Being gross is in the eye of the beholder

Published 1:09 am Friday, March 18, 2016

Just like beauty, all things gross and slightly repulsive are in the eye of the beholder.

Just ask a parent of a six-year-old boy. A switch in a little boy’s DNA must be flipped when he reaches a certain level of maturity — some might call it immaturity. This switch makes anything remotely icky and revolting, irresistible and funny.

Anything involving body parts and body humor is the Holy Grail of hilarity for my son Gibson these days. To him using his fingers to turn up his nose, pull back his eyelids and stick out his tongue is not gross — its funny.

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Most of the time he is the only one laughing in our house when he is up to his antics. Usually I respond by rolling my eyes. My wife usually glares at him with slight disapproval.

Gibson doesn’t care. The grosser his performance, the more comedic.

I try not to fall into the trap of using stereotyped gender roles for children, but as I watch Gibson interact with his friends I can’t help but think the old nursery rhyme about what little boys are made of ring true.

I know, because snips and snails and puppy dog tails are more likely to be found in the Hillyer house these days than all of the other things the rhyme associates with little girls.

In fact if you asked my son, nothing is grosser than sugar and spice. If anything is remotely nice, you might as well forget it. Bluck!

But if Gibson has the opportunity to combine mud and muck with tackling and wrestling there is no question he will be in the middle of the dirtiest, grossest fun a six-year-old can imagine.

Last week, one such opportunity surfaced when one of Gibson’s friends invited him for an afternoon of fun in St. Catherine Creek behind a relative’s property.

I wasn’t there to watch Gibson and his buddy cover themselves with mud from head to toe, but I did hear about the fun and excitement and I did witness some of the casualties from the afternoon.

A pair of cowboy boots that were already close to their end, gave their all on the shores of the creek that afternoon. Covered in mud, the boots were nearly unidentifiable when I spotted them as I stepped onto the back porch.

I later discovered that before being allowed in the house, the boy was stripped of his clothing, which had to be soaked in buckets of water before making it to the washing machine.

Gibson was sent immediately to the bathtub, where one step into the tub turned the steamy water into a a dark muddy brown.

I wish I were there to witness the scene. My imagination conjures up images of my son looking a little like a monster truck coming back from the mud races. A little like the Cheshire cat from Alice in Wonderland, his wide grin must have been the only thing left untouched by dirt and grime.

The whole experience may have been better than any amusement park ride at Walt Disney World.

Even the little child in me still remembers how much fun I playing along the creekbeds of my Alabama hometown were and how I never gave a moment’s thought to how dirty I was when the day was done. The smell of dirt and sweat wasn’t gross. It was fun.

Of course what is really gross depends upon your perspective. I was reminded of this when my wife gave a relatively clean Gibson a surprise hug and a kiss on the cheek the other morning.

As he wriggled out of her arms he grimaced and said, “Yuck that’s gross.” That’s what he thinks.


Ben Hillyer is the news editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540 or by email at