It may seem strange, amid oodles of food analogies, but it occurred to me recently that I could craft a better analogy for my own experiences by comparing them to how I experience pain.
Just hear me out.
First of all, it’s not clear how universal this is, so I’ll explain my own relationship to pain piece by piece: when I, say, stub my toe or burn my finger, the sensation feels “sudden” and enveloping. And afterward, after the sensation has dissipated, I might remember to be more careful or adapt my behavior around the possibility (ex. don’t touch hot metal!), and I remember, vaguely, that pain is a thing that exists and that I can experience.
But I can’t actually remember it itself. I have a hard time remembering pain. I have a hard time conjuring the memory enough to really put myself in those shoes again. Even when I picture something painful — which is unpleasant — I cannot actually remember being motivated, in the same way or to the same extent, by that feeling. The thought feels extremely distant.
When I’m in the midst of one strong sensation, like sex aversion, sometimes I can’t imagine feeling any other way.
Other times, when a feeling is over (yes, over), I almost have a hard time reconciling the idea that the person feeling that thing was me, and is me, and I am that person. Because it feels so alien to whatever my current experience has moved onto. And I can’t imagine feeling like that ever again.
Sometimes, when I relate to that feeling that motivates people to use the word “sexy,” it feels as random and as disconnected from my selfhood as getting a splinter stuck in my foot — which can be bracketed as “experiencing pain,” yes, but that doesn’t mean I’d associate my experience of life with the experience of pain in the same way as someone who has a chronic pain disorder.
And then there’s times when it’s like the only word for pain in my vocabulary is “agony,” and it seems excessive and inaccurate to apply it.
And then there’s people asking and wondering what my experience of pain is like and wanting me to tell them what it feels like.
And I can only shrug.