In lab we were working with amylase, which is an enzyme that digests starch. Breaks it down. It’s one of the key components in saliva. There was a bottle of it on the table for the lab activity this particular day. If I allowed myself to think about it long enough, it would have bothered me that there was a small bottle of spit-stuff on the table. But I blocked it.
I try to be really grown-up about lab. Not get grossed out or squeamish about stuff. LaShandra and I were the only two people to prick our fingers for the blood-type exercise. We felt very mature and strong, unfettered by the societal constraints of giggly,gaggy girlhood. So what’s the big deal about the bottle of spit?
It’s all cool, because if you put amylase in with your starch solution in one beaker, and just starch solution in the other beaker, then you put iodine in each one… Well, iodine turns dark blue or black in the presence of starch. So guess which beaker turned black? The one without the amylase!
So that’s all going just as planned when the professor says, “Hey just for fun, let’s do this exercise with real saliva. We’ll need two people from each lab group to provide saliva samples. I tended towards being grossed out by the idea of providing a sample of spit. It just seems, I don’t know…gross. Totally unladylike, ungentlemanlike and icky.
But one look at Ebony makes it clear that she is not going to be involved in this. “Eewwwuh, we’re supposed to spit in a beaker?I’m not doing that. No way.” Aniso’s very busy writing something. But LaShandra is already gearing up. So my superiority kicks in. I’m not going to be a big baby like Ebony.
That right there? That’s my inner voice. I feel confident saying at this point that my inner voice is either mean or retarded, possibly both. Because it always seems to be winning arguments against my outer self, who we know and love. But my outer voice seems to be weak in addition to being wise. Because in situations like this, my inner voice prevails.
To understand the humiliation in this story, you have to understand the kind of power-guilt-superiority trips my inner voice plays. And you have to understand that my outer voice really seems tongue-tied and pathetic in comparison.
Inner voice,” Come on! It’s spit. It’s not poop or boogers, it’s so low on the gross-o-meter that it hardly registers. And everyone is having to do it. What? You think your spit is any different than anyone else’s? don’t be an idiot. Spit is Spit. You think you won’t be able to perform at spitting? Babies can spit. This is science, not social hour. Suck it up, Sally. Be a man.”
My outer voice is whimpering, simpering and blithering, “But, but, but…What if I’m no good at spitting? What if my spit is sick and nasty?” And my inner mediator is reasonably saying, “No good at spitting? Abnormally nasty spit? You can do better than that, can’t you?”
Inner voice,”Come on. How old are you? You spit in the freaking beaker. At least one person at every table is doing it. They’re busy spitting in their own beakers, so they’re not going to be watching you. And spitting isn’t exactly a challenging task. Spit Dammit!”
I grab my own beaker. As I do I notice that LaShandra is really going at it. This woman can spit. “Issh eashhy. Jusht rub your tongue on your shaliva glands and swoosh.” And by god, she is having no trouble. As I start to ssshtimulate my shaliva glandsh, someone asks how much saliva we need. “Probably 6 ccs should be good.”
Let me stop here and tell you that 6 ccs is about the amount of liquid in a gallon jug. Which turns out to be about a thousand times more spit than I have in my mouth in a given day. I sat trying to work on my glands, and trying to work up something to spit out. What I come up with is a think white bubbly smear down one side of my beaker. I have no spit.
The more I try, the less spit I have. Not having spit right when I need it, turns out to be very stressful and embarrassing. Ebony looks over, “Eeewwwuh. Why is your spit so thick?Nasty. Why can’t you spit? Do you want me to go get you some gum or something?”
Oh my god, my spit is grosser than most people’s spit! I knew it! My grossness is grosser than the grossness of Ebony! Now I really can’t spit.
And LaShandra is sitting next to me trying to keep her pucker up, but her veritable dairy farm production of spit compared to my saliva Sahara is making her smile.Aniso watched wide-eyed. “I sink you need to go get Lisa some gum.”
In the end, Ebony got me gum (sugar-free so as not to hork up the experiment). But gum didn’t get me spit. I came up with a pathetic and disgusting froth of bubbles and I tried to scale the experiment down. How it turned out doesn’t matter. There’s a bigger lesson here. I just can’t figure out what it is.