Getting Over the Squeamishness

Like many people who spend a lot of time up in their heads, I’m not a huge fan of physical embodiment. I like the taste of food, but I could do without digestion and excretion. I like dreams, but — come on, body, eight hours of sleep a day? As a teenager, my fantasies were mostly about being a brain in a tall, androgynous, bodily-function-less body. (Yup. Says a lot about me.)

So, I get the squeamishness. I’m up there with the squeamishest of squeamishers. And yet, I see that it’s a problem. Our culture is, at least in part, about rejecting ourselves as physical beings. We generate mounds of non-biodegradable rubbish because we’d simply rather not deal with our own messes. Years ago, scraping off and cleaning cloth diapers was part of the deal of having a child. Soaking and washing bloody cloth pads was a necessary component of being a female homo sapiens of reproductive years. Now we have diaper genies, disposable ultra-thins with wings, flush toilets, and automated litter boxes so you don’t have to handle your cat’s [odor absorbing substance covered] waste from the safe distance of a scoop. We’ve got squeamishness down to an art.

And even avid greenies avoid doing environmentally responsible things out of squeamishness. Some people hesitate to line dry because they don’t want other people to see that they secretly wear pirate-print boxers. Others don’t compost because they have no outdoor space and can’t face the thought of vermicomposting in their kitchens. Most people (myself included) would give up their flush toilets over their cold, dead bodies, even though ‘humanure‘ has a long and illustrious history of being an effective fertilizer. (So much for the argument that animal agriculture is a necessary component of healthy soil!) And after death? We want to be embalmed so we can look good for the wake, and to be buried in airtight steel coffins so we won’t go all mushy and smelly. (Sorry — it’s basically unavoidable, short of mummification.)

The problem with our squeamishness is that it’s kind of killing the planet.  Not singlehandedly, but in our plastic-loving disposable attitude, our conviction that we are somehow above having to deal with the messes we make as biological beings — surely enough.

It’s not easy getting over a lifetime of squeamishness, I’ll give you that. If it were, I’d already have worms in my kitchen and be watering my tomatoes with the soaking water from my cloth pads. As a recovering squeamisher, I’ll get there eventually. However, it’s a good first step just to realize that being responsible for our own crap (literally and figuratively) is the price of admission for being alive, and refusing to pay it now means that we’ll pay it tenfold later.

8 responses to this post.

  1. “…refusing to pay it now means that we’ll pay it tenfold later.”

    Will Civilization Get it Right, This Time?
    http://www.sldi.org/newService/SLDIJuly2009.html

    “…history shows us that civilization has reached its current lofty perch before, only to collapse because of fundamental flaws in our understanding of the true relationship between humans and nature.”

    Reply

  2. How funny I found this post right before I start today’s worm bin project. I guess I’m the anti-squeam. I actually do want to rot when I die. Hell, dump me out of my casket into the dark earth and reuse that puppy. I think that accepting things like poopy diapers and bloody pads and the like connect to one another, in a certain way. That squeamishness doesn’t just alienate ourselves from our own bodies, it disconnects us from one another and our world. It’s easy to eat a chicken “nugget” when it’s packaged and presented as food, not as the flesh of an abused creature. It’s easy to buy junk plastic toys when they say “Made in China,” not “Made in a Sweatshop.” It’s easy to continue to keep women at a distance when you think their bodily functions are polluted and disgusting. Maybe accepting, even celebrating, that people eat, poop, sweat, bleed, die, and rot is an important first step in making the world a better place.

    Reply

  3. […] not easy to be Green blogger Ailanna further makes the excellent point in her recent “Getting over the squeamishness” post that our collective freakout about bodily fluids is essentially the engine that drives […]

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  4. Posted by Johnny Mason on 09/14/2010 at 17:04

    “Squeamishest of squeamishers” cracked me up! This certainly is an interesting and valid angle on things.

    http://aspiringveghead.wordpress.com

    Reply

  5. Posted by Emily on 09/28/2010 at 08:22

    The Saucy Tots reusable pad works great! I am pleasantly surprised that it is so easy to clean. Soaking it was not at all icky and after it was washed in the washing machine, it was just like new (not stained!). Thanks again. I would like to order a few more as a back-up to the Diva Cup.

    Its unfortunate that Americans have been brainwashed to believe that disposable products are easier, cheaper, and more sanitary.

    http://www.saucytots.com/catalog.php?item=167&catid=49&ret=catalog.php%3Fcategory%3D49

    http://livinglightlyinawaveringworld.blogspot.com/2010/08/hey-ladies-get-diva-cup.html

    Reply

    • Posted by ailanna on 09/28/2010 at 08:48

      Glad it worked out well for you. Did you use the soaking water to fertilize your garden?

      Reply

  6. […] After the last post, I realized that a part of the reason (the part that doesn’t have anything to do with my intrinsic unsociability) I’m not more actively involved in the environmental movement is that I hate the look and feel of dirt under my nails. My primary source of vanity is my hands: bird-bone fine and clever-fingered. I really don’t like grime. I’ m squeamish. […]

    Reply

  7. […] lack of squeamishness. (It’s one of my theories that our alienation from our own bodies and resulting squeamishness are bad for the environment.) But speaking as someone who is still recovering from a serious case […]

    Reply

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