Living and working in the same space has given many couples an unwanted insight into each other’s dirtiest habits. But should we really find them so gross?
“Over lockdown, the soundtrack to my life was email notifications pinging – and people burping and farting,” says Emma, describing the unwavering “bodily expulsions” from her husband and their three children as a constant “21-gun salute”. Before the pandemic, her husband went to the office, her eldest child to school and her two younger ones to nursery, and she had the house to herself to work, think and breathe. Back then, the occasional bodily expulsion seemed comical: “When a kid does a burp at the table, especially if they’re not expecting it, it’s very funny.” But together 24/7, the humour was gone. “Not only was there no headspace, but I was having to put up with everyone just letting it fly. I was trapped in it, as if I was in a barn full of farting, belching animals. It started to make me feel a bit depressed. I thought, what has my life become?”
Emma was not the only one. During the third national lockdown, after the cancellation of Christmas lunches across the UK, Google searches for the following terms hit five-year peaks: “biting nails”, “farting”, “burping”, and “scratching”; June saw the peak of “snot”. We cannot know what provoked such searches to proliferate. But we can investigate what happened to couples when these formerly private explosions, explorations and excavations came out into the open and how different partners reacted. We can ask: what do these experiences teach us about relationships? About what it means to be human?
We’re basically a package that is wrapped in skin. Inside, it’s blood, muscle and faeces. We’re potentially very disgusting. Including to our spouse
What we find disgusting is not an objective truth but a subjective judgment shaped by the society and culture we live in
Unlike farting, which is a sign of a healthy digestive system (we emit about 15 farts a day), nose-picking poses serious risks
You should be able to find your partner disgusting, because that means they are ‘other’ to you, not just an extension of you