The way I blow my nose attracts unwanted attention.
September 1, 2004 9:30 AM   Subscribe

Dear AskMetafilter: In the fall, I have allergies, and several times a day I need to blow my nose. I try very hard to be discrete and do this in locations away from other people, but sometimes I cannot entirely escape the presence of others (in public restrooms, for example). Inevitably, when someone (stranger, acquaintance, coworker, even friend) overhears me blowing my nose, they feel compelled to make some comment about either the loudness or the tone of the action. (For instance, today in the ladies room a random coworker (whose name I don't know) said (over the stall) "you know, I used to have a motorcycle that sounded just like that"). I feel this behavior is rude, and I'm often embarrassed by the comments that people make. Up until now, I've just apologized for blowing my nose, but does anyone have suggestions as to a better way to respond to these comments? Why do people say these things? And (bonus question) can anyone suggest a way that I can blow my nose just as ... er ... completely as I do now without making such a loud noise?
posted by anastasiav to Society & Culture (18 answers total)
Twist the tissue and jam it up your nose. Make sure it's not a big ball of tissue though. That hurts. If your nose is particularly bad you might want to leave it in for half a minute or twist it around.
posted by @homer at 9:36 AM on September 1, 2004

I used to have a motorcycle that sounded just like that"
Laughter is the best medicine. Don't take the comments personally. The bathroom is the polite place for it.
posted by thomcatspike at 9:43 AM on September 1, 2004

How about "Shut the fuck up you inconsiderate asshole. "

You don't need to apologize for blowing your nose any more than the woman in the stall needs to apologize for taking a dump.

People say those things because people are idiots. I used to have really bad acne (unheard of for an internet user, I know) and people: coworkers, friends, relatives, even total strangers would come up to me unasked and offer suggestions as to how I could cure it. Real useful stuff like "What you need to do, right, is use hot water and soap."

As for the bonus question, get a nice thick hanky, several of them actually, and use it to muffle the moise a bit.
posted by bondcliff at 9:44 AM on September 1, 2004

I notice that a lot of people have the habit of squeezing the nose somewhat while blowing, causing much trumpet-like honking. I'm not sure why we do this -- maybe the resulting turbulence and sinus vibration encourages goo flow. Depending on your cloggage, it may be possible to adjust your style to be more of a forcible exhale than a noisy blast.
posted by Tubes at 9:46 AM on September 1, 2004

My girlfriend has allergies like this. You need to get an anti-histimine with steriods. It's the only thing that helps her.
posted by xammerboy at 9:55 AM on September 1, 2004

You're allowed to make any noise you want -- without feeling the need to apologize or say "excuse me" -- when you're in the bathroom. Period. That's what it's there for.
posted by Eamon at 10:07 AM on September 1, 2004

"you know, I used to have a motorcycle that sounded just like that"

(Looks closely at her face.) "You know, I used to have a dog that looked just like that."
posted by callmejay at 10:20 AM on September 1, 2004

They were probably just trying to provide some sort of friendly banter, but if it makes you feel bad then it's inappropriate. I would just make some comment along the lines of "excuse me?" or "I'm sorry, what did you say?" in a semi-reproachful tone, and if they don't get the hint that you were offended, proceed to the more direct, bondcliff inspired commentary.

Wisecracks like that suck, but some people are just rude. Responding with incredulity to their rudeness will either make them realize that they are, in fact, rude, or will fly over their heads and you can check the 'jerk' box in your head.

And if I were you, I wouldn't even try to blow my nose more politely. It's one of those things which just happens, like having to remove a bit of unchewable food from your mouth at a dinner party. I find it more uncomfortable if another person tries to accomodate me and in the process makes themselves uncomfortable, you know what I mean? We're all people, let the mucus flow.
posted by mmcg at 11:13 AM on September 1, 2004

Why take it as rudeness? That motorcycle comment was funny, and I'm sure it wasn't intended to be rude, it was more likely that the woman intended to use humour to alleviate any embarrassment YOU might have felt knowing that the woman heard you blowing your nose that loudly. Looking for humour in situations is always better than looking for rudeness. If you asssume that people are trying to hurt or embarrass you, odds are good that you'll be hurt and embarrassed, regardless of what they intended. Sometimes loud nose-blowing IS funny-sounding, just like farts are, it's not about you, it's about the sound.
posted by biscotti at 11:16 AM on September 1, 2004 [1 favorite]

Americans have a problem thinking, realizing, knowing, etc., that we humans are really animals and are not above automatic biological functions that we are not in control of. We would like to think of ourselves as able to control our bodies and any time something happens in public that reaffirms our inability to control our bodies (farting, sneezing, having BO, bleeding, falling asleep, etc.) it forces those around us to yet again realize that we are not in control as much as we would like to think. I know when someone makes a comment like that it annoys you, but if you think about it, they are so discomforted by realizing you are an animal (and thus they too are an animal...) that they feel the need to say something absolutly rediculous. I don't think it is rude of them, I don't think they're trying to be rude, I think they just are so uncomfortable with the situation that it makes them do dumb things.

posted by pwb503 at 11:21 AM on September 1, 2004

Please please please suggest ways to blow more quietly!

Mr Mimi has this INSANE noseblow that goes off at least once per night (He complains about the cat crying but he's twice as loud, easily.) and every morning. Seriously, if I am outside the house, I can hear the trumpet. If I am still pleasantly in bed, I wake up ready to cut it off.

Tubes, interesting observation.
posted by mimi at 11:33 AM on September 1, 2004

"you know, I used to have a motorcycle that sounded just like that"

"Your motorcycle has a nose?"
posted by aacheson at 12:01 PM on September 1, 2004

My Dad was always a hanky-honker and I had no idea why he made that noise, it never occurred to me that he couldn't blow his nose quietly. As a kid I would often rag on him about it. I do feel that holding nostrils together can make them sort of go flappa-flappa-flappa against your hand/hanky in sort of a resonating [and loud] way.

If you're only blowing your nose a few times a day, you might want to go whole hog and bring along some Ocean or other brand saline nose spray. You blow it up each nostril, snort it around a little and then blow it all [snot + water] out. Helps keep your sinuses clean and infection-free and you can turn it into a little private routine so there is obviously 1) something wrong with your nose so maybe people will give you some room, and 2) no good time for chitchat. The more you can accompany it by snorting and groaning and shaking your head around, the less people will ever want to be caught with you in the bathroom again. Allergy season is tough all around, and I sympathize. I personally hate it when people talk to me from stall to stall but I think it makes some people uncomfortable not to talk, so I've been trying to get used to it somewhat. On the other hand, I don't see any reason for you to be embarassed by your allergies which no one in their reight mid thinks you have any control over. Being polite and saying "excuse me" is a decent thing to do, but you shoudln't feel like it's a grievous social gaffe to blow your nose in public. As far as responses go, if you're not comfortable with wisecracks [or the "what did you say?" routine which is my personal favorite] I'd say either "yeah I really need to get a grip on this coke habit" or "I can make a funnier noise with my butt, got a minute?"
posted by jessamyn at 12:50 PM on September 1, 2004 [1 favorite]

Hey, it's intended to be a joke. Don't take it so seriously.

I used to blow my nose quietly, and I managed to get it *REALLY LOUD*. Loud enough I no longer blow my nose without someone making a joke about it. Really clears out the nostrils better than those wimpy blows I used to do. That being said, I gotta back off a bit, last time I managed to cause a nosebleed...
posted by shepd at 12:57 PM on September 1, 2004

posted by LimePi at 1:09 PM on September 1, 2004

She was way out of line. Maybe if you were out in public, but in the bathroom? Com'on. Don't alter your nose-blowing if what you're doing works for you.
posted by agregoli at 1:23 PM on September 1, 2004

yeah that's reese witherspoon
posted by jessamyn at 1:27 PM on September 1, 2004

The Miss Manners response to such commentary would be to appear slightly taken aback and say nothing. Up to a point, I agree with this: You shouldn't feel responsible for handling other people's assholery.
posted by majick at 1:35 PM on September 1, 2004

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