Saturday, May 14, 2011

the vomit factor

You know this one. There's this couple on the bus next to you, or at the next table — or somewhere, anywhere (but definitely in public) — and they just can't keep their hands off each other. And their lips off each other. And they're pawing each other. And they can't get enough of each other. Or there's the mother — or the grandmother, which is even worse — who's got pictures in her hand. She's forcing them on you. A cute cherubic face at different ages. And now, of course, grandma's got 10,000 more on her iPhone. And you can't escape.

It's called 'the vomit factor.'

I just heard that term the other day. I'd always wanted a name for it, and that's just perfect.

When I was pregnant with my first kid, I vowed never ever ever to be one of those moms. And every time I found myself slipping subtly into my wallet, just happening to also pull out a baby picture by accident, I knew that I too was a perpetrator of the vomit factor.

Luckily, the people I've encountered are a lot nicer than I am. They haven't rolled their eyes and scowled. They haven't turned away. Or yawned. Or maybe it was all internal. Or maybe, so caught up in my own preciousness, I didn't notice. Worse case scenario: the truth.

Anything with the word 'cute' appended to it bespeaks of the vomit factor.

That includes kitties and pups. I carry their pictures too. Plus the 10 million others on the iPhone. Although, my favorite picture that I walk around with and want to show off is the one I took of the enormous banner over the Castro Theater that reads 'Milk' and a picture of Sean Penn as Harvey, with all the glittering neon lights flashing at the same time. I'm proudest of that picture. I remember Harvey well, from the days in his little camera shop. I think my kids can handle that being my favorite shot just fine.

So. This couple the other day. Having breakfast at a place I go with T. There were four of us. And at least two of us were cringing mightily. Probably all four, but I couldn't tell. But we — we were smacking each other's shoulders in utter horror and revulsion. That's when she came up with the term.

The vomit factor.

And there we were having a great Mexican breakfast. And there we were ready to puke.

I'm not sure all four of us noticed, but two of us did, at least. We tried to be polite about it. Tried really hard. We failed miserably.

"Let's never ever do that," said one.

"Agreed," the other one agreed.

But it's a lost cause, really. It's just so hard to self-restrain.

Even with the iPhone, I'm still carrying pictures in my wallet. Happiest-couple-in-America pictures. Happiest-family-in-America pictures. Aren't-they-adorable pictures. Sweet-puppy pictures. My wallet is weighed down with the vomit factor.

There's the more gracious word for it, of course. We call it love. Maybe blind love, is that a term? That kind of love where you can't see that the rest of the planet is just not in there with you. The gushiness. The mushiness. The cute, adorable, and banally sweet.

This is me, intolerant, and yet just as gushy [shudder] as everybody else on earth when it comes to me and mine.

This is me, with apologies to all, for when even unsentimental I slip up and gush in public. Another [shudder] is in order here. And for that couple the other day at breakfast, maybe a better response is to cheer?

Maybe more of that is what we need in public spaces. Maybe a lot more.


  1. Yes Tim, I know. It's called artistic license.

  2. and it is also called - infatuation, hormones and, oh yes, love.