COLM O'REGAN: We're all fascinated by the weirdness of the human body

The fascination with what the body can do, or how it looks, or how it can go a bit different to the manuals, is always there, writes Colm O’Regan

Was it being double-jointed? Was that the thing you could do when you were young that no one else could? Did word get around that "Sully’s double jointed. “Gwan, axe him to bend back his hand. Axe him?” “Aw gawloon!”*

(*A Corkish expression of surprise like “Hark” or “Gadzooks” usually used in sentences that also contain the word “feen” or “beor”.)

You couldn’t stop staring at the hand of Sully/Micky/Costy or whatever-their-nickname was, as they bent their finger back to touch the back of itself or some similar contortion, wishing you had a skill like that. A moving picture that said a thousand words. It probably bought a couple of credits as insurance against a “You’re Gay” accusation. (For any teenage boy from inception of the state up until last Tuesday, whether straight or gay you lived under the fear of being accused of being gay. Anything could trigger it — still having the top for your biro, displaying kindness, walking. I hope it’s stopped now, though I don’t know what teenage boys will say to each other once it is gone.)

Anyway, back to unembarrassing bodies, my special skill was being able to raise one eye-brow. That might be handy later in life for taking a sideways look at life in a humorous column. But that’s not box-office material like double jointedness or being able to blow spit bubbles.

But the fascination with what the body can do, or how it looks, or how it can go a bit different to the manuals, is always there. I’m a bit of a fiddler. Currently I obsessively twirl bits of beard. Before that was eyebrow, before that was a clicky neck, clicky jaw, cracking knuckles, cracking a wrist and back to eyebrow. And it’s not just our own bodies we are fascinated with. Channel Four’s Embarrassing Bodies is obvious evidence of this. Despite the title, the great thing about the show is that you start off by staring, almost rudely at the person on the television, but soon you are looking past the physical appearance and getting to know the person and by the end of it you are used to them.

Although the person I can’t stop staring at is the doctor. He looks like a doctor on the cover of a Mills and Boon novel called A Delicate Operation about a doctor called Brock Samson who’s a bit of a hoor but eventually persuades Nurse Claudette Harrison of his charms.

But what if I said you were missing out on something much bigger than Embarrassing Bodies. A movement in fact. On the internet.

The internet of course is a strange place.

You can be one of millions who routinely watch a woman whispering and tapping a hairbrush or doing a basic task in order to experience something called ASMR - Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. (That’s the new thing now but that’s for another day.)

Or you can follow Dr Sandra Lee on Youtube. She’s a dermatologist and… how shall I put it? Hundreds of millions of people watch her routinely pop pimples, extract blackheads and remove cysts. And when you start watching it, you will watch more. It’s absolutely fascinating watching a professional removing something the size of a walnut from someone’s face. You may resist at first as your significant other starts to watch and beckon you over. “Oh that’s disgusting, how can you watch that”, you’ll say. I did. And then you’ll see the skill and enthusiasm with which Dr Pimple Popper — her internet name — wrestles something that looks like a ring-worm out of a nose. But it’s not a ringworm, it’s just what’s under a blackhead. You will wonder if she can do a job on you.

Do it. You’ll be the envy of your friends.


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