Finding zen at the dinner table

Why do I detest the sound of others’ eating? Is it an undiscovered gene that only I possess? Is it a condition? One that steals hours of enjoyment from mealtime as I’m forced to white-knuckle utensils in an attempt to endure the deafening gnawing of others, who always seem to be oblivious to their offense – like my family.

My husband’s ability to achieve record-breaking amplification is largely due to the size of his head, and the deep cavernous shape of his mouth. He is the only person I know that had room enough to welcome all four wisdom teeth unassisted by a dental professional. He regularly celebrates the size of his orifice by filling it to capacity with every bite which, as you can imagine, would challenge even the most skilled masticator to chew with any form of grace. Just to be clear, he really is a gem. As he pointed out today, “Did you notice I am chewing the carrots with my mouth closed?” Bless him.

I can excuse my kids, to a point. They are still in the single digits. For them mealtime is a purely functional event – fill the pie hole and move on as quickly as possible to more worthwhile pursuits. Eating with utensils and chewing with a mannered effort is not in their deck of cards.

Where did this condition come from? I recall incidents from my youth when my mother sighed and clenched her teeth at every meal. I’m not interested in placing blame – I just want to understand why the sounds, and visuals, of others enjoying their meal with abandon causes me such angst. I turned to Google. I came across the condition “misophonia.” WebMd defines it as:

“…known as selective sound sensitivity syndrome, starts with a trigger. It’s often an oral sound — the noise someone makes when they eat, breathe, chew, yawn, or whistle. Sometimes a small repetitive motion is the cause — someone fidgets, jostles you, or wiggles their foot.”

Oh my … they are looking into my soul.

Some studies show that “misophonia” can start as early as age 9, which would makes sense for the whole “it started with my mother” idea. It seems my mother and I are both affected by a sort of mental disorder. Our family will be thrilled to know it’s not the fault of the enthusiastic chewer, pen clicker, loud typer or foot fidgeter. It’s a auditory/mental condition and there are treatments! From what I can tell, it’s pretty much “get over yourself and replace your thoughts of rage with unicorns and rainbows.” So onto mealtime visualization I must go.

The discovery of misophonia offers a touch of relief and optimism for future mealtimes. However, I do wish I could gain back countless hours spent struggling through meals, trying to refrain from plugging my ears or muffling desperate screams of disgust as I sit across the table from friends and family, cringing as they chew loudly and slurp sloppily. Perhaps with a new understanding of my condition I can look forward to the day when I can make it through dinner feeling relaxed and joyful by the time everyone puts their fork down.

One can hope.

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