Can I Please Just Sneeze in Peace?

  • Andrew Ryder

I’ll be “enjoying” a class lecture or the silence of the library—when they’re not drilling away as they have been for a couple centuries now—or comfortably enjoying urban anonymity on the metro when suddenly, I feel a rising pressure through my chest that moves into my face.

The force of a perfectly normal bodily function is about to course through my nasal passages. I raise my elbow to my face in preparation to enjoy the satisfying release of a sneeze.

“BLESS YOU!” some random stranger mindlessly reacts with.

Folks, we live in an increasingly secular society, and despite what certain nimrods think, I happen to appreciate how citizens of this city respectfully leave each other the hell alone in public. So, what is this vestige of a Christian superstition still doing in our social etiquette?

When I unconsciously sneeze in class—muffling up a naturally loud-ass convulsion—I find it especially disruptive when a colleague insistently stage whispers a “bless you” at me. Is it going too far to call this a form of “virtue signaling?” As though loudly reminding everyone around us what a concerned and upstanding citizen you are in extending a benediction upon this poor unfortunate victim of dust.

I also wonder why this became such a spiritual concern in the first place.

We think we know the origin of this senseless superstition has something to do with an imagined bid for escape of our immortal souls… through our face. But it is my contention that the pleasant release we feel is associated with that other marvelous involuntary contraction and release our bodies give our minds and, the shame associated with autonomous O-moments. “Bless you” is a socially condoned kinkshame on those of us who pleasure sneeze!

I’ll admit, this may be a bit of a stretch. Sure. Still, I for one think it’s time we bring this whole thing up to date.

The next time a complete stranger sneezes near you, whether it be on the metro or in class or at the dinner table, give some of these reactions a shot instead: “Heck yeah!” or how about “Well I never!” or even “Live long and prosper!” You can even mimic their particular sneeze with sarcastic exaggeration, which is pretty fucking hysterical.

All of these have got to be better than perpetuating an empty gesture of goodwill and an outdated superstition.

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