Toxic Masculinity and the Ghost Pepper

[Humour] One man's quest for the hobby that will finally define him

A humorous companion piece to Monday's in-depth investigation into why some people are peckish for piquant peppers and whether spicy foods are good for you. If you missed it, here’s a link to The Psychology & Health Benefits of Spicy Food.

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Dave. Now that we’re back from the emergency room, I think it’s time we had a serious talk. Please, for the love of God, put down that Carolina Reaper and come sit next to me on the couch. No, don’t move my throw pillows, just sit on the edge, OK?

I want you to know: you don’t need to prove your manliness by eating a series of progressively hotter chilli peppers. You’re not just That Guy Who Really Likes Hot Peppers, you’re also a beloved son, dependable brother, faithful friend, and a mostly adequate lover. Not to mention, a valued employee at Ainsley & Co Chartered Accountants.

I should have said something sooner, I know, I know, but it was all so gradual. To put it in terms you’ll understand: it’s like the way the scorching heat of a ghost pepper sneaks up on you. One moment everything’s fine, and then it feels like everything’s on fire. And by everything, I mean this relationship.

You started small: a well-received knock-your-socks-off chilli for my work Christmas Party, the purchase of various novelty hot sauces, and then one day you went straight to the source. I think, Dave, that’s when things really went downhill—the day you purchased your first ghost pepper.

Remember how shortly after ingesting it, you, in your sheer desperation, downed the molten wax from my favourite Gwyneth Paltrow-endorsed candle? That geranium, bergamot, cedar, damask rose and ambrette seed candle was limited edition, for God’s sake!

And then, not a week later, at our twice-weekly dinner with my parents, you remarked my mother’s Vindaloo curry was ‘A little bland, to be honest’. I’m still doing damage control on that one. (We’ll have to do Christmas with them again this year, you understand.)

And the milk, my god, the sheer quantity of milk I’ve had to stock to keep up with your habit. Where am I meant to store my vitamin waters, Dave? Where?

And, you’re always sweaty these days. Always!

Frankly, I miss Pour-Over Coffee Guy. Granted, the various accoutrements took up so much counter space I had to move some of the plants I was propagating, but it was better than this, Dave. So was Vinyl Guy. Microbrew Guy. Microdosing Guy. That cringey time you added “poet” to your LinkedIn profile. And while I still have nightmares about your constant tweaking and twirling, heck, at this stage, I’d give just about anything to have Moustache Guy back.

Again, your pomades, waxes, scissors, and various styling combs took up a bit more than your fair share of the quarter-shelf I allotted you in the bathroom—leaving almost no room for my Korean skincare collection, I might add—but even that was bearable when compared to Chilli Dave.

If you don’t give up the ghost pepper, I’m afraid I’m going to have to ghost on this relationship. Because it gets worse. Much worse.

The other night, while you tossed and turned in bed after one too many ghost peppers, I did my usual sweep of your phone messages and laptop browsing history. I saw that you had visited a website called XXXX.Extra Hottt. I was dismayed to think you’d viewed such filth, but I was even more dismayed when I realised it was a hot pepper appreciation forum. I swear that’s when my temper reached a million on the Scoville scale.

You need to stop trying to impress those whackjobs, Dave, I don’t care if they’re your “only friends” and “Jimmy Underscore Hot Pee Pee ER Sixty-Nine” is battling stomach cancer and needs your support. Enough is enough, Dave!

Oh, Honey, I can see our little heart-to-heart is taking its toll on you too. You’re flushed, teary, and your fists are tightly clenched over—

—Dave, what did you do with that pepper you were holding?

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