60-Something

60-Something: FAIRY DUST: Happening now, everywhere

2013-08-06T13:18:00Z 60-Something: FAIRY DUST: Happening now, everywhereBy Denise DeClue nwitimes.com
August 06, 2013 1:18 pm  • 

Here's the question: Do you get tingles in your head? Little buzzies? Not so much like the prickly feeling when your foot goes to sleep—more like, say, a fairy tapped your head with a magic wand and you felt millions of tiny sprinkles of delight cascading down the back of your head and over your shoulders?

This has nothing to do with drinking, drugs, exercising or sex. And it has nothing to do with Disneyland dreams where you're the princess.

Turns out lots of people get these tingles, and even though they're not exactly sure what causes them they are finding each other on the Internet and posting videos that might help others re-achieve these sensations.

I heard of this was on WBEZ'S "This American Life" http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/491/transcript when Ira Glass's show was about "tribes", about being part of a group. This segment was about thinking you're in a "tribe" of only one, and discovering you really aren't alone.

American novelist Andrea Siegel describes it this way: "In the fourth grade, I had this one friend Mindy. She was OK to hang out with and all. But what was really great about her was that she would always want to see whatever stuff I had in my room. If I sat her down in front of my shell collection, she would delicately go through it one shell at a time. She'd murmur to herself what she liked about each shell, and I'd get this tingling throughout my skull.

"I know how weird that sounds. But it was like starbursts in my head. Starbursts that open on the crown and then sparkle down at the nape like this warm, glittering water rushing under your scalp."

Over the years Andrea sought out television shows and YouTubes that featured sounds of repetitive quiet movements, like painting on an easel, and quiet deliberate instructions about how to apply makeup, or soft-spoken descriptions of jewelry collections—that would turn her head into "a snow globe."

She discovered that a gaggle of tingle-heads had been meeting on the Internet and they had named this odd condition (if it's a condition) Autonomic Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR).

Eventually her search led her to YouTube, which features a whole lot of videos which attempt to trigger the viewer's ASMR by speaking in a soft voice and making sounds with inanimate objects.

The YouTubes show people whispering instructions, play-acting going to the dentist, or getting a haircut, or showing you what's in their jewelry box. Thousands and thousands of people tune them in.

As far as I can tell, there are some scientific theories about this, but no firm studies or conclusions. It's just one of those odd things that some people are discovering they have in common. Like synesthesia: a condition where a person's senses become confused: a certain word might trigger the taste of bacon; when they see the number "five" they hear as a trombone; a certain song is clearly "brown."

But the ASMR people don't know what triggers their efffervescent feelings and many search relentlessly for magic key.

I found this anonymous description on the Unnamed Feeling Blog

"I know exactly what you are talking about. I am 56 and have had it from time to time since I was a child. It happened today when I watched my assistant put Diet Cokes into the refrigerator. Carefully, turning the labels, making sure it was just right. I was pretending to be reading but was having the euphoric head tingles. It also has happened when the tuner came to tune my piano. I sat in the next room and just rode the wave, listing to him tink tink tink and had waves and waves of it. I used to get them in a factory I worked in. I operated this huge machine in a textile mill, and when one of the ladies would come to "blow out" the creel (the huge frame holding the bobbins) I would stand at my machine and watch her, and just ride the wave, feeling the tingles go in waves, mainly across my head. It comes as a surprise to me, and goes away much too easily. Pure euphoria. If I try to focus on it and prolong it, it fades away. I have to relax and "let" it happen."

Really, you can't make this stuff up.

It's one of the unexpected delights of the Internet: people with one tiny little thing in common—finding each other. They don't share political, geographical, religious, racial, gender identities or sexual proclivities or hatreds. No odd anatomical features. No bad haircuts or kids in the same neighborhood, or needs for plumbers. Just this one special tingly feeling.

I'm thinking. . .maybe if you read this story out loud, I mean "whisper it" out loud—very, very slowly, and crinkle the paper while you're whispering, crinkle the paper, kind of rhythmically. . . Can you feel it? Can you feel it? Well, let me know.

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