Welcome to “Things I Hate,” a semi-regular installment in which discuss something that bugs the shit out of me. This week’s recipient of my loathing: people who chew with their mouths open.

First and foremost, I’d like to thank everybody for their comfort, support, kind words, what have you, following my last post. Things are by no stretch of the imagination back to normal; in fact, I’m sure my definition of “normal” will continue to evolve as time goes on, but that’s a story for another day. I almost didn’t want to post anything else here, mainly because I didn’t want what I wrote about Blake to be relegated to a second-class spot, but the more I thought about it, the more that seemed like an illogical course of action. As much as I want everything to remain as-is until I’m ready to move on, I think the only way I’ll be able to is to feign some sort of normalcy; “fake it ’til you make it,” as it were. Plus, not writing anymore after promising in my last post to fulfill at least some of my brother’s potential would be fairly stupid, considering he was the best writer I knew.

Anyway, let’s give it a shot.

The subject of “Things I Hate” has thus far really only been something that bothered me at the exact moment I decided to write about it: I don’t really hate faulty headphones all that much, but when I’m on the train and can only hear my music in one ear, that bothers me. Passive-aggressiveness is frustrating, but I can live with it- it’s not like people are being passive-aggressive at me every waking moment, then following me home and sitting in my bedroom going “No, it’s fine that you like to sleep on your stomach.” “Things I Hate” is largely hyperbolic: if it annoys me in that moment and I have access to my phone, I’ll write about it, that’s all.

Today’s topic, though…Christ, just the thought of it makes my blood boil. Open-mouthed chewing upsets me to no end; the smacking of the lips, the mouth-breathing, the sound of half-masticated food being converted into an easily digestible paste before being forced down one’s gullet: It’s all horrible.

People who chew with their mouths open is probably the biggest pet peeve I have, and I think it’s largely because there’s almost nothing I can do about it while still remaining polite. If someone’s being inconsiderate or rude, I can have a frank discussion with them. “Hey, you were really rude about ________, and here is how it made me feel” is a perfectly acceptable comment to make, and more often than not, it will result in a behavioral shift from the offending party (at least in the presence of the person who was offended.) But chewing with one’s mouth open isn’t a behavioral issue so much as it’s a deeply ingrained habit that’s not easily reversed. As such, it’s almost impossible to get someone to stop doing it without actively trying to shame them into changing their ways, though God knows I’ve taken that road before. I suppose it’s equally rude of me to shame someone for doing something they probably have no idea they’re doing, but I can’t help myself. Last week I was sitting next to my boss as he ate a salad with nuts and apples, and good GOD it was upsetting. Every time the fork went near his mouth, I cringed- how do you tell your boss that he’s eating like a pig and is probably an awful, poorly-raised human being? That’s the kind of shit that gets people fired.

I did it anyway.

At first I tried to couch it in a joke: “Is that salad good? Sure sounds like you’re enjoying it! LOLOLOLOL.” He laughed, I laughed (through clenched teeth, angry beads of sweat forming on my brow), and he kept eating. Then it happened again. The second time, I was decidedly less jocular: “Hey, can you please chew with your mouth closed? The chewing sounds kinda bother me.” He nodded his assent, and was quiet for, oh, 15 seconds. And then I heard the smacking sounds again. Visions of a world ablaze entered my skull, and I wouldn’t have been surprised if my irises turned bright red from anger. I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt, but it was no use: he’s a goddamned open-mouthed chewer, and he will never change. I tried everything: I stepped out of the office for a second, got myself a glass of water, all that shit, but it was all for naught. Eventually I had to sit back down next to him, and almost as soon as I did, he did it again. I snapped. “DUDE. CHEW WITH YOUR MOUTH CLOSED.” He looked at me, taken aback by the stern reprimand, but so great was my fury that I didn’t even care. His expression changed from indignation to submission, he lowered his eyes, and the fork lowered. His salad-eating days were over, and my rage subsided for the moment. (I’m actually still kind of mad about it, though. I’m a weirdo.)

Long story short: table manners are key to the long-term preservation of both social decorum and of my sanity, and anyone who chooses not to observe them should be lowered into a pit of snakes.