Each week, we ask a FACE contributor to break down their biggest ick. Check out previous columns here.
About seven years ago, I tried to write about “the ick”. My editor – who crucially, I should say, definitely wasn’t sleeping with men in their twenties – read the draft and said it felt cruel and a bit “off”. She questioned whether it was something I had made up, if it would resonate with people, if it was “a thing”. Well, boss: look where we are today. The kids are filming themselves doing ick explainers, girlfriends are making viral content about their boyfriend’s opinions on it, and everyone is gagging: “I’ve got the ick!”
I open with this because I need to tell the youth and the Americans that British millennials have long spoken about “the ick”, using this specific term. The concept has gone viral in the past year because so much of our dating experience is mediated behind a screen, and now when we’re confronted with an unedited personality and the gross, heaving reality of a human body that wants to see you naked, we short-circuit. It’s an unbearable sensory overload.
The ick is the moment a potential or current partner you’re attracted to repulses you. Sadly, it’s often irreversible, terminal. Much of what I do must have given people the ick: my lightly nasal voice; the way I will ask you to roll my cigarettes on a night out; my total obliviousness to people moving around me; my need to burst into song at random. The ick knows no gender – bad shoes exist on the feet of all human beings and I’ve survived a couple of particularly stressful “let’s plan two week-long romantic getaways on the first date” situations with women – but I’ve predominantly experienced it with men. They are the ones, broadly speaking, who have been socialised to believe they may come to the proverbial feeding trough looking and acting like a state – and always be fed.
So far, they’ve given me the ick using these careful methods: splitting the bill to the penny despite being on a sickeningly large salary; meeting his crap, boring mates; discovering on entering his home that he’s a Franz Ferdinand superfan (Take Me Out slaps but being tagged in gig photos with the caption “FF with my babe” later than 2004 would be too much for my ego to bear); the moment you realise that despite claiming he loves sex and/or has a high sex drive, the rigmarole involved in trying to make it happen is like launching into the burlesque show of your life; watching his glee while imparting some malicious, feminine gossip; holding the remote up high when changing the TV channel. The list goes on.
But the worst and most repeated ick, for me, is seeing men ineptly carry out manual tasks. I’m not being ableist here – I’m talking about men who are capable of doing a task, deliberately not trying to, giving only 50 per cent, simply flailing around. They’re not washing cutlery properly, they’re spilling drinks because they’re holding three, or, as a female friend noted the other day, falling over because they tried to use only the strength of their toes to put a flip flop back on.
Historically, I have been burdened by the ick because I have exacting standards for people, especially for myself. The more shame you carry, I think, the more likely you are to experience the ick. Naturally, then, women in their teens and twenties are relating to all this ick chat. Broadly, we should strive to be free of the ick, more understanding and empathetic of how vile we all are, let the ick run down our spines like an electrical charge and never speak of it again. I’m convinced that, much like the way you’re predisposed to be attracted to people whose face looks like your own, our icks are really all about us.
I have the ick about physical tasks because deep down I know I used to be this way. My failings were an extension of the fact that I’m a right-brain person (creative, an artist x) but mostly because I was a lazy little shit who preferred to let others get on with menial labour. If someone else was around to do anything for me, like work out which restaurant to go to or build flat pack furniture or plan a holiday or clean the toilet, you can guarantee I’d sit back like a tiny emperor and wait for it to happen. When I see men of all ages act up in such a manner, I get the ick, because I wrote the For Dummies book on being an ineffectual swine. I know why you’re being rubbish: you simply can’t be bothered to try. And who wants to date someone with a torpid approach to their own life – and by extension, yours?
Only you know what could give you, specifically, that revulsive feeling with a name. Moaning, bitching and listening to ’00s landfill indie bands, the ick resides in the last place you would ever think to look: your own beating heart.