Nothing to Sneeze At

While I generally reserve my judgment of people until they say something stupid, I have to admit that I have an unnatural distrust of people who hold in their sneezes to sound like little dainty mouse squeaks.


There is nothing natural about this, and if they can’t be trusted to honor the natural cleansing of one’s nasal passages of harmful things like germs and irritants, what else are they hiding?

One can never be sure.

But on some level, I suppose I can relate.

I’ve said it before — I don’t have a cute little button nose. My nose has a bump in the middle and is anything but little and cute. There’s nothing dainty about it.

But the nose I have is the same nose that my grandpa had, my mom has and a majority of my aunts, uncles and cousins have. Along with pierogi, a love of baseball and politically incorrect humor, carrying on this Polish protuberance is sort of like a family seal.

This family seal also produces loud sneezes.

When I was in elementary school I used to dread having a test, mostly because the room would be so quiet that if and when I had to sneeze, I would blow the minds (and possibly eardrums) of my classmates.

I would try everything to prevent it from happening. Holding my breath didn’t work. Putting my finger or a tissue/sleeve under my nose didn’t work (but did result in having something to catch whatever flew out at the time.) Eventually I just accepted that you can’t stop sneezing from happening, just like you can’t sneeze with your eyes open.

And I’ve also accepted that sneezing while driving is quite possibly the scariest thing ever.

At any rate, when somebody sneezes I feel compelled to reactively bless them for expelling harmful things like germs and irritants through their beak—even the weirdoes that hold sneezes in.

And despite the fact I’m not religious, not saying, “Bless you” feels uncomfortable and wrong on some level.* I do it for everyone, even strangers who occasionally look at me like I just told them Richard Simmons was starring in “Rambo.”

*However, after two sneezes I will no longer bless you. At that point you have exhausted my well of goodwill and quite frankly, you’re on your own.

To me, it’s just a polite courtesy, something that let’s them know, “Hey there. It’s okay to sneeze and not try to hold it back in. Kumbaya, Hakuna Matata and gesundheit.”

Here’s a tissue.

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42 responses to “Nothing to Sneeze At

  1. I hold my sneezes, but they don’t sound like hamster sneezes = more like my brain just splattered apart in my skull. My husband SCREAMS when he sneezes and I want to punch him every time.

    I agree though. Don’t like the dainty little “Chee! Tzee!” sneezes either.

  2. I also only bless them twice. After that, they are just looking for attention.

  3. I knew we had lots in common. My sneeze is a real window rattler, and nothing I do seems to make any difference

  4. After two sneezes I stop saying “Bless you” as well, but it’s more because I assume that the exorcism didn’t take and you are, in fact, a demon and therefore I have to start looking for alternate methods of exorcism. This worries my friends.

    Also, yes… sneezing while driving is terrifying.

  5. You’re so good looking.

  6. Hahahha I can’t hold it in. I never learned how. I think I’d pop a blood vessel.

  7. I hold mine in, but only because when I let them out I do this weird scream thing. I get a LOT of strange looks, so I haven’t quite embraced it yet. I always find it awkward when you say ‘bless you’ and the person keeps sneezing. Two is a good measure, I think 😉

  8. Oh my God! I am so with you on the sneezing and driving thing! That is horrifying, and we’ve had a killer allergy season…all year. I freak out every time I sneeze in the car.

  9. This made me laugh because, at the office, we’re definitely a “Bless you” crowd. One person will sneeze in their cubicle and you’ll hear a trickling of six or seven “Bless You”s, like an echo. We once had an intern tell us that, above all things, she’ll remember us for never missing an opportunity to jump on a good “Bless you”. I guess we could be known for worse! Anyway, I don’t really “get” why “Bless you” is the thing to say. I much prefer the Polish “Na zdrowie!” (sort of like saying, “Cheers to your health!”) It makes so much more sense, considering all the stuff that’s flying out of there, wouldn’t you say?

    • That does make more sense, but any time I use a Polish phrase I spend more time explaining what I just said than is worth it. Regardless, “na zdrowie,” my friend. 😉

  10. I’ve always been raised to bless a sneezer. I married a man from an uber-Catholic family, and the first time I sneezed in the presence of my inlaws, I did not get a ‘bless you’ a ‘geshundhite’ or a ‘kiss my ass’. I was greeted with dead silence. So I sneezed again (not by choice, sneezes never happen in ones) and again, dead silence. I should have known right then and there that they were odd.

  11. Sometimes I hold sneezes in, sometimes I don’t. When I hold them in, I feel like I had an aneurysm. When I sneeze out loud it is with a big “WHAACHOO!”

    I can’t force myself to say “Bless you” just like I couldn’t force myself to say “Under God” during the pledge of allegiance when I was a child. So I say “Gesundheit” and hope that passes for me not being a sociopath.

    • Agreed, as I’m not religious (post on this in the future.) But “may the love of broccoli bring you peace and harmony” is much more cumbersome to say than “Bless you.”

  12. I love this post! I have a horrible nose (too big and crooked for my liking) and have HUGE sneezes! I can’t never understand how people manage to do that weird squeak/pathetic account of a sneeze. Odd.

    I also say bless you to strangers and I am far, far from religious.

  13. I can’t stand when people hold in sneezes either. I have been known to yell, “For chrissakes! Just let it out man!” My sneezes apparently sound like a cough ’cause people always say, “Bless you, if that was a sneeze.” I also sneeze in to the inside of my elbow and get grossed out when folks sneeze in to their hands. Umm, you touch stuff with those hands. Blech.

  14. I am a rapid fire sneezer, usually 8-14 small ones. (The higher numbers feel oh, so good.) Unfortunately I have passed that trait on to my 3 offspring and one of them triple rolled a car last summer during such a sneezing fit. Luckily he was just sore afterward. You have good reason for concern.

  15. Happier Heather

    My mom says I sound just like my grandpa (her father) did when he sneezed. I choose to think of it as a compliment rather than thinking about the fact that I sneeze like an old man.

    Oh, and as someone who frequently sneezes 3-8 times in a row, I forgive people who only want to tell me “Bless you” once.

  16. I’m a multiple sneezer. Most times they come in triplets. Leo always blesses me: 1. Bless you. 2. And again. 3. Now you’re just trying to draw attention. It’s our routine. In my family nobody ever said “bless you” but somebody always yelled “go blow your nose”.

    Those who try to avoid it and keep it in? May their eardrums pop. They deserve it.

  17. I ride a motorcycle and wear a closed faced helmet…Nothing quite like sneezing on the interstate with the face shield down…I guess that’s better than managing to open the face shield but forgetting to turn my head while sneezing and doing 70mph :-/

  18. Automatically I used to say “Gesundheit” when people sneezed – demographics were different. Now it’s frequently “¡Salud!”
    But I’m with you – I hate those smothered mouse squeak sneezes…don’t their ear drums explode?

  19. I also have a 2 Bless You limit. After that, I tell them to shut up.

    The first time our baby sneezed, I said, “Bless you,” which Gerry thought was odd because we aren’t religious (as if I really think I’m blessing people). Now, a year an a half later, we still have a race every time she sneezes to see if I can bless her before he says, “Gesundheit.”

  20. I have a ridiculously loud sneeze and no matter what…I HAVE to blow my nose afterward which can be complicated if I don’t have all the right tools within reach. I was also blessed with allergies. FUN. One time I blew my nose while in my bedroom and then I saw my dad go and look out the window in the living room. He thought someone had started up a chain saw outside. No lie.

  21. I switched to “Gesundheit” some years ago, because it means something along the lines of “be healthy,” which makes a lot more sense than “Bless you,” as the phrase was initially used to cram your soul back in your body after you sneezed it out. Naturally.

  22. I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one who sneezes large and loud! Bless you!

  23. My sister never sneezes only once. She sneezes at minimum three times. When we’re out somewhere and she starts with a sneezing fit and people start blessing her, I think, “amateurs.” I learned years ago to just wait until she’s done, then bless her.

    And, my grandma could sneeze so loudly it literally would startle us sometimes. I’m proud to say I can recreate it when I feel like it.

  24. bahahaha… this reminds me of the interaction between my mom and my dad EVERY single time she would sneeze. She’d try to hold it in to be all lady like and he’d go “Don’t do that! Let it go!”

  25. Hey, I have a “family” nose too, all the McLean’s do. Nice to see we have something in common, oh, did you sneeze?? Gesundheit!! ;o)

  26. I find that if I try to hold in a sneeze I fart instead… Sneezing is infinitely preferable when in polite company. Nobody “blesses you” for farting.

    • Why is that? They’re both natural functions you really can’t stop (more or less) and if anything was thought to be “expelling demons from the soul,” it would be farting and not sneezing.

  27. We are on such the same wavelength here.
    And yes, that split second of closing your eyes while behind the wheel can send such a panic attack; like for some reason you think they installed a stoplight on the highway and everyone is slamming on their brakes in front of you.

    I got you.

  28. I feel your pain! I have allergies which are pretty bad at times and I go into sneezing fits! Hate them!

  29. we’ve seen each other’s videos. we have similar noses. I sound like badly dubbed 1974 kung fu movie when I sneeze.

  30. I’m the same way. I’ll say bless you once and then I’m done. If you keep sneezing, you’re on your own.

  31. hahaha i am so one of those people that hold their sneezes! hahaha i had a great laugh at this!

  32. As forcefully as I sneeze, I could totally believe I’m expelling demons from the soul.

    I have a bump in the middle of my nose too. I hate the way it looks, but I guess it helps hold my glasses up.

  33. “And I’ve also accepted that sneezing while driving is quite possibly the scariest thing ever.”

    Oh my god yes.

    Also, I cannot hold in my sneezes either. However, my mom does, and it freaks me out.

  34. I typically say “Bless you” after each sneeze. But like you, after two or three, it’s like, “enough already, we hear you.” My husband waits until I’m done and gives me ONE “Bless you.” It annoys him when I say it after every sneeze. “Let me finish, geez!”

  35. I have a big Polish nose with a bump too–I’ve learned to love it. Haha and like some other commenters above, there’s a limit to the blessings I bestow on sneezers; five seems to be my limit. After that, your soul must have already escaped and is already in the clutches of the Devil.

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