. We're all just trying to make it out alive.