So wrote Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich (not Kurt Vonnegut for a commencement speech, as many people believe), and with that thought in mind I cotton-swabbed my ears today with particular satisfaction. Which got me wondering. Firstly, why is cleaning your ears after a shower so magnificently pleasurable? Secondly, what other physical sensations are simply sensational, and how would I compile a list of my own?
This is that list.
12. Slipping into really warm water. Who doesn’t love the feeling of a warm bath, or of stepping into a steaming jacuzzi? There’s something almost prenatal about it, like reentering the warm, comforting waters of the womb. Or is that just gross?
11. Cleaning your ears with a cotton swab. Which is what got this ball rolling. It’s not that your ears are itchy, precisely, but when you sweep that swab around your auricle it’s like scratching an itch you didn’t even know you had, and it sends waves of ecstasy shimmying through your body.
10. The taste and feel of thoroughly well-made creme brulee in your mouth. Rich, silky vanilla creme and the crunch of caramelized sugar melding to create a perfectly-balanced sensual experience – when it’s done right, it’s more than divine. It’s miraculous.
9. Being really, truly physically adept at something. It could be just about anything. A perfect golf swing, a sublime plié, a flawless swimming stroke. For me it comes with skiing a perfect sinuous line down a difficult slope, making a superb fishing cast, or slicing vegetables with lightning, effortless speed. When your body is particularly good at an action, the gratification is complete.
8. Getting a great massage. Massages are bittersweet, in that having your body stroked in slow, deliberate motions is a pleasure that never seems to last as long as it should; a 60-minute massage ends just as it appears to be getting going.
7. Snuggling with a loved one. You’re lying in bed or on the sofa, and one of your kids or your partner cuddles up next to you so you can drowsily spoon. So simple, yet so satisfying.
6. Getting your head scratched. The head gets short shrift when it comes to scratching – the back generally gets the lion’s share of nails on skin – but a proper head scratch can be a near-mystical experience. Think about your last really amazing shampoo at the hairdresser. Go ahead. Feels good, doesn’t it?
5. Digging your toes into sun-warmed sand. The shoes come off and you take those first steps onto the beach, and even if you’re carrying an umbrella, a diaper bag, four chairs, a cooler, towels and enough sunscreen to shield all of North America from solar radiation, your toes sink into the warm soft sand and your body decides it’s on holiday.
4. The sun on your face on an early spring day. It’s been a long, cold, lonely winter, but here comes the sun to bathe your face in the first really warm rays of spring, and life feels, at that moment, like a great and wondrous gift.
3. The first sip of an ice-cold beer on a hot summer day. Preferably after accomplishing some sweaty, testosteronely work. It’s even better if that beer has been pulled from a cooler filled with ice, the barbeque has just been lit, and you and your brother are sitting down to talk about where you’re going to go fishing tomorrow.
2. Scuba diving. Sure, the gear is in many ways awkward and cumbersome, the activity itself somewhat dangerous, but when you’re suspended essentially weightless 6 stories below the surface of the sea, watching sea turtles being serviced by cleaner wrasse, an octopus slinking its way through the coral, or eagle rays winging silently into the deepening blue distance, you forget the completely unnatural nature of your situation and feel the primordial pull of something deep in our evolutionary past, something calling you home.
1. Sex. If you know of something better, I’m all ears. But when it comes to pleasurable physical sensations, well, it seems to me just about the best two minutes you can spend.
So there are my top 12. I’m sure that there may be at least some overlap here with things you would choose, but please share with us your own ideas. We’re dying to know what makes you feel good. Tell us, what physical sensations are simply the all-out, full-blown, unqualified best for you?