My pain threshold, yeah, I’m not actually sure I have one, because most days I just walk around the house exclaiming “Ow!” Preemptively. When I perceive that my toe could be stubbed by the chair, I wince and hiss, “Ow!”—in advance and just in case. When I open the oven and steam fogs my glasses, that’s an “Ow.” When I think that I’m about to nick my neck shaving yet don’t, “Ow!” all the way. I shout ,“Ow!” at dough: just knead already, ok? My arms are killing me.
I suppose it’s no surprise then that I have a hard time keeping quiet when a whole lot of needles are getting pricked into my extremities. Acupuncture, I’ve been twice now, and so far I don’t think I’m very good at it. My acupuncturist operates out of a community clinic. It’s a single room with capacity for ten patients simultaneously, and on Saturday morning the clinic was full. I don’t think the needles actually hurt, but my mind’s muscle memory does not relent and mostly just out of habit, I found myself having to bite off an “Ow!” inside my own mouth at the penetration of each needle. There were a lot of needles. And I definitely kept quiet through some of them. But mostly I couldn’t help it, I could not refrain from releasing a deep and muffled “Ow!” over and over again which sounded otherworldly in that dark room filled with prone strangers filled with needles—not the sound of language, but more like grunting from another planet. They play relaxing spa music—harps and the sound of water falling—and I’m hoping a lot of my wailing got drowned out by that, or, if not, that maybe it sounded like I was providing guttural and restrained background vocals, I have always wanted to sing.
I rate, as objectively as a subject can, my own sensitivity level as both hyper and ultra. I decided as a child that I did not want to develop tolerance to pain. I decided instead to avoid pain entirely and forever—at all intensity levels. Perhaps this accounts for the way I remember growing up in the dorms in Quito as opposed to how others do. Many people I grew up with remember the dorm fondly. Lots of other missionary kids go to reunions and reminisce about their collective upbringing as the time of their lives. They miss it. They’d do it all over again if they could. I think it is entirely possible that everyone was right about me and that I was, in the parlance of the time, a “wuss”; and that a “wuss” I remain. Worse, I’ve become a way worse wuss than I was. What’s all the commotion?! Boys play rough sometimes, so what? No one punched me, at least not in the face. I ate regularly. Holy shit, that is a lot of cilantro. A boy has to learn how to take a sucker shot in the arm when he’s walking down the hall, teaches him to stay on guard, keep your head on a swivel. Any kid has to learn how to get held down on the ground by a group of others who laugh while someone else sits on top of you and gives you a good old-fashioned pink belly. Learning how to take it builds character. Teaches you how to be a man.