One of the most disappointing feelings I have experienced this past school year happened when my best friend came home from a date with a boy she was absolutely smitten with and had been seeing for a while. “How was it?” I asked. She responded ambivalently and shrugged away the question, “It was okay…” She was clearly disappointed. The boy that seemed perfect for her was no longer perfect; it didn’t make sense how her love was now greeted with this newfound bitterness. After a bit of convincing, she finally opened up and said “I got the ick.” 

Have you ever dated someone that all of a sudden did something to make your skin crawl? All the strong feelings toward that special person just evaporated? The “ick” is a blanket term for specific qualities or habits that give you a cringe feeling. In short, the “ick” is a turn-off.  This phenomenon typically occurs early in relationships to which its repulsiveness leads to the demise of the could-have-been relationship. That got me thinking about what certain people do that gives them the “ick.”

At my house in Kingston, there is a porch outside that my housemates and I enjoy sitting out on all day while people-watching. One time on a sunny and hungover Saturday afternoon, my housemate commented about someone passing on the street, “Wow, that guy is so hot… but he’s wearing jeans and flip-flops, ew!” To which my other housemates and I all looked at each other and agreed without question; people with flip-flops, especially jeans paired with flip-flops, are one of the biggest turn-offs. From this morning forward, I can easily say that when my friends and I experienced the ick, whatever was blossoming with the person whom we were seeing was simply over. 

About a month later, I began seeing a boy who became a very special person in my life. Everything was going well until he pulled out his guitar and wanted to play something for me. I was excited to hear him play, but suddenly, he started singing along with the guitar to Bobcaygeon by The Tragically Hip. His guitar playing was exceptional as it luckily compensated for his off-key singing. He told me that he never performs for anyone and so him performing for me was a particularly vulnerable and significant moment. Soon enough, it had turned into a full-on serenade which was all too intense for me, the heartless person who could not appreciate the beautiful sentiment and ultimately gave me the “ick.” 

I remember coming home to my four friends hanging out in my living room and as I walked in I exploded with details about what happened. My face turned bright red, and my friends, amid uncontrollable laughter, said, “poor guy, but that is a hard no, Steph.” As I promised myself earlier, I could no longer return to the boy that gave me the “ick.” 

Time passed without talking to him and I felt comfortable with my decision not to speak to him any longer. After all, I was still recovering from the cringe I felt and needed a detox to get it out of my system. In fact, skin still sits on edge as I write this story after a lengthy amount of time since the occasion. As days continued to go by, I began to miss the person behind the “ick” more and more. I was wondering what he was up to constantly and began humming Bobcaygeon to myself without noticing. 

 That’s when the unexpected happened. The exact thing that gave me the cringe from his strumming and off-key singing is what I missed after I vowed not to return to him. Despite his ability to make me cringe like no other, and his imperfections manifested in his “ick,” it was the vulnerability behind the singing and guitar playing that gave rise to a special bond I had never experienced before. 

Yes, he did give me the ick, but in doing so, he also gave me a piece of himself, and that’s what ultimately won me over. Additionally, this cringe, among other things, is what ultimately won my friends over as they recognized and appreciated this gift of vulnerability that he had to offer, even though it inevitably came along with an “ick!” I am very grateful that I not only moved forward with his “ick” but also began to embrace it, for if I never did so, I would not be with someone who makes me as happy as he does day in and day out.

Everyone has their own boundaries concerning what they feel comfortable putting up with and where they have to draw the line. However, this experience taught me that sometimes it is okay to push your boundaries. After all, you’d be pressed to find somebody who doesn’t have a single flaw. That’s not to say that people should completely let go of all expectations and comfort levels, but rather, it’s important to give people a chance since it’s very possible for them to surprise you. I know I was surprised in the most pleasant way. Everybody has their own peccadilloes. That is, each of us has our own “icks” to offer. With that, it’s important to be mindful that nobody is perfect, but building a relationship is a matter of finding who is perfect for each of us.  

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