Snot becomes a secret and silent inconvenience around the second semester of sixth grade. Before then, snot is nothing to be ashamed of because children don’t yet possess a fully developed notion of shame. Elementary kids pick their nose with fervor. When they cry, a bright green river of snot runs out of their open nostrils and they feel no need to tissue it away, a sleeve or no sleeve will do fine. At high speeds while chasing the opposite-sex on the playground mulch, sometimes a wet booger will spew sideways out of the nose, drying in a splay across their cheek. When they laugh, a bubble of snot will hang delicately between the inside and outside precipice of the nostril edge. Back and forth, never popping, it will reverberate with each intake of breath until the teacher comes over to wipe it away for them. None of this concerns the pre-middle school child because like most things in their young lives, snot is a mystery that still needs to be solved.
In middle school, snot is a different story. If a friend sees the snot, they are at once thrust into a conundrum. Do they tell their friend that they have a booger hanging out in their nose and enlighten them to the fact that they’ve seen it and have been seeing it for an unspecified period of time or spare themselves that task and let the friend embarrassingly continue on with a hanging booger for the rest of the day, hoping some other unlucky participant in the snot debacle will carry the burden of informing the friend.
Boys still pick their nose, but during the second semester when they start to realize everyone’s eyes are on everyone, they begin to do so more discreetly. In order to draw the least amount of attention, they wipe it under the desk or on the desk in the most uncouth cases, for the teacher to wipe away with healthy amounts of Clorox later. Girls have developed their sense of shame enough to excuse themselves to the bathroom for any seemingly unsightly task from blowing their nose, to applying lip gloss or simply checking to make sure every hair is still tucked neatly into their ponytail which alleviates their need to wipe boogers on class materials, but causes a riotous fight for bathroom passes each class period. It’s a trade-off.
As for the teachers, well, they hope to god they don’t have to endure the embarrassment of giving an entire lecture before a hand goes up and a grinning student tells them while running out with the bell, that the teacher has a big booger in their nose. It inevitably happens. Teachers want to think they’re invincible to boogers and the embarrassment over found-boogers, but they are invincible to neither. Though they appreciate the notification of their boogered-status, they later beat themselves up over having been “that teacher.”
Old people once again take up with the boogering. It’s as if aging has taught them that no one cares that much or maybe they just don’t care if anyone cares. Through their overgrown grey nose hairs, they unabashedly use their finger to hack away at the forest of dried boogers. They never seem to dig out any of the gooey ones, but maybe that’s why they are less fearless in their dig. Perhaps old people don’t have slimy boogers anymore, those are the most troublesome due to the issue of their disposal as we all know. If this is indeed the case, then it’s no surprise they are so confident in their treasure hunt within the recesses of their nostril caves.
Then, of course there are the imagined boogers. In art class, while learning how to draw the nose, a student will without a doubt between classes, add a big green slimy marker line beneath the example nostril on the board. It will be the most unconvincing slimy booger. Nonetheless, the teacher will have to bear through the fit of giggles for six or seven more class periods that day. The students can easily see the booger lacks the shading and certain realism necessary to match the well-made example, but they know what the rogue artist was attempting. Lacking time to recreate her painstakingly made example sans booger, the teacher will allow the imagined booger. She will carry on with it emblazoned on the example through the rest of the unit. This opens the nostril up to more inventive graffiti until it is finally removed before the exam dripping with all sorts of inventive boogers. A student, the quiet one who’s always digging away unabashedly in the back of the classroom and who likely began the snot graffiti with that first green marker line, will ask to take the poster home after the test and the teacher will award the young booger-aficionado this treasure. She silently comes to terms with the fact that this kid will eventually be someone important-the kid who asked for the example nose filled with boogers.