Private-habit survey scares shy participants

Columnist Sarah Sanders set out to find what gross habits her readers would be embarrassed to admit. More were embarrassed than she expected.

Columnist Sarah Sanders set out to find what gross habits her readers would be embarrassed to admit. More were embarrassed than she expected.

I’m sure you have a lot of secrets. And a newspaper is a bad place for secrets. But some of you decided to share your secrets with me this week, and I greatly appreciate that. I may not know your name, but anonymity can open up a whole new world for people. sarah sanders

At least it can for 27 people.

I created a survey and posted it to a Facebook event page last week to find out what guilty habits Temple students practice both publicly and privately. After receiving a huge turn-out for my peeing-in-the-shower survey a few issues back, I thought I’d have the same success.

But alas, less than 30 people responded, and no one dared to write on the event wall.

My first inference: People must not want to reveal these seemingly nasty habits that they have. My second guess is that a lot of the invitations weren’t even read, which is completely understandable. Even so, I can’t help but think that people were a little less prideful about these habits than they were about urinating in the shower.

Despite the survey’s low response rate, its results were quite telling. For example, even though only two people admitted to picking their noses with their finger in any situation, 16 said they would if completely alone – that’s more than a 50 percent jump.

The same phenomenon applied to leaving the bathroom door open: Only one person claimed he or she does so regularly, while 13 said they would if no one else was around.

When put in the context of close friends, several respondents claimed they would be more comfortable unbuttoning their pants while lounging, taking off their shoes and socks, belching or farting out loud and correcting a wedgie, as opposed to a more public setting.

Among those habits people refused to give up, no matter what situation, were flushing the toilet after peeing and washing their hands after using the bathroom. Not so guilty, I know, but it shows where priorities between convenience and hygiene lie.

Finally, there were some guilty habits respondents pledged to never, ever embrace, even if completely isolated from civilization. The most repulsive, I suppose, were farting out loud, picking one’s nose or earwax with one’s finger.

Some answers were highly surprising, however. One person claimed he or she would never, ever correct a wedgie. This I just couldn’t imagine. You’re just going to leave it there? It can be so uncomfortable. The only justification I can think of is that the respondent might one day try to improvise a thong to eliminate panty lines.

The most interesting part of the survey was the final question: an open commentary on other guilty habits participants might want to confess. And what’s beautiful about is that I can look at each person’s answers individually. Take No. 16 for example, who admitted to being “known to take a s— while a roommate is showering.” And yet, he or she won’t fart out loud among close friends.
No. 6 enjoys picking scabs and shares a joy of zit-popping with Nos. 12 and 14.

“I do this in front of a mirror in my own home, but sometimes, I accidentally get the itch to pick in public!” No. 14 admitted. “WHICH IS SO EMBARRASSING. Plus it makes me look even more like a pizza face. And yet, I can’t stop.”

My vote for the guiltiest habit was “smell my farts” from No. 27. I think I like it because the reader can interpret it as a confession, or a demand.

After reading the different responses, I arrived at an obvious but difficult conclusion. I know these statistics may be shoddy with quite a small sample, but this survey helped me discover that we’re all really weird.

We’ve acquired these odd practices, and we shouldn’t be so shameful about them, especially because these “guilty” habits are often widespread rituals. I think it’s even creepier to think of us all huddled in the corner of our bedrooms in the dark, with our fingers up our nostrils, trying to dig out everything that’s built up over the day – or even worse, not correcting our wedgies.

Sarah Sanders can be reached at

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.