So What Universal Human Experiences Were You Missing Without Realizing It?

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 12.06% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

So Xuenay posted a really excellent comment the other day, linking me to this essay “What Universal Human Experiences Are You Missing Without Realizing It?” Which, if you look to the comments, lists common human feelings that people didn’t realize they lacked.
The best example is from someone who had no sense of smell, yet because of social conditioning mocked her sister’s stinky feet and held her nose when she ate Brussels sprouts, just because she was supposed to.  It took this person years to realize that people actually smelled things.
Then there are other weirdies of “Wait, other people are not like me at all”:

  • Realizing that some people actually like their jobs;
  • Realizing that yes, some people actually get so physically stressed that it affects their emotions;
  • Realizing that “not getting pumped up by being among big crowds of excited people” makes them an outlier;
  • Realizing that some people really do care about the taste of food, and aren’t just ordering fancy meals to show off.

And I’m curious as to when y’all had that moment of realization of “Huh.  People really are that way, and I’m not.”
Here, I’ll share mine: I was in my mid-twenties when I realized that, bizarrely, putting the words “I feel” in front of sentences actually affected people’s reactions to an opinion.  Until then, it was super-obvious to me that everything I said was my opinion, it came out of my mouth, it’s created by a potentially-flawed brain, why should I have to put “I feel” in front of it to remind people that this opinion is an opinion?  To me, it’s like prefacing every sentence you speak with “I say that,” because shit, it’s that obvious.
But no.  Around my mid-twenties, I came to realize that merely shimming two words – “I feel” – in front of the exact same sentence radically changed how people reacted to my speech.  Which is something I still have issues with today, if you’ve seen my writings.  It’s something I struggle with, this idea that people feel that what they say is objectively correct until they specifically flip a switch otherwise.
So.  When did you have your moment of “Wait, I’m different from most people,” and what is the thing that sets you apart?


  1. Alexis
    Mar 13, 2015

    I’m going to go with television shows. I have many, many times heard a new show announced or seen a trailer and thought, ha ha, this must be a joke. No one would ever actually make a show this stupid, and if they did no one would ever watch it. I have been wrong every time. The stupidity cesspool is far, far deeper than I ever imagined.

  2. Ellixis
    Mar 16, 2015

    A relatively recent one: A lot of people have a physical attraction response to people they’re interested in. That one cleared up some enduring mysteries of the world for me.

  3. Dana
    Mar 23, 2015

    Came here to remind myself of dates of your tour, got trapped reading your blog entries I hadn’t seen. Curse you, Ferrett.
    For myself, “asexuality” as a whole, I guess. I can’t pinpoint a specific moment, but the gradual recognition that I am just not interested in having sex or romance with anyone else, that I don’t know what it’s like to be in romantic love and I possibly/probably never will.
    Given that romantic love is used (even more than the desire for sex), as THE hook for a universal, humanizing emotion in tons of stories (so many, many, many stories use ‘A loves B but can’t be with her/him, or lost her/him, or needs to impress her/him, or rescue her/him) (let’s be real, usually a her), it definitely makes me feel, if not exactly alienated from humanity, at least alienated from that particular ‘universal’ experience.
    Which is sort of odd. I’m always aware whenever a story introduces a romance angle*, and conscious of how they are deploying it– like to what extent is the author bothering to make this feel REAL, and to what extent is the author simply banking on the idea that, hey, you don’t need to be told what it’s like to be in love, because, you know, of course you know, we all know that, etc.
    And it’s not that I mind reading romance, I don’t. But there’s definitely a lot of instances where I read a book, get to the romantic interest character, and go “oh, okay, you just went with the lowest common denominator as your protagonist’s motivator/your character’s humanizing thing.”
    And on that note, thanks for making the love of a father for his daughter, and not a girlfriend, be the driving force of Flex. 😉 As a woman who never plans on spawning, I won’t ever experience THAT emotion either… but at least it’s some damned variety!

  4. jay
    Apr 24, 2016

    For me, it was feelings/emotions. Like: Being aware, that you feel something right now – and even being able to name that feeling, perhaps even know where it comes from and how to react to it. And that people would actually – not only in movies – make a big deal out of it and talk with other people about their feels, not only about love or mourning when somebody passed, but also about a lot of smaller stuff like anxieties. They would even share when they were afraid of something! Real life people! Even adult ones and not only girls who watched to many soaps.
    Mindblown. Took me about 20 years to get that. Thanks to feminism and amazing friends, listening to them and then trying to listen to myself (okay, some therapy also helped) I am now, 10 years later, often aware of my feelings. Suddenly, I recognize that it’s not out of the blue or “it’s just like that” when I feel overwhelmed or frightened or stressed out, I can sense patterns! Sometimes I can even cope with stuff, because I recognize it, instead of just having a very unfortunate day without knowing why.
    Also I wouldn’t have been able to identify being anxious and stuff before, it just didn’t cross my mind. Obviously I laughed, when stuff was funny, I was quite happy when I was at Disney Land because I love theme parks so it made sense to be happy then. But feelings which did not derive from such obvious facts? Or negative feelings that made me seem weak? Nope. I always assumed people where being overly melodramatic and movies hillariously exagerated. Every feeling that I had, had to pass my head first. I didn’t do it on purpose, I just was that way and never assumed this wasn’t the case for everybody else as well.
    Still, today I am no way near other people I know (which among women, lesbian and trans* people are most of them) who nearly always 100% know what they are feeling at any given moment. And who can tell others about it. But I hope to get there one day. For now I am happy that I caught this and also to be able to be way mor emphatic with people.

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