When my kids were tiny humans and still agreeable to every crazy idea I had, they would let me obsessively poke and prod them with little resistance. Cleaning out their ears, picking at their toes, clipping their nails, flossing their teeth—all these things made me giddy—partly because I love my littles and handling their upkeep was a joy. I think there was something more psychologically dysfunctional happening, though. One day, while pulling out quarters to pay for “treasure” that my slim surgical tweezers were about to pull out of my first-born’s nose, I had a moment of incredulity. What the hell was I doing? Why was this so fascinating? And why was the nose my absolute favorite excavation site? It had to be more than the fact that my kids somehow grew gargantuan boogers in their tiny nostrils and the excitement of pulling out a big one was on par with the first Wooley Mammoth discovery.
The answer came to me a few days later as I strolled through the Halloween candy at Target and grabbed a bag of candy corn. That bag brought a realization that I didn’t want to own up to, but still, it was the horrible truth. At the age of three, I was obsessed with picking my nose. The gross habit was short lived, but I have memories of wiping boogers on the car window or flicking huge masses of green goo at my mom while sitting at the dinner table (I will NOT admit to eating them, although my Mom likes to mention that it maybe happened a time or two). Even though I quit pretty quickly, I still found great joy in blowing my nose and getting a great return of “treasure”. I actually enjoyed my first sinus infection in Kindergarten, because I would blow a Texas size amount of snot out, only to have another round two minutes later.
So imagine my disappointment when I went through a healthy spell of no allergies, no colds, and no inclination to pick my nose, around the time that 1st grade started. This is when a new player entered the nose picking game—candy corn. Did you know that those orange, brown, and white little triangles are the perfect plug for a nostril? I clearly remember laying on
the mustard yellow couch in my Grandma’s living room, watching “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood” on a crisp, sunny September afternoon. A small bowl of candy corn sat upon my chest, and I was tossing them into my mouth one at a time. One missed my mouth and landed above my lip, almost in my nose. This is when the inspiration hit to see how far up that candy corn would fit in my left nostril, thinking it would feel great when I blew it out. So, I shoved it in, halfway sticking out at first. But I’ve never been a quitter, so I had to get that point all the way up so the butt of the triangle was flush with my nostril opening. I did that, plus a bit more. It kind of hurt, smelled a bit like melting ice cream, and fit just right into that smaller left side of my nose once I worked it into place. In fact, a few seconds later, when I sat up and tried to blow it out, I found out it fit so well that it wanted to stay in my nose forever. It wouldn’t budge. What did budge was my voice and my tears. I screamed for my Grandma, and both her and my Aunt Pam ran into the living room. As soon as I explained what happened, Aunt Pam laid me down on the couch, rammed her moderately long pinky and thumb nails up my poor nostril, and after two awkward attempts, pulls out one slightly gooey candy corn.
After that incident, I think I was cured of my hyper-focused love of my nose. I don’t recall having any issues with it, until I had my babies and it was reborn from the recesses of my warped brain. Eventually my kids stopped being lured by the promise of “gold for their treasure” and wouldn’t let me pick at anything anymore. They’re such party poopers. While the story of the stuck candy corn ended on a positive note, without an ER visit like it could’ve, there are two downsides to the tale. One, my Aunt is a pharmacist and germa-phobe and to this day is disgusted when we recall this lovely incident; poor thing, she may have been more traumatized than me. Second, I feel cheated that I didn’t get the euphoric feeling I was sure was coming when I blew that candy corn out. Having it pulled out is no substitute, and I’m pretty sure I can
blame all that’s wrong with me in life today on that one moment of feeling like I missed out on the great reward of treasure escaping from my nostril. Damn candy corn did me wrong.