Each week, we ask a FACE contributor to break down their biggest ick. Check out previous columns here.
I try not to be too prescriptive with my ickery; mostly I find that what gives me the ick in one person will not always give me the ick with another. I find this to also be the case with the platonic ick, the “look at that bitch eating crackers” feeling you get when someone you previously liked pisses you off or weirds you out, so now you can’t even stand the way they chew their food. I do have a couple of one-size-fits-all icks though, one of them being when a man wears jeans that don’t fit him right. Which is ironic, because if one size did fit all, this particular ick would be obsolete.
Jeans can be hard to wear really well – that’s why we’re always looking for the ‘perfect’ pair! – and weight fluctuations happen to all of us, so I try my level best to be fair to men when it comes to this ick of mine. But equally, would it kill you to wear a belt? Seeing their waistbands slipping down, watching them hitch trousers up all the time, pockets weirdly stretched and tight in both front and back because they’re sitting too low on the thighs… It just turns me off.
Black jeans that don’t fit are ickier than blue jeans, for some reason. Grey are somewhere in between and other colours are rare enough as for me to not be able to accurately judge, other than to say red jeans are their own special brand of repellent anyway. Ill-fitting jeans are just the pre-ick though, really. The real shudder happens when ill-fitting jeans lead to the inevitable peek of arse crack: the ultimate crush killer.
I’m not sure what it is exactly about a builder’s bum that depresses me. It’s such an absurdly mundane thing to happen, a silly, routine embarrassment that almost all of us have either witnessed or endured more times than we’ve probably been made aware of. It’s such a common occurrence among construction workers just minding their business and doing their job that we named it after them. Perhaps it’s because it literally happens behind our backs so we’re always the last to know that we’re the butt (hey‑o!) of the joke. How easily we can be rendered clownish! There is simply no dignity in a builder’s bum. It is the great leveller.
And I think that’s why it turns my stomach so sharply. This stupid, mild humiliation vanishes the heightened and buzzy tension of being around someone you think you want to be naked with. It’s so abrupt and sends you crashing back into reality so immediately that you get this weird kind of emotional travel sickness sitting in the pit of your throat. Weird how some unplanned glimpses – bare stomach when his shirt rucks up – are delicious, and others – a coin slot appearing at the bottom of his back – can hurl you into an existential spiral about the pathetic ordinariness of the human form.
I have to emphasise that 99 per cent of the time, I get over the ick. Particularly if I’ve watched him bend down, giving myself time to prepare, thinking, ‘Oh god, he’s gonna flash his arse crack, what a muppet,’ with an internal eye roll. I can smooth over the ick and sort of romanticise it a bit then. It’s easy to make it a fond, affectionate thing when you observe it happen, shaking your head to yourself: ‘What is he like!’
It’s harder to shake off after coming back from the kitchen with a wine bottle to a bum crease jumpscare, crouched down, setting up the DVD player that you were previously impressed by – because he has a living room with a TV and not a used-to-be-living-room-bedroom with a laptop. In the same way that I don’t mind spiders at all, but still jump when I see one, it just gives me the heebie jeebies. I have to take a moment or a day or three before I see him as a serious person again.
Having gone on this rant, the strange thing is that where there’s an ick, there’s a thrill, and there are actually occasions where this very same cringe trigger activates the exact opposite response in me. Sometimes, the same jeans on the same butt with that same little gap you could drop a biro into feels like an invite rather than a deterrent, and that is something I have even less of an explanation for. Please get a belt so I don’t have to examine it.