Tuesday, April 7, 2009


I'm Coming Home - Wild Sweet Orange (mp3)
Bleed Like Me - Garbage (mp3)

As my wife and I were enjoying a nice, just-the-two-of-us restaurant dinner over the weekend, she told me a strange little tale.

Seems my oldest daughter came home from school on Friday with some strange-looking marks in the crook of her arm. J asked her, "What happened to your arm?" and Carolyn sorta did the guilty, oh crap I did something I shouldn't have thing. So J said, "It's OK, you can tell me."

And Carolyn said, "I was sucking on my arm."

"Um, why?" J was a little flabbergasted.

"I dunno."

"You don't know?"


"How bored do you have to be to suck on your arm for so long that you give yourself hic... marks??"

At this point in her story, I had one of those classic '60s movie moments where my body is sprawling around on its back with a little vertigo-spiral thingy spinning behind me, and there's that flashback music playing, and I'm being flung back into my childhood.

"Jesus," I said.

"What's wrong?" J (my wife, not Our Lord and Savior) asked, as I had probably turned green, and it wasn't from the scallops.

"I totally did that when I was a kid."

J laughed. She thought -- with good reason, having been married to me for a baker's dozen of years -- I was kidding. But I was all too serious. I can remember, quite clearly, sitting in class, or at recess, or at home, and participating in this strange little habit.

I would place the inside of my elbow in my mouth. Usually a few centimeters up on the forearm section. I'm pretty sure I had to use my left hand to grab the elbow and keep the arm securely in place. Once my lips were securely around the flesh, I would engage in this little waltz of gentle biting and sucking. The spongy reaction of the flesh to my biting it was a slightly hypnotic and surprisingly soothing. It didn't hurt. It was like the difference between combing your own hair and letting someone else. When someone else bites you, the pain tends to be more noticeable (yes, even when it's the good adult kind of pleasure/pain), but biting yourself isn't nearly like that. We seem to have an almost surgical accuracy of knowing how much we can tolerate when we're doing shit like this to ourselves.
Unknown quantities of time would pass, and I would eventually remove my mouth to see a huge... well, dammit, there's no other real word for it, but I didn't know the word at the time... HICKEY. At one point in this little habit, I even started working up my forearm. I'd have two or three hickeys in the crook of my elbow and have one or two more on the inside bone of my wrist.

Four or five hickeys at a time. On one arm. And no one ever said anything to me about it. Which is kinda weird, now that I look back on it.

Don't know why I did this. It probably wasn't too far removed from the reasons kids suck their thumb or do anything that's repetitive and soothing (insert your own thoughts or lurid jokes here). But seeing J's concern about Carolyn, who was doing the same damn thing at the same damn point in her life made me both defensive and... well, guilty.

I didn't teach my daughter this particular quirk. She never came downstairs in the middle of the night only to discover me, sitting in the dark of our living room, guiltily sucking away on the crook of my elbow, the lifelong addiciton I could never kick. The self-hickey act hasn't even crossed my mind in close to three frakkin' decades.

Yet there it is. A sin of the father embedded, osmosis-like, into the brachioradialis of his daughter. Same place on the same arm. That's just weird, dude.

How about I up the freakazoid level one more?

When we went to pick up our son from my babysitting mother, I told her about Carolyn and the fact that I had somehow passed along some genetic coding from my system to hers that compelled her to give herself hickeys. Know what Mom said?

"You know, now that you mention it, I'm pretty sure I used to do that, too. In fact, I'm almost positive I did that. Isn't that strange?"

I've always believed nurture trumped nature in that classic duel, but now I'm all confused. Which kinda sucks. Suddenly, I'm inclined to blame so many more of my shortcomings on simple genetic fate...

This post was written prior to my attending the national championship game between UNC and Michigan State. Should I be capable of operating slightly heavy machinery upon my return home, and should my Heels prove victorious, I will post the songs prior to collapsing on the softest surface available.


Anonymous said...

Well, at least you know that Carolyn is really yours and not postman's.

Tockstar said...

My classmates and I used to do this in fourth grade. A kid with an older brother said, "Hey, if you do this, you can give yourself a hickey." The rest of us had no idea what a hickey was, but, due to the one kid's expression and tone of voice, we had some vague sense that it was forbidden and sexy. So we all sucked on our elbows.

Anonymous said...