"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Misophonia–Stop Chewing With Your Mouth Open! A Disgusting Habit Which Is Much More Than Bad Manners

There is indeed a name for the disgust one feels sitting across from someone chewing with their mouth open - misophonia.

“So, as I was saying….” (piece of piece of meat ground by molars) …Trump never should have…” (tongue comes into play shifting the partially chewed meat around to the incisors) passed the damn law”. Now the bottom of the tongue is visible, all purplish-blue, striated, and laced with roots and tendons.

The chewing itself is a discord of gluey sucking; but when the mouthful has been swallowed and the noise discontinued, the detritus, the worst offense of all, remains – bits and pieces of meat on the lips, a smear of grease across the chin, and a dribble of gravy from the corners of the mouth.

Usually bad table manners are not confined to one behavior alone.  Those who never learned how to eat properly do not only chew with their mouths open, but pick at food on the serving plates with their fingers, wave dirty forks around like conductors, and wipe their noses with their napkins.

One has to wonder how after decades of living in polite society some people never understand.   How can people keep eating like wolves, tearing pieces of flesh off the bone, and sucking it for last morsels and marrow? And not know it is impolite, rude, and revolting?

People with bad manners tend to cluster together.  Urban legend has it that Jews have the worst table manners.  Heshy Fried, publisher of Frum Satire, a satirical blog on Jewish habits,  says:
You would think that frummies (Jews) would have good table manners, after all we have a lot of time to practice. Unlike other folks, frummies have formal meals at least twice a week and many frummies have big meals at which to hone their skills, much more often than regular folks – yet they are severely lacking in the table manners department. Frum men shovel food into their gullets without caring if their sleeves are dipping into their food, the love the lift plate and shovel from the center technique to get as much food in at once, some of them may be more polite and use bread crust to assist with this feat – but thou shalt not use a knife chas v’shalom.

           Frum Satire

At a wake of a well-known university professor, survivors celebrated his life with a feast – deli favorites, roast turkey, babka, brisket, chopped liver, kreplach, and lox. When the table was ready, people ran for the food. It was a free-for-all.

“Have you only eaten at Church suppers?”, asked a Jewish friend, seeing me patiently waiting by the window. “When there’re Jews and food, you have to push and shove otherwise there will be nothing left but the schmaltz”.

Heshy Fried says that Jews can eat with good manners if they want, but pick their spots and always revert to form:
Eventually I grew up a little and learned when to have manners, first dates are good times for manners, but after the third date you can let them slide a little bit – besides, most frum girls have just as poor table manners as frum guys.
Except for those with no table manners at all, most of the rest of us have their pet peeves.  An uncle retched when he saw someone lick their fingers.   At the court of the early English kings, he said, before the Italians had introduced silverware, lords and nobles reached and pulled, chomped and sucked, then wiped their hands on the dog. Even they knew better.

An American friend who lived in Paris for many years and socialized with the best families had perfect table manners, but stood out at any informal American meal.  She ate like a nun or a lady of  Queen Victoria's court.  She sat straight and raised her fork slowly and deliberately from the plate.  She chewed slowly and discretely, patted her mouth with her napkin before she drank from her wine glass so as not to leave tell-tale blemishes on the rim.  Around her place there was never a bit of food, a drop of wine, or a crumb.  All had been consumed slowly, delicately, and carefully.

Image result for image eating at a banquet court queen victoria

“You should have table manners like Elizabeth”, a friend with a large family advised. Elizabeth was her Platonic ideal, reminiscent of an earlier, better era of aristocratic manners and cultural sophistication.  “Are you kidding?”, her children said in unison.

In an article in The New Republic (7.20.13) Charles Bethea writes about misophonia – a psychological disorder characterized by an unhealthy obsession with small, annoying sounds.
Some people are more than merely annoyed—certain sounds can send them into an agonized frenzy. There’s the journalist from Atlanta who wanted to reach across the dinner table to strangle his loudly chewing father; the computer scientist from Arizona who hated the sound of knives so much his girlfriend developed a phobia, too; the housewife from Oregon who moved her whole family out of her home so she wouldn’t have to listen to them. One teen couldn’t stand the sound of her mother sighing and, after going on anti-depressants, attempted suicide three times.
According to this article and to the new scientific research studying misophones, it isn’t the disgust at watching people chew with their mouths open which causes psychological imbalance, but the  obsessiveness.

There are those who can pay attention to nothing else at the dinner table but people’s mouths. They wait for someone to  start talking with their mouth full. It was the wait that was more irritating and distracting than the actual act.  Rather than turn away or look down at his own food or start a discussion with other diners, he became fixated.  After the dinner was over he couldn’t contain himself and ranted about how the eater had ruined his meal, should go back to his cave and never come back out into civilized society.

For some people even obsession is too mild a term for their psychological discomfort. Bethea elaborates:
When Tabachneck (an acquaintance of the author) was 14, he and his father were watching a movie together in their living room in Pittsburgh; Tabachneck’s dad started pushing all his ice-cream melt together into a puddle, repeatedly clinking his spoon against the bowl. 
Up to that point in his life, Tabachneck’s relationship with sound had been normal. He loved music, enjoyed the sound of laughter. He found sirens and the trains that passed within earshot of his bedroom to be somewhat grating. But this clinking was something different—it provoked a combination of anxiety and nearly physical agitation that he couldn’t ignore. “Are you done with that yet?” he remembers shrieking at his father. It was the beginning of a lifetime of noise-related misery.
Few of us are immune to some form of misophonia.  A man at a local gym who snorts when he uses the treadmill.  At first it is nothing more than a little snuffling; but then it becomes more pronounced, like a prize fighter in the ring.  The intervals shorten, the snorting becomes louder and more explosive, and by the end of his time his breathing is explosive and strangled.   It is so loud, unnecessary, and rude, it is hard to turn away.

Bethea goes on to discuss misophonia more seriously and relates that it has become a matter of serious medical inquiry; and poor Tabachneck consulted every medical source he could find to help him out of his personal hell.  Nothing worked, so he resorted to temporary solutions.  For example, he resorted to sound-tamping earphones at movie theatres because they would drown out the maddening noise of patrons munching popcorn.

“Table manners are not for you, but for me”, said a favorite aunt one day, exasperated at having to sit across from her children eating like they were feeding at the zoo.  “I am the one who has to look at you”.

Manners are not just an effete, mannered attempt to mimic the upper classes, a middlebrow, bourgeois affectation, but a way of keeping ugly, offensive sights, sounds, and gestures away from others.  Good manners are signs of respect.  They not only show good breeding but consideration.  They are small but significant pieces of community.


  1. I am writing to let you know about a new review of “misophonia.”

    The disorder is rare, and, unfortunately, infrequently identified by therapeutic or medical practitioners. It is often misdiagnosed as PTSD or OCD because of the common attribute of hypervigilance. The disorder is not recognized by the DSM-V and is not an anxiety disorder.

    The book provides compelling evidence that it is a developmental, neurological disorder, with similarities to Tourette. In fact, a small number of people with Tourette have the symptoms of “misophonia,” and the insular cortex and anterior cingulate cortex are implicated in both disorders.

    The book offers the theory that a fundamental change in the brain results in an auditory stimulus being assessed as “danger!” and more importantly, as affective “pain!” The primer explores the neurobiology of pain assessment in the brain and demonstrates how the brain can experience the affect or unpleasantness of pain without any actual physical sensation.

    Sound-Rage. A Primer of the Neurobiology and Psychology of a Little Known Anger Disorder (Chalcedony Press, 210 pgs). Available from amazon.com and amazon.com.uk.

  2. Thanks neuroscience123 that is intestine to know. I actually find it repulsive and it does anger me when people chew with their mouth open and slurp loudly. I am certain it aggravates me as I find it rude and impolite. I am not however affected by someone eating a noisy food such as chips or nuts as long as their mouth is shut and they are not oblivious to how repulsive it is for another diner or anyone near by. I was raised to eat with my mouth closed and scolded if i ate like a cow. Its difficult to eat with my partner and his daughter as they slurp unnecessarily and slack jawed. I love them but I end up moving away or leaving the room as i am truly repulsed and irritated to the point of anger. Its upsetting.

  3. I am a Republican and I chew with my mouth closed, thankyouverymuch.

    1. Bringing party afiliation is totally uncalled for.


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