I have a cold and lately I’ve been sneezing a lot.  I mentioned this to Yduj and added how much I enjoyed sneezing… how satisfying I found it.  Yduj surprised me when she said that she absolutely looooved a good sneeze too; how it was sort of an orgasm of the nose.  I thought about that for a while and realized that she was on to something.  And while it’s true that there’s a lot less romance (usually) leading up to a good sneeze, there are some parallels to an orgasm. A sudden rush, a certain feeling of fulfillment. Of course, a big difference  is that a sneeze often comes out of the blue whereas with an orgasm you kind of know it’s on the horizon…so it really shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.  I guess the analogy is a loose one at best.

For some reason, people will offer “God bless you!”s  to perfect strangers whom they hear sneeze in public.  As if all of a sudden they’re living in a small town where everyone knows one another.  I’ve always thought there’s a certain charm in that ersatz warmth and familiarity and I used to participate in it right up until I became an agnostic.  Then, I just found it too awkward to say, “I don’t know for certain if there’s a higher being but in the event there is, God bless you!”  That doesn’t just roll off one’s tongue.  And when I moved on toward being an atheist (this, after having a friend explain that an agnostic is just a spineless atheist) it became even more unsayable. Imagine, “Although I don’t believe any deities exist or that there’s an afterlife, if I had known you back when I did I would have said, God bless you!”  Had I said that, either that stranger would still be running, or more likely, I’d have gotten arrested.

Nowadays when I hear someone sneeze, I’m mute. I know it looks as if I’m being withholding or an asshole, or a withholding asshole, but I don’t “God bless you!” anyone. Not friends, not family, not co-workers…no one.  All part of my larger effort to tell the truth.  Which is even more noble when you consider that I don’t expect that being virtuous is going to lead to any payoff in a great beyond.  Kudos to me!

Obviously, responding to a sneeze with a good old-fashioned, “Gesundheit!” is always a possibility.  Nothing about God in that. I’m not sure when or why Americans adopted a German word for a sentiment (good health) that could just as easily been said in English.  But I’d bet it was before those two World Wars and the Holocaust.  I don’t really think saying “Gesundheit” is going to be a real option for me.  The truth is, I’m still coming around to the idea of possibly buying a German car.  So I don’t really see myself going around wishing people well in German, for God’s sake!

An Alterntive (But Riskier) Method

How To Have Safe (Nose) Sex


9 Responses to “Gesundheit!”

  1. sister Says:

    was it the angels on the head of a pin thing that led you down this road?

  2. Rob Says:

    I work around this very problem by simply saying, “Bless you.”

  3. Giarc Says:

    Respond to a sneeze with “Volkswagen” and go buy yourself a Ford.

  4. buckley Says:

    i dont say god bless you either. for the same reasons as you (though i defend being an agnostic), but also for another reason as well… if i understand correctly, the need to bless after a sneeze came about due to a belief (now a debunked superstition) that the heart skips a beat upon sneezing… hence the i hope god grants you life after that sneeze bit afterwards.

    so really, it’s just an antiquated conceit that no longer needs our attention. i totally do not feel un-polite ignoring a sneeze.

    but if you fart out loud, i will say good tidings.

    • iron(ic)man triathlon Says:

      thanks…no, god bless you for the informative remarks.

      funny…when i hear a loud fart my heart does skip a beat.

      (this is starting to veer into locker room banter….i’m ending it here)

  5. Mike McPartland Says:

    As an atheist myself, I’ve been searching for an appropriate response to the sneeze. Up to now, it’s been a simple “Bless you.” But the word “Bless” also implies a belief in religion and/or God. But now I’ll use the English of Gesundeit: “Your Health,” eliminating the word “Good,” which is another form of “God” as in the word “Goodbye.” (I don’t know which is more demanding, Atheism or Catholicism!)

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