It seems a little pathetic that some of us can't even handle a light touch to certain parts of our body without peeing our pants a little bit. While we wouldn't say being ticklish makes you a wuss per se, it's hard to picture Teddy Roosevelt squirming around while being attacked by the tickle monster, and it's literally impossible to tickle someone without talking like a Muppet.
He often left himself open to a tickle attack, because he knew no fear.
Its Badass Origins
Ever see dogs play? They tackle and growl at each other, bite and slash at each other's throats, stopping just shy of a playful disembowelment. In fact, in most of the Animal Kingdom, playing looks a lot like two animals trying to murder each other. Now imagine what tickling must look like to them. One person's got their hands on the throat or ribs of another person who is screaming and begging for them to stop. Hell, under the right circumstances, that would look like a murder to just about anyone.
A wedgie is, at best, provoked manslaughter on the grounds that your victim is an insufferable nerd.
In good news for creepy uncles everywhere, tickling totally evolved as a way to hone our self-defense reflexes. One researcher pointed out that the most ticklish parts of our body (our ribs and neck) also tend to be the most open to attack. So when primates evolved the behavior of tickling our little ones, they were actually training their babies to protect their most vulnerable body parts in a safe (and hilarious!) way.
"Laugh it up! This is where the grizzly will strike, son!"
Not only is the behavior of tickling rooted in our evolutionary history, being ticklish was also once the trait of a survivor. Because ancient humans who were highly sensitive to swishing, creeping stimuli were faster to detect predators and parasites and, thus, lived longer. Individuals who had low sensitivity got eaten or infected. In this respect, ticklishness evolved as a form of self-preservation and was a 100-percent-beneficial trait back when the tickle monster was an actual monster.
Imagine you go to school at Stereotype High. On one side of the cafeteria are the jocks and on the other side are the goobers, dweebs, spazzess and dorks. In the middle are the cops eating donuts, flamboyant gays gossiping and Flava Flav, but they're not necessary for this thought experiment, so we'll just ignore them.
Flava Flav is prepared for being ignored in theoretical situations, and always dresses appropriately.
Now picture what's on the trays in front of the jocks. Did you see entire fried chickens, burgers, whole pizzas and Flintstones ribs? Imagine what's on the trays in front of the nerds. Did you see salads, gluten free rice cakes and hypoallergenic cardboard? You should have, because somewhere along the line, we as a people decided picky eating was for wusses.
Even when we're not talking about physical food allergies, there's something pretty lame about a guy who can't stomach the food on his plate.
Its Badass Origins
Today's pickiest eaters had the bad luck of inheriting a gene that kept the species alive thousands of years ago. There's even an official name for them: Supertasters.
Can't eat certain birds, can't eat on planes ...
And while that name might sound like even science is mocking them, it turns out they actually have extra taste buds and are therefore extra-sensitive to something called phenylthiocarbamide (PTC). For supertasters, PTC is to food as beer is to angry drunk stepfathers; it makes everything bitter.
"Every stem represents a way you've RUINED MY LIFE."
But back before we had the FDA and award-winning documentaries telling us what was what in our food, they were our first and only line of defense. Because toxins are bitter, supertasters could pick out the poisonous stuff and scoot us on our way before we gorged ourselves on deathberries. With literally no other mechanism for detecting poison, our picky-eating friends would have been like superheroes to their communities.
Communities that separated everything on their plate and were terrible in sushi restaurants.
They were so useful that while all the guys who hear sounds 20 times louder than everyone all died off years ago, the supertaster gene was useful enough to hang around in the mouths of certain unfortunate members of the species. Spinach and Brussels sprouts just taste bad to most of us, supertasters are experiencing every note of the horrible sensation that just crapped in your mouth in hi-def with Dolby digital surround sound.
"It's got a hint of nutmeg with a used condom finish."
So while eating with a supertaster can be as fun as eating with a colicky baby while nursing a raging canker sore in one cheek and mouth cancer in the other ... at the Golden Corral ... on Mexican night ... we should let them complain, and stop calling them that clearly sarcastic name.