I’m All Ears…

The other day while out for drinks, I was telling my chum Claire about all the fun I had in my recent travels to the Jersey shore. She asked if I took pics, and I pointed to my iPod on the table as I got up to pee. When I returned from the Ladies room, I noticed Claire peeking at my photos with an increasingly alarmed expression on her face. Sooze, she slowly asked as I sat back down… what’s with all the pictures of your ears? There must be at least a hundred of them…

Crapnuts. I thought I’d deleted them.

Poor Claire. She probably thinks I’m obsessed with my own ears. Or have an ear fetish. Or (worse) an ear wax fetish.

But I don’t have a fetish. Or an obsession. Just a phobia.
Cerataphobia: fear of waxy buildup in my ears.*
Actually, it’s more like Scopocerataphobia: fear of people seeing the waxy buildup in my ears.*

Sorry, I’m waxing lyrical. Here’s the deal…

Last year when I celebrated turning fifty by buzzing off my hair, I realized that my ears were no longer hidden behind a curtain of short curls but were now completely exposed, for everyone to see. It’s not that my ears are grotesquely large or misshapen (like other parts of my anatomy that will, thankfully, remain anonymously in hiding). But I was worried that maybe my ears weren’t squeaky clean. Worse, perhaps they were hideously filthy, leading friends and strangers alike to gawk and – over time – point while quietly referring to me as The Girl With The Waxy Ears. Word would quickly spread and whispers would be heard whenever TGWTWE entered the local pub, where everyone would find ways to avoid me and slowly make their way toward stools on the other side of the bar. Over time, as no one could bring themselves to tell me the sordid truth of my horrid condition, I, TGWTWE, would slowly go deaf from the waxy buildup; only then would the whispers cease, since there would no longer be any need to whisper. I would forever remain ostracized, tragically friendless and none the smarter when pondering my sad situation.

Ridiculous as it seems, the tragic tale of TGWTWE froze me in my tracks every time I was about to leave my house, urging me to turn around for a detailed inspection of my ears before venturing out.

But how do you get a good look at your own ears?  I tried the side glance in my bathroon mirror, but my Progressive lenses were cutting off my periphery and making the effort impossible. So after weeks spent trying to position multiple  mirrors in a way that would allow me a peek, I gave up and started taking pictures with my iPod. The technique works really well. But it’s unfortunately resulted in a pictorial ode to my auditory organs.

So after Claire gave me that holy-fuck-you-are-actually-in-love-with-your-own-freaking-earlobes-and-need-medication-way-more-than-me look, I pried my self-made ear gallery from her hands and explained my self diagnosis of Scopocerataphobia. Then I attempted to strengthen my point by telling her that it’s not really that bad to be concerned about looking clean, and that lots of people probably have this same condition (even though, after Googling it for several hours, I could not find one stinking post about it and thus made up my own name for the phobia). I let her know that Asians are really into cleaning their ears, and that you can purchase ear picks online, which are a commonly used item for ear wax removal. I went even further, reciting that mimikaki – a Japanese word that describes the act of picking ear wax out of the ears – can be purchased as a service in a variety of high-end Japanese spas. Then I nailed home the point by reciting numerous benefits of -and uses for – ear wax. Including lip balm.

Okay, I probably went too far with the lip-balm thing, because the next thing I knew, Claire was grabbing her purse and rapidly making her way toward the door so quickly, she left behind the check.

Which I found out later was a hand-written note asking me to seek help, with the number of her therapist on the back.

Note to self: delete ear photos from iPod.
And buy more lip balm.


* Don’t bother Googling those words, by the way: I made them up.